Pairs Free Skate
Volosozhar/Trankov had me worried when I saw their free skate earlier this year and was underwhelmed. I liked it much more here! The program doesn't have the build that Black Swan did last year, but the trade-off is that they have more content in between the elements this year. I still expect a little bit more from them considering their abilities, though. Not perfect here, but easily a win and a good start.
Pang/Tong, as much as I like them and their longevity, haven't really made any drastic improvements in their skating in about 10 years, honestly. I saw them live in 2002 and they skated to my favorite program of theirs, Illumination. That said, I do like their new free skate but they came here battling injuries and they weren't in top form. As always, generous with the PCS marks and she could still use a lot more stretch/finish in the lifts. The variation on the death spiral was nice.
Denney/Coughlin had a nice program to Phantom of the Opera, but as I mentioned in the short, there's really nothing that exciting to me about them, and that seems to be the case with most American pairs-- that's why we always see them around the 6-10 range at Worlds. They have an amazing triple twist and great power behind everything, but I actually find some moments in the choreography to be almost overdone. I wish they would also get some variations in the lifts. She seems to have a fair deal of flexibility, but the lifts manage to look awkward. Clean skate, though!
James/Cipres really surprised me. I love the Pearl Harbor soundtrack, and I liked both of their programs this weekend. Last year, I couldn't figure out if a lot of their awkwardness was from a lack of serious training or just from them being a new couple, but they have improved so much. Neither of their postures or overall skating is really that amazing and I think that should have been more reflected in the PCS, but everything was there in both programs. They'll only get better.
Castelli/Shnapir have so much power. I really was hoping for a throw triple Axel attempt, but they settled for a big double. The tango music is alright but I think they would do really well with something modern and avant-garde (like Philip Glass or in the style of Savchenko/Szolkowy last year). Not as effective as the short for me, but I'm still a big fan.
Donlan/Speroff had nice moments in their Sleeping Beauty free skate. Even with errors, I still see a lot of potential in them. They need more power as a whole and she needs more strength in the jumps, but they have really nice, extended lifts, which were the highlights for me.
Montalbano/Krasnopolski were pleasant, and they are progressing nicely. As I mentioned in the short, she needs to find some kind of consistency with her individual jumps, as he seems rock solid with them. Other things like the speed between elements and stamina can still be improved upon. I like them.
Davis/White were impressive for the first competition. I jokingly thought to myself that since this was a Marina Zoueva-choreographed program, there would definitely be toe pick-tapping to the Giselle gallop, and there ended up being plenty of it. I expect a really solid skate of this program in the coming months with all levels reached to score around 75. I know she's in character, but I think her hair looks silly.
Weaver/Poje had a fun short dance. Tanith Belbin commented that she thought there were too many changes of music, but I thought that they fit. I like this team, but I think they should have been third on the day behind...
Bobrova/Soloviev- What a surprise. I have never been a huge fan of the team, and this program really doesn't have a wow factor, but it is nice, clean, traditional skating and they skated it very well. They have made big improvements in their skating.
Special mention to the Italian team, who skated a wonderfully choreographed program to Mary Poppins. Sounds nausea-inducing, doesn't it? I thought so too, but I loved it. They are a young team, but I thought they were undermarked here. They really had the audience going.