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Sochi Figure Skating preview (pairs): Free skate base value analysis

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It was certainly a tremendous day of short programs in the pairs' event today at the Sochi Olympics. The home team's Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov, as expected, are in the lead over Germany's Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy. And now that the final skate order is set, let's do a base value analysis for the top teams and see how they compare.

Related: Pairs predictions

Below are the planned base values minus spins, step sequences, and death spirals (since the levels called on those elements can vary by competition). How do the top teams stack up?

Gold Medal Favorites
*Indicates bonus elements

  • Savchenko/Szolkowy GER (49.57) - throw triple flip (5.50), side-by-side triple toe-triple toe sequence (6.56), triple twist level 3* (6.38), side-by-side double axel* (3.63), throw triple axel* (8.25), lifts (19.25)
  • Volosozhar/Trankov RUS (45.60) - triple twist level 4 (6.20), side-by-side triple salchow (4.20), side-by-side triple toe-double toe (5.40), throw triple loop* (5.50), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (19.35)

So this is where there's a twist that you may not have known about without a base value analysis. Savchenko/Szolkowy have a potential technical advantage over Volosozhar/Trankov of about four points, which, incidentally, is about the size of Volosozhar/Trankov's lead after the short. The problem, though, is that in order for the Germans to take advantage of it fully, they will need to hit the throw triple axel at the end. Figure skating loves its drama - and it just so happens that their throw triple axel is going to be the absolute last element in the pairs free skate, since Savchenko/Szolkowy skate last tomorrow.

Note that, if they decide not to do the throw triple axel (which is what they did at the Grand Prix Final), their base value goes down by 3.30. It could be a game-time decision, depending on what Volosozhar/Trankov put down before them. Either way, though, if both skate cleanly, Volosozhar/Trankov will triumph based on their short program advantage.

Bronze Medal Contenders
*Indicates bonus elements

  • Duhamel/Radford CAN (48.48) - triple twist level 2 (5.40), side-by-side triple lutz (6.00), side-by-side triple salchow-double toe-double toe* (7.48), throw triple loop* (5.50), throw triple lutz* (6.05), lifts (18.05)
  • Peng/Zhang CHN (46.35) - quad twist level 2 (7.60), side-by-side triple toe-double toe (5.40), side-by-side triple salchow (4.20), throw triple loop* (5.50), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (18.70)
  • Bazarova/Larionov RUS (46.01) - side-by-side triple toe (4.10), side-by-side double axel-double axel sequence (5.28), throw triple flip (5.50), triple twist level 3* (6.38), throw triple loop* (5.50), lifts (19.25)
  • Moore-Towers/Moscovitch CAN (45.16)- triple twist level 3 (5.80), side-by-side triple toe-triple toe sequence (6.56), side-by-side triple salchow (4.20), throw triple loop* (5.50), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (18.15)
  • Pang/Tong CHN (44.48) - side-by-side double axel-double axel sequence (5.28), side-by-side triple toe (4.10), triple twist level 2 (5.40), throw triple salchow* (4.95), throw triple loop* (5.50), lifts (19.25)
  • Stolbova/Klimov RUS (43.08) - triple twist level two (5.40), throw triple lutz (5.50), side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe (6.70), side-by-side double axel* (3.63), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (16.90)

Interesting? Yes. Duhamel/Radford's sky-high base value is precisely why they won the World bronze last season, and why they are so dangerous. The current pair in bronze medal position, Stolbova/Klimov, has the lowest base value, partly because of their double axels and partly because of their lifts, which add up to the lowest total of any of the top teams. But as we have seen, what Stolbova/Klimov don't have in technical elements they have in components. So that's the great equalizer, possibly. But they will want to be as clean as possible to wrap up that bronze.

At this point, it seems that if Stolbova/Klimov do skate cleanly, the pairs most likely to put up a challenge will be Duhamel/Radford and Pang/Tong. Pang/Tong can produce magic - we saw it in Vancouver four years ago - and they skate after Stolbova/Klimov tomorrow. Those two pairs are separated by all of two points.

Others to watch
*Indicates bonus elements

  • Castelli/Shnapir USA (48.42) - triple twist level 4 (6.20), side-by-side triple toe-double toe (5.40), throw quad salchow (8.00), side-by-side triple salchow (4.62), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (19.25)
  • James/Cipres FRA (46.55) - triple twist level 1 (5.00), side-by-side triple toe-triple toe (8.20), side-by-side triple salchow (4.20), throw triple flip* (6.05), throw triple salchow* (4.95), lifts (18.15)
  • Berton/Hotarek ITA (45.15) - side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe (6.70), triple twist level 1 (5.00), side-by-side triple salchow (4.20), throw triple salchow (4.50), throw triple loop* (5.50), lifts (19.25)

The pairs in 9th through 11th are all solid pairs who could make some noise. Castelli/Shnapir, of course, have their quad salchow planned, which skyrockets their base value to Duhamel/Radford levels. And James/Cipres do a side-by-side triple toe-triple toe that no other pair is doing in this competition.

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