Virtue and Moir hold the top scores of the season thus far, with their impressive lifts, deep edges and effortless skating skills. They've taken last season's free dance and formatted it for their short dance this season and have a free dance that suits their styles and personality. They need a medal of any color to secure a spot in the Final.
Pechalat and Bourzat earned a silver medal earlier this season despite Bourzat's illness. They had to withdraw from Skate Canada but he is healthy now. While they were well behind Davis and White at Skate America, it will be interesting to see how they close the gap now that he's healthy. I wasn't sold on their Egyptian themed free dance and thought they didn't fully convey the story of the pharoh's last dance with his dead wife and her costume was a little distracting. They need a gold to secure a spot in the Final while a silver would keep them in the hunt.
Cappellini and Lanotte had a great start to their season, winning the bronze medal at Skate Canada and finishing 2nd in the free dance ahead of Weaver and Poje. They train alongside Ilinykh and Katsalapov which gives them a competitive push in practice. They need a gold medal to secure a spot in the Final.
Ilinykh and Katsalapov won the short dance last week at NHK Trophy but disappointed in their free dance and dropped to 3rd overall. Their free dance had a lot of posing and looked very clunky in spots with a lot of bobbles and just looked like it needed more training time. With back to back events, they haven't had much time to make adjustments and they'll need all the training time they can get this week to iron out the problems. They need a gold medal to secure a spot in the Final.
Chock and Bates received this assignment last week, but were training for sectionals so should be in good shape. They have only been skating together for a few months but finished a solid 4th place in their Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada. They are only going to continue to improve with additional training time as they get more comfortable with their programs and with each other. They need a gold medal to keep them in the hunt.
My podium predictions:
Bios of the competitors:
Virtue/Moir, CAN: They are the reigning World silver medalists. They won gold at Skate Canada. They are the 2010 Olympic Champions, 2010 World Champions, 2008 World Silver Medalists, 2009 World Bronze Medalists, 2008 Four Continents Champions, 2009 Four Continents silver medalists, 2006 and 2007 Four Continents bronze medalists, 2006 World Junior Champions and 2005 World Junior silver medalists. Their personal best is 181.79. She is 22 and he is 24.
Huang/Zheng, CHN: They finished 17th at Worlds and 6th at Four Continents. They placed 5th at Cup of China. Their personal best is 130.29. She is 24 and he is 24.
Pechalat/Bourzat, FRA: They finished 4th at Worlds and are the reigning European Champions. They won silver at Skate America. They qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and won silver. Their personal best is 167.40. She is 27 and he is 31.
Cappelini/Lanotte, ITA: They placed 8th at Worlds. They won bronze at Skate Canada. Their personal best is 154.87. She is 24 and he is 26.
Gorshkova/Butikov, RUS: They placed 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at Cup of Russia last season. They are the 2008 World Junior bronze medalists. Their personal best is 127.47. She is 22 and he is 24.
Ilinykh/Katsalapov, RUS: They finished 7th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans. They won bronze at NHK Trophy. They are the 2010 World Junior Champions. Their personal best is 154.50. She is 17 and he is 20.
Hurtado/Diaz, ESP: They finished 23rd at Worlds, 15th at Europeans and 9th at Junior Worlds. This is their Grand Prix debut. Their personal best is 120.41. She is 19 and he is 21.
Chock/Bates, USA: They finished 4th at Skate Canada. With Emily Samuelson, Bates is the 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist and 2008 World Junior Champion. With Greg Zuerlein, Chock is the 2009 World Junior Champion. Their personal best is 135.10. She is 19 and he is 22.