Tuesday, November 9

Takahashi/Tran and Sui/Han: Double Grand Prix Final Qualifiers?

Sui and Han. Photo from daylife.com
Weijing Sui and Cong Han from China already have a silver medal on the Senior Grand Prix, while Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan have a bronze medal. So what, you ask? Well, both teams have already qualified themselves to the Junior Grand Prix Final, an event that runs concurrently with the Senior Final in Beijing. The ISU allows only pairs skaters to compete in both the senior and junior circuits in the same season, but they've never been in a position where one team (let alone two) have had the chance to qualify for both.

Now, to be fair to the ISU, I have to remember that many of the high-level pairs are withdrawn from one or both events with injury (Zhang/Zhang, Dube/Davison, Kavaguti/Smirnov) or retired/split after last season (Shen/Zhao, Mukhortova/Trankov, Volosozhar/Morozov, McLaughlin/Brubaker). This has definitely resulted in a bigger hit to the competition rosters than in any of the other disciplines, and allowed younger and lower-ranked teams to stand on the podium. The ISU couldn't have expected this, and as far as I see, didn't create a rule stating what would happen in this situation.

Takahashi and Tran. Photo from daylife.com
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Sui and Han have the better shot of being among the top six point-earning teams at the conclusion of the six-country tour, already having earned 13 points for their silver medal at Cup of China. They compete again this week at Skate America, and while lack of rest time and long traveling hours may work as a disadvantage, a top five finish (out of eight) would give them a very good shot at making the Final, while a top four finish almost guarantees their qualification.

Takahashi and Tran compete at the Rostelecom Cup in Russia next week, and a bronze medal there would also make their qualification chances very high. However, Takahashi in particular had extreme difficulties with her jumping elements at the NHK Trophy, where they earned 11 points for their bronze medal. Another bronze isn't out of the question, but I'd guess the level of skating will be higher in Russia than it was in Japan.

Pang and Tong (CHN), Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (RUS), and Bazarova/Larionov (RUS) should all be qualified into the Grand Prix Final, barring disaster from the latter team at Trophee Eric Bompard. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) compete at Skate America as well as in France, and should also have no trouble qualifying. Two spots left. This leaves the two "junior" teams, Canadians Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (who have a silver medal from Skate Canada and compete again this week), and American teams Yankowskas/Coughlin (with a 3rd and 4th place finish in their events) and Denney/Barrett fighting it out for those places. Denney/Barrett would have to win the silver medal at home this week in order to have a chance-- and that isn't out of the question.

Who do you think will comprise the six teams in the senior Final? If either of Sui/Han and Takahashi/Tran do qualify for both events, which one do you think they are most likely to skate in, assuming they won't do both?


no-one said...

Rumor has that according to Sui/Han's coach, they are going JGPF instead GPF. I do hope they do GPF though :)

Tony said...

Blah. They've already won the Junior Grand Prix Final and Junior Worlds last season, and unfortunately they are a really big question mark in terms of how much they are going to grow over the next few years. I would hope, if they do qualify, that they decide to skate in the senior Final. I realize that she can't compete at any senior major events for another year, but they can start to make their mark now.

By the way, how cool is it that the team that did so bad in 1980 (Bin Yao and Bo Luan) are now the two main pairs coaches in China? Yao has obviously had tremendous success, and it seems like Luan is well on her way.

Anonymous said...

I believe both teams will probably will do both. The Pairs shorts are on different days. So it's only two free's on the same day. And the prize money is too high if you are going to the event anyway.

Anonymous said...

Yao became motivated because he felt that he and Luan embarrassed China, which was nothing at the time. He never wanted anyone to have that same impression of a backward China again and resolved to making its figure skating top-notch.