Pj's Top 10 Performances: Pairs | Figure Skating | CBC Sports

Figure SkatingPj's Top 10 Performances: Pairs

Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 | 02:22 PM

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David Pelletier, top, and Jamie Sale delivered one of Pj Kwong's favourite pairs skates of all time at the 2000 Canadian championships. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press) David Pelletier, top, and Jamie Sale delivered one of Pj Kwong's favourite pairs skates of all time at the 2000 Canadian championships. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

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Figure skating pairs mirror the challenges and successes that we all share. There are lots of worthy pairs from generations before mine, but I wanted to focus on skaters that I've actually seen.

This final instalment of my top 10 lists of favourite performances may have been the toughest one of all.
Editor's Note: For Pj's latest series of top 10 lists, she's ranking her favourite performances of all time. This week the series concludes with the top pairs. You can also read about her top ladies, men's and dance routines.

If you missed her last series on the top 10 skaters of all time, go back and read her ladies, men's, pairs and dance rankings.


Figure skating pairs mirror the challenges and successes that we all share. There are lots of worthy pairs from generations before mine, but I wanted to focus on skaters that I've actually seen. This final installment of my top 10 lists of favourite performances may have been the toughest one of all.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to set me straight with your own top 10. I want to hear from you! Leave your comments at the bottom of this page or give me a shout on Twitter @skatingpj.

1. Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov (Russia), 1993 Skate Canada International, Moonlight Sonata free program

Gordeeva and Grinkov had already won one Olympic title in 1988, retired from competition, gotten married and had a baby. In the fall of 1993, they made a comeback to competition on their way to collecting their second Olympic gold in 1994. At Skate Canada they were superb. Their quality is hard to describe, and when paired with the music the term "legendary" isn't quite strong enough.  A scant two years later Grinkov would collapse on the ice during practice and die of a massive heart attack due to a congenital heart defect at the age of 28.

2. Xue Shen & Hongbo  Zhao (China), 2010 Olympics, Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor free program

Like many people, when I heard that Shen and Zhao would be returning to competition for the 2009-10 Olympic season, I was thrilled. Their Olympic free may not have been flawless, but it still sticks in my memory. As much as the skating, I was taken with their return at 32 and 36 years of age, respectively. They captured the tenderness on the ice that they have for one another off the ice as husband and wife.

3. Jamie Sale & David Pelletier (Canada), 2000 Canadian championships, Love Story free program

The Canadian championships were held in Calgary in 2000. When I heard that Sale and Pelletier were using Love Story, I didn't think it would be anything special. I thought that it would be another case of music playing in the background of a skating performance. I saw little bits and pieces during practice - enough that I wanted to see the program in competition. I still remember where I was standing in the arena when they skated. I didn't move from my spot or take my eyes of f them. It was sensational.  (Note: I couldn't find this performance on YouTube, so I've included a link to the same program from the Olympics in 2002)

4. Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze (Russia), 1998 world championships, Dark Eyes free program

I remember hearing the story of Berezhnaya's accident  with a former partner whose blade      sliced into her skull during side-by-side camel spins. By the time they won their first of two world titles in 1998, she had returned to the ice after brain surgeries and started a new partnership with Sikharulidze less than two years before. Their speed, line and amazing technical elements are enough to put them on this list. They have the added bonus of chemistry and her wide-eyed innocence to draw you in.

5. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (China), 2006 Olympics, The Offspring of Dragons free program

In Turin at the Olympic Games, Zhang and Zhang took the ice for their free program. It was rumoured that they would be doing a throw quad Salchow. As we watched the windup we couldn't know that she would fall out of the throw on to her knees and into the boards. I can still see in my mind's eye Hao Zhang tenderly holding his partner as they tried to figure out if they could skate. They went on to win the silver medal. Dan Zhang spent the rest of her time in Italy on crutches.

6. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (Germany), 2010 world championships, Out of Africa free program

The three-time world champions from Germany are brilliant when it comes to working the judging system and maximizing their points. In this program they also demonstrated to me that they were able to express music and a theme. I am totally taken in by the subtlety and sophistication of their choreography.

7. Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison (Canada), 2008 world championships, The Blower's Daughter free program

The music, concept and choreography struck a chord with me. In 2008, Dube and Davison captured the bronze medal at worlds. I remember feeling a little sad when they skated, thinking that it would be the last time I would see this program. I called it the fastest 4:30 seconds in skating.

8. Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner (United States), 1979 world championships, contemporary music free program

I loved the athleticism of this pair. Their clean lines and tremendous speed and their similar height gave them a different look from the other competitors of the day. At worlds in 1979 they became only the second American team to ever win the world title. Watching them at the Olympics in 1980 where they were favoured to win, I remember the shock and disappointment as it was announced after the warm-up they were withdrawing as a result of injury.

9. Barbara Underhill & Paul Martini (Canada),1984 world championships, Gershwin selections free program

Underhill and Martini had been so close on numerous occasions, only to have something unexpected throw them off their pace. In Ottawa at the world championships in 1984, they capped off what had been a disastrous season with a spectacular performance. There wasn't anyone in the rink that day or even watching on TV in Canada who wasn't pulling for them.

10. Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler (Canada), 1990 world championships, contemporary music free program

Brasseur and Eisler were a great pair. Not only were they athletic to the point of being thrilling, but they had a way of capturing the spirit of their music. When they were good, they were very, very good. In 1990 it was good enough to put them on the podium for the first time at worlds as silver medallists.

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