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Five things to watch for at worlds: Dance combat

Canadian, American super teams set to square off; Bronze up for grabs

Reigning world champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir look to defend their title on home ice.
Reigning world champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir look to defend their title on home ice. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/11/2013) - The ice age is upon us in London, Ontario, where practices at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships have commenced. Here are five storylines to follow in the dance competition:

1. Super team faceoff:

Since Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won gold at the 2010 World Championships, the Canadians have squared off with Canton, Mich., training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White seven times. The Americans won five of those meetings, including both of the teams' faceoffs this season.

Still, Virtue and Moir's re-hauled short dance gained praise and the judges' nod at Four Continents last month, and London, Ontario, is their hometown. It should come down to the free dance: Can the riveting passion and rage of the Canadians' Carmen rise to the occasion and outpoint the consistent excellence of execution Davis and White have shown in their romantic Notre-Dame de Paris?

2. Best of the rest:

Bronze in London promises to be a less-predictable-than-usual battle. Based on results at Europeans, the two top Russian teams, along with Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, would seem to hold the advantage, but there are several wildcards (see #3).

3. Injured reserve:

Two potential medal-winning teams -- Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, the defending bronze medalists, and Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje -- arrive in London as question marks. Weaver's ankle injury, which required surgery, took her off ice for eight weeks starting in late fall. Bourzat's groin troubles forced the French to skip Europeans.

4. Home country bragging rights:

Russian champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev and silver medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov have waged a see-saw battle, with Ilinykh and Katsalapov coming out ahead at the Grand Prix Final but placing second to Bobrova and Soloviev at Europeans.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the 2011 world bronze medalists, were narrowly defeated by emerging U.S. rivals Madison Chock and Evan Bates at the U.S. Championships, due in part to a pair of too-long lifts. Chock and Bates then won bronze at Four Continents, where the Shibutanis placed fourth, but the siblings came out ahead in the free dance.

5. Twizzling around:

The margin for error among the top teams is so thin, the slightest bobble -- often a small miscue on a twizzle, including a foot down or a slight veering of direction -- can make a one- or two-place difference.