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Preview: Skate Canada pairs event

When the 2011 International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series continues in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 2011 World Championship silver medalists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia are looking for their first taste of Grand Prix glory. They have to contend with their country mates Lubov Ilushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze, defending Skate Canada Champions, and World Junior Champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China and two-time World Junior medallists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan.

No American pairs are among the competitors. The home country will be represented by 2011 Four Continents runners-up Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, 2010 Skate Canada bronze medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers and new pair Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe. Dube is a World medalist with former partner Bryce Davison.

Volosozhar and Trankov formed their partnership following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Because Volosozhar represented Ukraine and he represented Russia in Vancouver, the pair had to miss most of the 2010-11 season due to ISU regulations affecting skaters who switch countries. After becoming eligibile to compete on Feb. 16, 2011, they competed st Mont Blanc Trophy, where the pair met the ISU minimum technical score requirements for Worlds. Volosozhar and Trankov finished third in the short program and second in the free skate at Worlds, winning silver. It was the first World medal for both.

To start the season, the Russians won Nebelhorn Trophy and Ondrej Nepela Memorial in September. They are making their career Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada and will also compete at Trophee Eric Bompard.

Ilushechkina and Maisuradze, 2009 World Junior Champions, come into Mississauga following a third place showing at Ondrej Nepela Memorial. In 2009. they made their Grand Prix debut with a fifth place showing at Cup of China. They placed fourth at Cup of China last year, took first at Skate Canada and finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final.

Sui and Han experienced tremendous success last season while balancing junior and senior international competition, which they are doing again in 2011-12. The pair has already won gold at 2011 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Latvia and Austria. On the 2010 JGP, they won gold in Germany and silver in Austria. Sui and Han also won silver at Cup of China and bronze at Skate America as well as the Grand Prix Final. Their season concluded with a silver medal at the Asian Winter Games and a second consecutive World Junior Championship.

China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin are making their Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada. Earlier this season, they finished second at JGP Latvia and Austria behind their country mates Sui and Han. Yu and Jin are the 2010 JGP Czech Republic Champions as well as the JGP Austria and Final bronze medalists.

Takahashi and Tran skated simultaneously as juniors and seniors last season, taking third at the 2011 World Junior Championships and ninth at the World Championships. They finished second at Junior Grand Prix Germany and Great Britain but won the final. Takahashi and Tran won the silver medal at Cup of Russia and the bronze at NHK Trophy.

Now in their second season together, Duhamel and Radford made their Grand Prix debut with a fifth place showing at 2010 Skate Canada. They finished second at Canadian nationals, won silver at the Four Continents Championship and then placed seventh at Worlds.

Lawrence and Swiegers finished fifth at 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy with Dube and Wolfe taking sixth place. Last season, Lawrence and Swiegers were fifth at Rostelecom Cup and third at Skate Canada. They are the 2011 Four Continents bronze medalists.

While Sui and Han have experienced great success in their partnership, Volosozhar and Trankov will be difficult to top. Podium predictions: 1) Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Russia. 2) Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, China. 3) Lubov Ilushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze, Russia.


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