It all comes down to the numbers.
The penultimate stop on the ISU Grand Prix Series brings us to Moscow this week for the Cup of Russia. Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder of France have already earned their spot in the Final by winning last week’s Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris, and Americans Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto have a strong point total to qualify as well.
Of the ten teams scheduled to compete, five — from Israel, Italy, Ukraine, and Russia (2) — have already competed against each other in Beijing during Cup of China earlier this month, so the rematch should make for an exciting competition in Moscow. This will also be the first head-to-head battle this Grand Prix season between gold medalists: Meryl Davis & Charlie White (in Canada) vs. Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin (in China).
Although Davis & White’s margin of victory in Ottawa last month was nearly 17 points and Domnina & Shabalin’s was only .36, The Russians’ final score (186.77) was nearly eight points higher than the Americans’ total (178.89).
Adding to the fight for the top step of the podium are reigning world bronze medalists Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski from Russia. Khokhlova & Novitski took bronze in China with a score of 179.50, and have both beaten and been beaten by the Americans. Domnina & Shabalin, however, have never lost to their compatriots, going 14-0 against Khokhlova & Novitski at Russian Nationals, the Grand Prix, and ISU Championships.
Another battle to look for is among the statistically close teams scoring in the 150-160 total points range.
Israeli sister and brother duo Alexandra & Roman Zaretski placed above Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte at the 2008 World Championship, but the current Grand Prix season seems more favorable for the Italians, who placed fourth at the recent Cup of China to the Zaretskis’ seventh. Ukrainians Anna Zadorozhniuk & Sergei Verbillo and Katherine Copely & Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania look forward to improving on their previous Grand Prix finishes. Last year at Cup of Russia, Zadorozhniuk & Verbillo were the bronze medalists while Copely & Stagniunas were just .28 behind them in fifth place.
Anastasia Platonova & Alexander Grachev will make their Grand Prix debut as a team in Moscow, although both have competed in previous seasons with their former partners. The duo entered their first international competitive season together and placed second at Finlandia Trophy with a total score of 164.47.
The French team of Zoe Blanc & Pierre-Loup Bouquet and Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno are also scheduled to compete. Both are coming off ninth-place finishes in their first Grand Prix events, Blanc & Bouquet last week in Paris and Hann-McCurdy & Coreno in Everett, Washington.
The competition begins Friday with the Viennese Waltz, and the official website for the event is http://www.isugrandprix.ru.