Figure skating’s pair short program goes tonight: a preview

After their silver-medal effort in the inaugural team event, Canada's figure skaters now head back to the tried, true and familiar as the individual events get under way.

You know how skaters love to say they're "skating for themselves"? After the team event last week, this is now literally true.

First up will be the pairs, with the short program going Tuesday night in Sochi and the long program Wednesday night.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, the No. 2 Canadian pair, have drawn the 20th and final starting slot – either a blessing or a curse, however they choose to take it. It used to be an advantage, when under the old scoring system the judges were thought to sometimes "save" good marks for the last pairs. Not so true any more. Still makes for a loooong night.

Here are some things to look out for.

*NOT THE WORLD'S BEST: As you can see from the world rankings below, the top nine pairs in the world are all entered in the event. After that, there's a rather drastic falloff, mostly due to country limits. It means the pairs ranked No. 46 and No. 57 in the world, for example, can get to the Olympics.

*COUGAR TOWN: The "norm" in pairs skating has the woman younger than the man – often a fair bit younger. But a few pairs break that mold. Vanessa James of France is 26; partner Morgan Cipres is 22. Narumi Takahashi of Japan is 22; partner Ryuichi Kihara is a dewy-eyed 21.

*SENIOR CITIZENS: German pair Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are 30 and 34, respectively. Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China are BOTH 34.

*HELLO, DADDY?: Cheng Peng of China is 16, while partner Hao Zhang will be 30 in July. Andrea Davidovich of Israel is also 16; partner Evgeni Krasnopolski is an "old man" of 25.

*SHOW US YOUR PASSPORT: It's hard enough to find a pair that meshes. So sometimes countries have to import them. Frenchwoman Vanessa James hails from Scarborough, Ontario. Andrea Davidovitch of Israel was born in Vermont; partner Evgeni Krasnopoloski comes from Kiev, Ukraine. American Simon Shnapir is from Moscow. Canadian Rudi Swiegers was born in South Africa. Savchenko hails from Ukraine. Italian Ondrej Hotarek is from the Czech Republic.

*TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: Every pair in the competition has a triple twist planned - except for Takahashi and Kihara, Ziegler and Kiefer of Austria, the Wendes of Germany and Lavrentieva and Rudyk of Ukraine.

NOT SIBLINGS: You might think Maylin and Daniel Wende are a brother-and-sister pair. That can be a little creepy, especially when they skate to romantic music. But, in fact, the Wendes are a married couple; Maylin's maiden name is Hausch. Sometimes fate intervenes; Daniel Wende used to skate with a Russian-born partner. But she couldn't get a German visa. So they split up in 2008. And the rest is history.

*TRIPLE-FREE: Every pair in the program will attempt side-by-side triple jumps - mostly toe loops, considered the easiest, and a few salchows. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have triple lutzes on their element list. Stacey Kempand David King of great Britain will only do double axels; Lavrentieva/Rudyk have the least technical difficulty of all planned – double flips.

*MOTLEY "CREW": Amid the movie soundtrack music and the popular repeat choices, there are a few musical choices we thought might stand out. Music listed for Canadians Moore-Towers and Moscovitch is "Motley Crew - Mic Macs". But don't get excited; it wasn't a typo and has nothing whatsoever do to with the iconic band, which has just announced its farewell tour. It is ... movie soundtrack music.

The one bright spot could be the Wendes, who will skate to "November Rain performed by David Garrett". No, there isn't a smidge of Axl Rose in it, but Garrett is the coolest violinist around and November Rain, by its nature, is sort of symphonic anyway.

LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT: The pairs prototype is for a little tiny female (she does have to get lifted over the man's head and held up there for awhile, and also gets thrown around a lot) and a big, husky male, even if pairs that are more closely matched physically look a lot better together on the ice. The tallest woman (official heights - not on skates, we don't think) is the Canadian-Frenchwoman James at 5-foot-4. The shortest is Takahashi of Japan at 4-foot-9. The biggest height differential comes from the American team of Castelli (5-feet even) and Shnapir (a giantesque 6-foot-4). The Canadians, though, more than hold their own in that category: all the women are 5-feet or shorter, and all their partners are over six feet. It's like there's a pairs factory somewhere in central Ontario or something.

*DEJA VU: Veteran Germans Savchenko and Szolkowy will skate to the Pink Panther. We're thinking they've done that before.

Oh, they have! A few times. This one is from 2010.

Here's the full order of skate (world rankings are in parentheses)

1.Narumi TAKAHASHI / Ryuichi KIHARA (JPN) (57)
2.Nicole DELLA MONICA /Matteo GUARISE (ITA) (19)
3. Miriam ZIEGLER / Severin KIEFER (AUT) (46)
4. Cheng PENG /Hao ZHANG (CHN) (17)
6. Marissa CASTELLI /Simon SHNAPIR (USA) (15)
7. Felicia ZHANG / Nathan BARTHOLOMAY (USA) (28)
8. Stacey KEMP / David KING (GBR) (49)
9. Maylin WENDE /Daniel WENDE (GER) (24)
10.Julia LAVRENTIEVA /Yuri RUDYK (UKR) (39)
11.Paige LAWRENCE / Rudi SWIEGERS (CAN) (13)
12.Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES (FRA) (9)
13. Ksenia STOLBOVA / Fedor KLIMOV (RUS) (7)
14. Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD (CAN) (5)
15. Aliona SAVCHENKO / Robin SZOLKOWY (GER) (2)
16 . Stefania BERTON / Ondrej HOTAREK (ITA) (3)
17. Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Maxim TRANKOV (RUS) (1)
18. Vera BAZAROVA / Yuri LARIONOV (RUS) (6)
19. Qing PANG / Jian TONG (CHN) (4)
20. Kirsten MOORE-TOWERS / Dylan MOSCOVITCH (CAN) (8)

What to Read Next