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Sochi Figure Skating preview (pairs): Top 12 prediction time

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Having handicapped the statuses of 12 pairs, it's time to map out what the standings might look like. It's a deep field of pairs, though consensus would have it that there are really only two pairs fighting for gold. Here's my outlook for the top 12 in the pairs competition.

Pairs preview: Part 1 | Part 2
Start order: Pairs' short program

GOLD Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov RUS - Last two competitions aside, this looks to be Volosozhar/Trankov's competition to lose. That said, they might be able to afford one mistake maximum. The key for them is to hit those side-by-side jumps and ride the wave that the home crowd will most certainly be giving them.

SILVER Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy GER - Will it be another heartbreaker for the Germans? They are really the only pair in the field who can seriously challenge Volosozhar/Trankov for gold. The throw triple axel could make the difference, and so could the return of their Pink Panther short program.

BRONZE Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov RUS - My dark horse pick du jour. Their rise late this season has been epic, and two clean programs can certainly put them on that podium, especially on home ice.

4. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - It'll be interesting to see how Duhamel/Radford stack up against Stolbova/Klimov. If both are clean, they will score similarly in the short, but Stolbova/Klimov could have the advantage in the free skate, especially in PCS. The Canadians will need to be squeaky clean with their big tricks to lutz their way onto the podium.

5. Qing Pang/Jian Tong CHN - Two clean programs can get them back on the podium, but that's not an easy task for Pang/Tong, who have not skated cleanly terribly often in the past four years. It's their last hurrah, and you know they are going to give it everything they got.

6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - Their technical base values, which are on the average side among the top pairs, will be their biggest hurdle to getting onto the podium. They just don't garner the same PCS as the other top teams, but they certainly have the ability to surprise.

7. Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang CHN - Quad twist? Keep an eye out for that element in the free skate. Peng is usually the one who struggles with the side-by-side jumps, though she's been a lot more consistent at them this season.

8. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek ITA - How did that nasty fall that Berton took on her solo triple salchow in the Team Event affect her? We'll see.

9. Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov RUS - Once looking to be medal contenders, it looks as if it'll be a stretch for Bazarova/Larionov to even get to the top five here.

10. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir USA - A top ten finish is within reach for the U.S. champs. I'm sure they'd love more than anything to land that quad salchow in competition for the first time at the Olympics.

11. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - I was actually kind of surprised to put them out of the top ten here, but that's how deep this field is. That said, James/Cipres have top ten potential, possibly even top eight. But they will have to be better than how they were in the Team Event.

12. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay USA - Top ten will be a stretch for Zhang/Bartholomay, especially based on their lack of international experience. But a top-12 finish is within reach.

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