The world championships are finally starting! Who is excited? I am, I am. Let's take a look at the possibilities in the pairs competition.
Kavaguti and Smirnov (Russia): Ah, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. They have spent a few years being groomed to be the new Russian pairs darlings, only to bomb out at the Olympics and to have new pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov unseat them at the Russian nationals. Kavaguti and Smirnov are prone to errors - and don't forget, Kavaguti spent part of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. However, they do still put up big scores. They won the free skate at Europeans so if they had not erred in the short, who knows what the outcome would have been. They will also be skating in front of a home crowd.
Pang and Tong (China): The reigning world champions haven't looked very fiery this season and haven't seemed true contenders when compared against Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany. They have won nearly everything they've been in this season, but for some reason that doesn't instill the confidence in me that they will be able to take the crown here, since the pair they came in second to was...you guessed it! Savchenko and Szolkowy. They were so good and passionate last season and I'm not sure they can match it this year.
Savchenko and Szolkowy (Germany): This pair had a lackluster Olympic season and have come roaring back. They are utterly dominating. Unfortunately, their ludicrous never-grew-on-me Pink Panther free skate takes away from the glow a bit, but even when they haven't been their best, they've been able to win this season. Who knows where they're at psychologically (the German federation was one of the first to announce they would not send skaters to a Japanese worlds after the earthquake) and perhaps they peaked awhile back while the Russian pairs did not compete as much this season and may be only warming up, but I think these two can't be bet against.
Volosozhar and Trankov (Russia): A new and much more favorable pairing for both of these skaters for so many reasons, they have been impressing this year and took the Russian championships. They were unable to compete in many events because Volosozhar was switching countries from Ukraine to Russia, but now they're eligible and they are looking to build on their strong start with a world medal.
The Dark Horses
Bazarova and Larionov (Russia): These two have some extremely impressive qualities and they definitely had some wow moments this season, but there were also times when they looked a complete mess. They are still young. They placed 8th in last season's worlds and I don't think it should be a problem to build on that. They are also coming off of a bronze medal at Europeans, which is definitely a confidence booster. They are one of those classic Russian pairs and I think we'll see a lot of success from them but they might not be able to crack the podium considering all of the competition.
Duhamel and Radford (Canada): This pair was new this season and it took them a little bit of time to finally get into their groove, but they did at Four Continents, winning the silver medal to Pang and Tong and finding their first bit of international success. However, the field was fairly weak - Duhamel and Radford lost by more than 15 points to the gold medalists.
You may also want to watch Japan's Takahashi and Tran, who won't likely medal but may be a team to look to in the future, as well as Canada's Moore-Towers and Moskovitch, who made a splash on the Grand Prix scene this year.
The American teams of Evora and Ladwig and Yankowskas and Coughlin need a combined ranking of 13 or less to garner three spots in the worlds next season. I predict that they will only be able to hang onto the two spots we already have, and considering the skating of the American pairs in comparison to the skating coming out of places like Russia and China in pairs, I can't be too disappointed with that.
1) Savchenko and Szolkowy
2) Pang and Tong
3) Kavaguti and Smirnov*
*This is a tough one...it could easily be the Volosozhar and Trankov. If it's another pair, however, I'll be surprised.