Coming into Boston, the pairs field was probably the most open of all the four disciplines. Chinese pair Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were in fine form, but so were defending champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford from Canada. And one simply couldn't leave the Russians out of the mix - Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are the reigning Olympic champions, and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are simply too good to dismiss.
But even though Sui and Han were quietest, most dimunitive of the four pairs, it was what they did on the ice that spoke the loudest. Unusually for a top pair, Cong Han is relatively short, and there is not a huge height difference between himself and Wenjing Sui.
Their "Spanish Romance" program had been a highlight of the season so far - unlike many Latin-themed love programs, theirs was understated, elegant, with the passion simmering just beneath the surface. Even the look that Cong gives Wenjing right at the start speaks volumes without flashy movement. Their side by side triple toes to open almost came as a surprise, but were, of course, landed flawlessly.
Wenjing's air position on the throw triple flip that followed was divine, and she landed it with ease - nothing pitched forward or laboured about it. They moved together almost immediately into their pairs spin, which opens with one of the most innovative moves in modern skating - their first position involves their feet hooked together (as pictured above). It is an enormously effective postion.
Then Cong clapped his hands above his head, and suddenly the tempo of the music picked up, and the body language of the two skaters shifted subtly, oh so subtly, intensifying their performance as they built speed down the ice. Unlike almost every other pair that night, Wenjing and Cong went for the split triple twist in the second half of the program. Wenjing's air positon, with the arm overhead, was perfect; she had ample room to come back down, and Cong's arms never faltered.
An effortless lift followed, every movement timed to the beat of the music, and then came the death spiral. Even in such a difficult move Wenjing and Cong's expression did not let up. Every movement of their bodies was matched to the music, every facial expression related. The fiery step sequence was performed in near-perfect unison, building intensity and tempo in the perfect way to finish their program. You almost didn't realise it had ended, and I didn't want to end. I could have watched it again.
It was no surprise, then, that when their score came up, it was the second-highest short program score ever - a just reward for an incredible performance, made even more incredible when you realise that Wenjing performed like that with a badly injured ankle. Both ankles were so bad that she required surgery after the season's end, and whether she and Cong will make it to the Grand Prix at all next season is uncertain.
One thing is certain: if they did not, it would be a sad, sad loss to the pairs competition.
You can enjoy Sui and Han's great short program here.