Maggie Hendricks

Russian pair in search of on-ice chemistry

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

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One of the elusive elements in pairs skating is chemistry. It can develop through years, as it did for the Chinese pair Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao – who are married and have been together for 18 years – or it can happen more quickly, as with Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who have only been together for four years.

Then there are those whose chemistry is never quite right off the ice, but on the ice, they make it happen, like the Russian pair Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov.

They've had a tumultuous relationship, placing placed as high as fifth in the world and second in the European Championships, but also sitting out competitions because of injuries, which can always put stress on a pair. They've had trouble in the past finding a coach, and early in their pairing, they considered breaking up or retiring. They've even sought the help of a sports psychologist to help them out.

When they're on, they're a terrific pair. But when one of them is off, it quickly affects their routine.

When Trankov fell on their triple toe loop during Sunday night's short program, Mukhortova comforted her partner, so something the psychologist said must have stuck. We'll see during Monday night's long program – which Mukhortova and Trankov skate to "Love Story" – whether the chemistry is there.

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