Kavaguti and Smirnov are making the first of their three appearances on the Grand Prix at this event. They are not my favorite team as they lack the finesse and grace that is typically associated with Russian pairs but they do have big elements. They also tend to get in their own way and that has cost them spots on the podium at major events.
Sui and Han are attending their second Grand Prix event of the season. They took home a silver medal last week at Cup of China and have already qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final. They have quad twists and throws and amazing lifts but she is still very young and their programs can look immature. If they can medal here, they'll likely secure themselves a spot in the Grand Prix Final for the second year in a row.
The Zhangs won the short program in their first competition back after sitting out last season due to injury. They faltered in the free skate but hung on to win the silver medal at Skate America. They won Chinese nationals ahead of Sui and Han but their scores on the Grand Prix put them below their countrymates. They'll also be looking for a medal in front of the home crowd and a trip to the Grand Prix Final.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch had a personal best total score to take home the bronze medal from Skate America. They set their highest score at their first event of the season last year and never matched that mark again. With a new refined style and high technical content, they'll be looking to improve at every competition this season.
Evora and Ladwig won their first Grand Prix medal last season and have the best lifts in the business. This is their highest scoring element and is always a big crowd pleaser. They struggled last season with their jumps and finding the right fit in their short program. If they can put together the whole package, they can be very competitive.
My podium predictions:
Bios of the competitors:
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, CAN: They finished 8th at Worlds and 5th at Four Continents. They won bronze at Skate America. They qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and finished 6th. Their personal best is 177.43. She is 19 and he is 27.
Steele/Schultz, CAN: They finished 4th at JGP Great Britain and 6th at JGP Czech Republic last season to qualify for the JGPF where they finished 4th. Their personal best is 133.08. She is 19 and he is 22.
Sui/Han, CHN: They are the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Champions. They won silver at Skate Canada. They won gold at JGP Latvia and Austria. They qualified for the GPF last season and won bronze. They qualified for the JGPF last season, but withdrew to focus on the senior competition. Their personal best is 180.82. She is 16 and he is 19.
Yu/Jin, CHN: They finished 7th in their Grand Prix debut, Skate Canada. They took home the silver from JGP Latvia and Austria. They qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final last season and won bronze. Their personal best is 158.36. She is 15 and he is 17.
Zhang/Zhang, CHN: They won silver at Skate America. They are the 2006 Olympic silver medalists; 2009, 2008 and 2006 World silver medalists; 2005 World bronze medalists; 2010 and 2005 Four Continents Champions; 2008 and 2004 Four Continents silver medalists; 2009, 2003 and 2002 Four Continents bronze medalists; and 2003 and 2001 World Junior Champions. Their personal best is 197.92. She is 26 and he is 27.
Kadlecova/Bidar, CZE: They finished 15th at Worlds, 7th at Europeans and 8th at Junior Worlds. They placed 8th at JGP Austria and 5th at JGP Estonia. They placed 6th at Trophee Eric Bompard last season. Their personal best is 139.94. She is 16 and he is 20.
Kavaguti/Smirnov, RUS: They finished 4th at Worlds and are the reigning European silver medalists. They won gold at Cup of Russia last season. They are the 2009 and 2010 World bronze medalists, 2010 European Champions, 2009 European silver medalists and 2008 European bronze medalists. Their personal best is 213.15. She is 29 and he is 27.
Evora/Ladwig, USA: They finished 11th at Worlds and 6th at Four Continents. They placed 5th at Cup of China and won bronze at Cup of Russia last season. Their personal best is 171.92. She is 26 and he is 31.