Now that school's out, I figured it's time for a 2008-09 yearbook. I chose the skaters who I think are most likely to be in the Olympic mix next year (due to their placements as well as presence on the Grand Prix circuit next season and possibly other mystery factors), but due to time constraints I couldn't include every possible couple, so feel free to extol the skills of your faves in the comments.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
2008-09 Grade: A-
Absences: Grand Prix Final, U.S. Nationals
Recommendations for next season: I guess I would tell them work on their twizzles, since that is what apparently cost them the gold at worlds. And everything else as well! As great as they are, they can't afford to miss even half a point, considering the competition. I was worried that the judges thought they had lost a step or two at the beginning of the season but then they did so well at worlds. When you start to get as close together as the couples were at the top of the worlds roster...sometimes it comes down to personal preferences, which is why you can't leave any room for the judges to withhold points. I'd love to see them stronger in compulsories - want them to start out at the top with a wide lead rather than have to chase the leader.
Chances of Making the Olympic Team: A Lock. If these two are healthy, they're on the team. Even if they're not healthy, they'll probably be petitioned onto the team.
Superlative: Best Hair (of course). Most Likely to Look Tortured during a Free Skate.
Quote: From ESPN 10/24/08: "We haven't had the top spot and that's what we've wanted," Belbin said. "I know we'll get it. I just hope to do it sooner rather than later."
Meryl Davis and Charlie White
2008-2009 Grade: A- (it might seem odd to give them the same grade as Belbin and Agosto since they didn't medal at worlds, but they won their first Grand Prix, as well as Four Continents and their first nationals, so I felt that they earned it).
Recommendations: This team definitely wasn't perfect this year. There were stumbles here and there and deductions that just cannot happen if they want to win the Olympics or World Championships. But when they hit that Samson and Delilah program, they were absolutely captivating. I'd like to see stronger compulsories and original dance. I just want them to get the highest levels they can on everything.
Chance of Making Olympic Team: Great. I won't quite say they are a lock...but they pretty much are. The fact that this team is regarded as America's second-best says a ton about American ice dancing right now.
Superlatives: Cutest couple (on ice), Most Likely to Compete for Best Hair with Agosto (White!)
Quotes: From Golden Skate, 01/24/09 referring to Nationals: "We went out there hoping to give the whole package, and I think that we accomplished that," said White.
Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates
2008-2009 Grade: B
Recommendations: Keep up the good work! They have to continue to increase the difficulty of their very watchable programs. They are so young and were successful in their first year competing on the senior international circuit. I'm definitely comfortable thinking they are going to one day be the face of U.S. ice dancing.
Chances of making the Olympic team: Good.
Superlative: Most Likely to Succeed (but maybe not at the top for a few more years)
Quotes: From Golden Skate, 01/24/09: After losing U.S Nationals to Davis and White by 11 points: "A few years ago on the junior level, we lost to Charlie and Meryl by 21 points," giggled White's roommate Bates. "Maybe in another 40 years, we can beat them."
Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre
2008-2009 Grade: C
Recommendations: This couple appeared to be supplanted this season as the number three US couple by Samuelson and Bates, and I can see why (although some may disagree). Their results were a step back from last season and they did not make the world team, due to Belbin and Agosto being placed on the team. Their skating comes off as less meticulous than the other couples; if they could work on looking as "together" as their competition, perhaps they could vie for that third Olympic slot. They were definitely fan faves at the nationals so it would be great to see if they can pull it all together and compete at the top.
Chances of making the Olympic team: Fair. They will be in contention if they skate better this season.
Superlatives: Best Looking (Kim!), Best Personality (see quote)
Quotes: From LA Times, 01/24/09: "It's weird being at nationals without Tanith and Ben," Bommentre said.
Navarro quickly chimed in. "It would also be weird not to have them at worlds," she said, "so hopefully they'll be there."*
*this is despite the fact that Tanith and Ben being at worlds would mean that Navarro and Bommentre would have to be bumped.
Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell
2008-2009 Grade: B+*
Recommendations: This brother and sister team is just making the transition into senior skating, and won the pewter medal this year at Nationals, coming in fourth. They will be competing in two Grand Prix events this season, so they are definitely on the international radar. I don't think these two are ready to challenge the best just yet, so I would just recommend getting as much experience in performing and competing on the senior level as possible. They have some impressive moves and I see them making an impact as time goes on.
Chances of making the Olympic team: Unlikely. I see them as contender for the 2014 team.
Superlatives: Best brother-sister pair, Most Likely to Be a Biologist (Keiffer), Most common name on this list (Madison)
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein
2008-2009 Grade: A*
*Competed on the Junior Circuit
Recommendations: Haven't see these two compete with the seniors yet, but boy did they have a perfect Junior season, winning everything they could including the Junior World Championships. This pair is young and have only been skating together a few years, but this year will be a great chance for gaining experience on the senior stage.
Chances of Making the Olympic Team: Unlikely. But they've been invited to Skate America, which is quite an honor and I believe shows that the U.S. sees them as a potential major pair in the future.
Superlatives: Most improved placements (from third to first in the Junior Nationals and fifth to first in the Junior Grand Prix FInal), Most common Name on this List (Madison).
Quotes: From Golden Skate, 03/08/09: "It was just so amazing being out there," Chock said of Junior Worlds. "It was absolutely incredible and everything just felt good. It has been such a great experience this year."