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2014 Sochi Olympics: Ice Dance Preview

Victoria Gordon |
February 15, 2014 | 4:15 p.m. PST

Reigning World Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. (Ludwig Welnicki/Wikimedia)
Reigning World Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. (Ludwig Welnicki/Wikimedia)
Ice Dance is, easily, the most overlooked of figure skating events. It's a lot like ballroom dancing on ice, so many discredit its "sports" value, but it requires strength, grace and stamina. And it's the strongest skating discipline in the United States. 

At the Olympics, ice dancers will compete two segments: the short dance and the free dance. The short dance is based on a pre-set "pattern" of dance steps (designated by the International Skating Union) and choreographed to music that fits the style of dance. This year's dance is the Finnstep, and skaters will be including quickstep, Charleston and swing rhythms in their short dances. The free dance is, as the name suggests, relatively free, with very few required elements. In both cases, skaters choose the music. 

The Sochi field is dominated by a USA-Canada rivalry. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White are friends and training partners of Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. These two teams have gone 1-2 on pretty much every podium since Vancouver four years ago. While Virtue and Moir took home the gold in 2010, Davis and White are the frontrunners this time, as the reigning World and Grand Prix Final champs (and the winners of both segments during the team competition). Regardless of the end results, these teams are all but guaranteed to win the gold and silver medals here as well. 

Here are five other teams to watch in Sochi: 

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (David W. Carmichael/Wikimedia)
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (David W. Carmichael/Wikimedia)
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA)

Newly-minted European Champions Cappellini and Lanotte are incredibly popular amongst skating fans. While Cappellini and Lanotte have never won a World medal (their highest placement was fourth last year) or a Grand Prix title (they have, however, won nine medals on the Grand Prix), they are still superstars for their fun programs and on-ice presence. It probably doesn't hurt that Cappellini bears a strong resemblance to American sweetheart Zooey Deschanel as well. 

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabien Bourzat (FRA

Pechalat and Bourzat were pretty much a lock for the bronze at every major competition in the early part of this quad. Unfortunately, injuries plagued them last year, forcing withdrawals and allowing them to fall behind other teams in the judges' eyes. Nonetheless, they are one of the most successful ice dance teams in French history: they are two-time European Champions, five-time Grand Prix Final medalists and the 2012 World Bronze Medalists. This is their third Olympics and their best shot at a medal. 

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (David W. Carmichael/Wikimedia)
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (David W. Carmichael/Wikimedia)
Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov have been controversial for several years now, after a reportedly messy break from legendary coach Alexander Zhulin. They are, however, three-time European Champion medalists (with two silvers and a bronze) and winners of five Grand Prix medals. However, their natural partnership and continued improvements put them firmly in the top six of most experts' picks. 

Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN)

Canada's second-place team is remarkably consistent internationally: their lowest placement since the 2009-2010 season is sixth. Their extraordinary skating has often lived in the shadows of their more polished counterparts, Virtue and Moir, but Weaver and Poje are ready to take center stage and shine in Sochi, where they're also in contention for the bronze. 

Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)

This Russian team was a favorite for bronze at the beginning of the season, but many skating fans think that, with free dance issues all season and a noteworthy absence from the European Championships (which they won in 2013), they may have fallen behind their teammates Ilinykh and Katsalapov. However, Bobrova and Soloviev are still the reigning World Bronze Medalists and owners of medals from eight of their ten most recent international competitions. 

With that in mind, make sure to watch the 2014 Olympic Ice Dance competition on February 16 and 17

Email Victoria Gordon here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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