The Olympics season is such a long one for skaters these days… I suppose several of the Worlds entrants were road-testing their programs at national and international events as far back as 7-8 months ago… and not just the lower-level skaters; Jeremy Abbott, to name just one, was competing his current programs at the DuPage Open over the summer.
So it always seems like no small miracle to not only make it Worlds, but to even think about doing some of your best work there… especially if you were also at the Olympics a few weeks ago. But regardless of who shows or doesn’t show in a particular discipline, a Worlds title in an Olympic year is just as earned as it is in the other years… and maybe more important, placements are just as valuable in order to earn the max number of spots for a team. The top two U.S. men, for instance, still have to finish without exceeding 13 in their placements to get 3 slots again for next year. In other words, anti-climactic doesn’t equal unimportant.
Having said that, here’s what you need to know about actually SEEING Worlds this year…
+ They’re not on NBC. I don’t think there were ever any plans to put them on NBC this time; when I spoke to NBC Sports Exec Producer David Michaels late last year in one of our interviews for my book, the plans to carry Worlds on NBC’s Universal Sports sub-channel were already in place. So it has nothing to do with how skating did for NBC during the Olympics…
+ The Universal Sports coverage will be LIVE, but it will be in primarily 2-hour blocks, featuring most likely the final 2 flights of every event. Since Worlds is in Torino this time, everything will subsequentially air during daytime hours in the U.S.
+ If you’re looking for wall-to-wall coverage a la Ice Network—since Universal Sports owns the rights (Internet rights too), the wall-to-wall will be found at universalsports.com. (I presume it will be the world feed with no commentary, as it is for most of IceNetwork’s GP coverage).
Required Elements has posted an awesome rundown of what airs online/on TV and when, so please go check that out and come back :-) Compulsory dance kicks off at 7AM Eastern time TUESDAY online… no TV coverage of the CD this time.
Moving on to predictions, part 1…
For ICE DANCE:
Barring a bout with food poisoning, shark attack, or other Act of God, I’m guessing the gold and silver medals are sewn up already. With Dom/Shab and Belgosto, last year’s #1/2, both out of the running, I can’t imagine anyone else for the job of holding down those top two places on the podium. (And V/M and D/W weren’t close enough in the Olympic standings for me to think there will be a big battle for gold.) As for bronze, the Italians’ closest competition in Vancouver was Delobel/Schoenfelder… who are not here… and I believe they were five points ahead of Pechalat/Bourzat, which seems a little much to be negligible. But we shall see Pech/Bourz would be my best bet to challenge for that bronze; I’d love to say the Kerrs were in the running, but it just wasn’t close enough. (Curses to those twizzles of John’s, which never help!
Also, I’m hopeful that Samuelson/Bates will break into the Top 10 for the first time… they were 11th last year. Navarro/Bommentre were 12th at Worlds 2 years ago, but here I think they would do well to stay in the Top 15.
A lot of folks out there believe Pang/Tong were robbed of Olympic gold this time around… and I can see why they say that. As far as this event goes, P/T actually did win it, at the last post-Olympic worlds. I’d hazard a guess that both they and Zhang/Zhang will be moving on after this season, so I’d enjoy seeing them wrap up their eligible status this way. Sav/Szol, at this point, would do well to end the year with silver as it just hasn’t been a stellar season. Are you surprised by my bronze pick? I’ve concluded that I’m not very comfortable watching Kavaguti/Smirnov anymore… I know they’ve had better overall scores, but proportionally it just feels more and more forced…and Kavaguti’s desire to do well for her coach and herself must’ve taken a beating in Vancouver. It’ll be interesting to see if they repeat as medalists, but for once I wouldn’t mind seeing Muk/Trank triumph, just as they did at the start of the season. Of course dark horses abound—everyone from Kav/Smir to Canada’s Dube/Davison (if she can get that dang triple salchow) to Canada’s Langlois/Hay (but if they stick with the double twist rather than triple, probably not). I wouldn’t put either American pair in that race yet, though. The goals with them are to earn 3 spots for next year; that’s good enough for now (and I’d say attainable, if Evora/Ladwig can keep the confidence infused within them as they did in Vancouver).
For the Clip of the Day, I’ve got Pang and Tong’s exhibition performance from the 2006 Worlds Gala… listen to what is said about their history at the end of the performance. I hope they do well if they’re moving on to pros after this—they’ve lived under one of the biggest shadows pairs skating has ever seen, and still managed to grow beautifully in the process. No small feat.