2019 World Figure Skating Championships Pairs Review: “I’m Not Crying, That’s Just Rain in My Black Eyes.”

I regret to inform you that this year’s pairs review has been written by a ghost, not the true me. Because I died watching the pairs event at 2019 Worlds.

I don’t usually cry over skating competitions. The last time I was this emotional about a skating event, it was the final group of pairs at the Olympics. When I cry over a skating event, it ain’t pretty. It’s not a few happy tears at the end of the final performance, it’s a sniffling emotional roller coaster of insanity. And that’s what this pairs event was. So here’s a brief recap of the chaos.

I bow down to Sui/Han for being simply superhuman. To come back after yet another serious injury and slay everyone is just insane. Their short program makes me think of old Hollywood glamour, Il Divo, and champagne. There’s an exquisite quality to everything they do; they skate with their feet but also with their eyes, and there’s a gorgeous chemistry that isn’t quite romantic but still powerful. Unpopular opinion: their greatest free skate is still Turandot. With Turandot, I had a clear picture and a story in my head; with this program (Rain in Your Black Eyes), there was a bit of an ambiguous meaning. But either way, they’re a beautiful pair with quality elements, and this win was well-deserved.

It was a bit of a rocky year for Tarasova/Morozov, but they threw down some solid performances and earned their place. Her adorable reaction at the end made me so happy. I don’t think people appreciate just how good they are. Their skating skills are literally like silk. They were aiming for gold, but I think this was a satisfying silver medal performance. Most of all, I’m just relieved they held onto the spot of Russia’s no. 1 – now that they have two classy programs, they truly are the best pair in the country at the moment, and they deserve to be far ahead of the pack.

I’m pretty sure this is going to start an Internet flame war, but I don’t think Sui/Han were robbed of a world record in the short program. They should’ve beaten Tarasova/Morozov on PCS because Sui/Han have more of an emotional chemistry in my opinion, but I think Tarasova/Morozov’s elements were just a little bit bigger – particularly the twist.

I am begrudgingly happy for Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert. All season, I have raked them over the coals for that ridiculous sword-fight program, and I winced the first time I had to call them world bronze medalists. But they did their job, and I actually found myself enjoying their free skate. It’s pleasing to watch. Their throw technique is weird but it works for them – he throws her way off axis and somehow she manages not to crack her head. And while I’ve finally gotten used to Natalia’s new hairstyle, I won’t rest until she pulls her bangs forward and rocks the sassy Alice Cullen cut from Twilight. Her FS dress vaguely reminds me of Katia Gordeeva’s Moonlight Sonata costume, which deserves some credit if you ask me. But please, judges, if you inflate their scores next year to produce a rivalry with Tarasova/Morozov, I have a shotgun and an alibi. Or should I say a sword, since we’re talking Zabiiako and Enbert here?

Peng/Jin’s short program is the best thing that’s ever happened to figure skating, in any discipline, in any year. Go ahead, Hanyu fans, you can slap me. I will stand by this opinion until I die. Every little detail is just too adorable for words. I know the rules and I know what’s fair, but if they had won the short I wouldn’t have complained. Their sass, their crispness, their closing pose – okay, I’ll shut up because I have 7 more pairs to talk about. The first time I watched the free skates, I was convinced Peng/Jin had been robbed blind. R-O-B-B-E-D B-L-I-N-D. But the second time, I really couldn’t deny it was fair. Peng/Jin had the better short program by a mile, and they beat Z/E in the short. However, I couldn’t quite get into their FS. It reminds me of Duhamel/Radford’s “Non, je ne regrette rien”, but I’m not sure if it quite matched Peng/Jin. There was nothing wrong with it, but after their brilliant short program, it didn’t quite leave the same impression. Also, they lost a few levels in the free skate whereas Zabiiako and Enbert had all level 4’s, except for the twist. So yes, the bronze medal went where it belongs, although I think the scores should’ve been much closer.

When James/Cipres announced at the beginning of the year that their goal this year was to win Worlds, I thought they had tasted a little too much of that good French wine. Honestly, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They are European and GPF champions, and they’re still cemented as one of the top contenders. They had a rough short program after the practice collision, fought back, and got a small bronze medal for the free skate. Realistically, I don’t think Vanessa and Morgan could’ve beaten Sui/Han even if they had skated perfectly. They are stunning and their programs are some of the most creative I’ve seen in the field, and their improvement in the past few years has been phenomenal. But they still lack some of the refinement of Sui/Han, and the fact that they got a 9.21 in skating skills when Tarasova/Morozov (the gods of ice coverage) got 9.25 is a little fishy to me. To me, Sui/Han are the most complete pair because they have both the complex, artistic choreography and the basic skills to back it up. Tarasova/Morozov have the basic skills but could use slightly more innovative choreography, and James/Cipres have killer choreo but less polished skating skills. Just some food for thought when it comes to the scoring for next season.

Speaking of next season…the world lives in fear of Alexandra Boikova and Dmitri Kozlovskii. The quality of their elements is simply stunning, and their packaging is excellent. They’re still young and can keep developing, but their programs accommodate that. They aren’t trying to do mature programs that overwhelm them; instead, they present themselves as a young, fresh team and highlight the big elements. I wish Nina Mozer would’ve applied this technique to Tarasova/Morozov back in the dark days of Candyman! If they can stay healthy, I think Boikova/Kozlovskii could actually be the top Russian pair going into the 2022 Olympics. By the way, his over-the-top reactions to their performances always make me laugh.

It was a bit up and down for Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. The short program was solid enough, and they got a huge score for it. Somehow, they managed to make a cringey sappy song like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” into a lovely, non-cringey program. But the good luck ended there. In the free skate, Michael’s side-by-sides just didn’t happen, and Kirsten stepped out of a throw jump. And while the program could’ve been a bomb (I mean seriously, it’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and sexy bluesy music!), it lacked a little spark for me until the end. I expected the sass of Sui/Han’s Blues for Klook SP from a few years back – edgy, slow-burning, and fabulous. But at least they maintained two spots for Canada.

I really love Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise. They combine Italian choreographic innovation with Team Mozer elements. Unfortunately for Matteo, those elements didn’t show up here. The crash in warmup definitely didn’t help. But overall, I think this season was a success for them and I look forward to seeing them next year. Not to mention, they win the award for funniest gala performance of the season.

Ye of so little faith, behold. The US has two pairs spots for next year’s worlds, and it’s all thanks to Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc. I’ll admit, I was a little uneasy because finishing in the top 10 is no easy feat, but they’re a strong team and they delivered what they needed to deliver this season. They have a very cool, unconventional look on the ice, and I like it. It’s also comforting to know that the US could get its two spots even though Ashley and Tim didn’t skate perfect. US pairs isn’t as doomed as it seems, y’all.

You’re all going to wince now, because now I’m going to start talking about my sentimental favorites, Ziegler/Kiefer. Two months ago, they went to Euros shortly after their coach’s passing from a sudden heart attack. They finished the short program in tears and later withdrew from the free skate. At Worlds, they skated a perfect short, followed it up with a good effort in the free, finished in the top 10, and secured two spots for Austria. And they did it in gorgeous purple costumes, skating to Adele, with Olympic champ Bruno Massot by their side. Am I a puddle of tears right now? Yes.

Okay. I survived. Now I’m going to breathe, enjoy the rest of spring break, and see you for World Team Trophy. In the meantime, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor. 

4 thoughts on “2019 World Figure Skating Championships Pairs Review: “I’m Not Crying, That’s Just Rain in My Black Eyes.”

  1. So here’s the thing – I was actually in Japan during Worlds, but not at the competition. I don’t actually know how that happened! What was I thinking?! In between sightseeing I managed to see the Rhythm Dance after it happened unspoiled, and the Free Dance, Men’s Free and Ladies’ Free live on Japanese TV. You’ve now convinced me I MUST go back and watch the pairs, both short and free. Great review.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

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