Russia is sending three ice dance teams to the Olympics: Domnina and Shabalin, Bobrova and Soloviev, and Khokhlova and Novitski. Of those, I think Domnina and Shabalin are the major medal threat. However, look for Khokhlova and Novitski to be in the mix if any of the top teams falter.
Domnina and Shabalin
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have definitely paid their ice dancing dues and worked their way up the old rankings system. It culminated in a gold medal at last year's world championships, where they had placed only fifth two years before. Since 2007, they have not placed lower than second in any competition they have been in. They have been plagued with injuries, though. Most recently, they had to miss the entire Grand Prix season. However, they debuted at the Russian national championships and went on to win the European championships.
The team hasn't looked at its best so far this season - not as good as it looked last year in winning worlds. They lost the original dance and the free dance at Europeans to the Italian team of Faiella and Scali. They also made the wrong kind of waves by offending some with their Aboriginal-inspired costumes and dance in their original dance. I think we may see some more defense of this couple, though, as the Olympics get started. But a controversy like this is sure to be like a sweet drug to the tv folks, and I don't expect we won't hear about it at the Olympics. I am particularly interested to see if the team alters their costumes.
I personally hope they get up to speed with their skating. This is ice dancing, and they are Russians and the European champions. I have no doubt that they will be contenders for a medal...I just hope they look like it by the time they get to the Olympics.
The Programs: Their original dance has come under fire due to their choice of costume (many think it is offensive to the Aboriginal culture it is highlighting). Getting past the costumes, I think the dance itself is inferior to so many of the amazing original dances we've seen this season. The free dance also has some hokey moments and just does not pack the emotional punch I feel in some of the other top pairs.
Latest Performance: At Europeans, I can see why they lost both the original dance and the free. The OD comes off a little slow, and the free dance appeared sloppy - I couldn't even tell if their twizzles were together. It just doesn't seem to be on par with some of the other skating.
Strengths: Well, obviously this team's strategy this year appears to be building up an enormous compulsories lead and trying to hold on for dear life. I don't think they are a bad team, but I just don't see them in the same league right now with a team like Davis and White. I'm sure many, many people disagree.
Weaknesses: They lost the original dance and free dance at Europeans, so I would say those dances are their weaknesses right now.
It gives me the creeps when: They emote.
I think it's awesome when: Hmm. I guess I like how they engage the crowd in their OD.
Outlook: I am definitely not the one to ask about this. I didn't think they should have won worlds last year, but they did. I assume they will be in the medal mix, if not at the top of the podium.