Twenty four teams skate this weekend with Golden dreams on their minds. This season has been very competitive for the top 10 teams in the ISU Ice Dance list. But one team won’t be invited. Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin were banned from Pyeongchang after a doping scandal. Russia decided not to replace the team and will only have two entries skating.
At the top of the list is France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (shown left). The two time World Champions are considered the favorites this week as they’ve dominated the field this season, winning at Cup of China, Internationaux de France and the Grand Prix Final. Their main threat is from Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (shown right). In their 21 years as an Ice Dance team, they have 8 National championships, three World championships, a Grand Prix Final title and an Olympic Gold and Silver medal. Their only loss this season was to Papadakis & Cizeron at this year’s Grand Prix final. They returned to action two years ago and look to end their careers on top of the ice dance world.
OAR’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (shown left) made history of their own this season, winning their seventh national title. They’ve had a strong season so far with a 2nd place finish at Rostelecom Cup and a 3rd place finish at Cup of China. They were 5th in Sochi and look to make the podium this week.
Americans have two chances at the podium this week. Maia and Alex Shibutani (shown right) have been red hot on the ice this season, with wins at Rostelecom Cup and Skate America. But a third place finish at this year’s Grand Prix Final and a second place showing at nationals have brought the ShibSibs stock down a bit. They lost to Madison Hubble and Zachary Donohue, who in turn have seen their stock rise in recent months, having won their first national title. They make their Olympic debut this week.
Teams to Watch – Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are former World Champions in 2014. But since then haven’t been able to reach the podium in Worlds or Olympic competition. Still they’ve reached the Grand Prix Final with a 3rd place finish at NHK Trophy and a 2nd place finish at Skate America. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates were supposed to be the “heir apparent” after Meryl White and Charlie White won gold in Sochi. Since then, the team’s best performance have been a series of 2nd place finishes each year in Grand Prix action and were third at nationals this season. They’re still able to make an impression this week. Canada has two other teams that could make it interesting.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have fought to stay relevant after Virtue and Moir’s return to action and injuries. They’ve won nationals twice, but finished 3rd this season. Their two wins in the Grand Prix Final also makes them a dangerous team. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier finally make it to the Olympics after fighting hard and upsetting Weaver and Poje to take 2nd at nationals. Their best finish was a 5th place finish in the Grand Prix Final in 2015. Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri are ranked 9th in the ISU standings and look to improve from their 14th place finish in Sochi. Japan’s Chris Reed makes his third appearance in the Olympics. In 2010 and 2014, he paired with his sister Cathy. This time around, he brings along Kana Muramoto. They were 23rd at last year’s Worlds.
Smooth’s Pick: If I’m a betting man, I would put my money on anything but this competition. Just too close for comfort to predict. Look for percentage points to decide the winner.
Gold: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
Silver: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
Bronze: Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (OAR)