Olympic figure skating preview: 5 pairs to watch

Fourth-Place Medal

Two of the medal-winning pairs from Vancover will compete for gold in Sochi, along with other talented teams that were formed after the last Olympics. The American pairs -- Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay -- won't be in the mix for medals, but top 8 finishes for both would be very respectable.

1. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS)

China ended the Russian/Soviet Union 40-year winning streak in pairs in Vancouver, but this dynamic duo is primed to return the gold to the host country. They have all the trademarks of the great Russian pairs: speed, unison, power and drama.

2. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)

The four-time world champions lost ground to the Russians in 2013, but are always in the medal hunt. Their programs this season don't have the same innovation as in years' past, but they've pushed themselves technically by attempting the throw triple Axel. It's unclear whether or not they'll try the risky move in their Sochi programs, but as the saying goes, no risk no reward.

3. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)

The reigning Canadian champions are a relatively new pair, teaming up after Vancouver. Both are former singles skaters with strong solo jumps. But in the last two seasons, they're awakened artistically, culminating with a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships. Can they repeat -- or better -- their effort in Sochi?

4. Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)

Like their teammates, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are an athletic pair. Technically, they're very solid, and both their programs are very entertaining. But they could add a little excitement to their skating. Perhaps competing on Olympic ice will draw it out of them.

5. Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN)

The Chinese pair barely missed out on the gold in Vancouver. Injuries and age have taken their toll on the veterans, who will be competing in their fourth Olympics. There's a real romantic quality to them and they truly skate as a pair. Watch for their explosive throw jumps and his excellent posture.

Who do you think will medal? Share your predictions in the comments below.

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