Another Grand Prix, another super group of pairs that is incredibly competitive. The reigning World champs are starting their Grand Prix at home against some seasoned pairs and an American pair who are coming off a very strong Skate America. All told, they are still going to be the heavy favorites for the title.
Skate Canada predictions
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GOLD Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - The two-time World champions come into this season with a new trick, the throw triple axel, which they have added to their short program. But what we see is not only increased technical content but also stronger programs overall. They have worked hard to continue to push themselves choreographically, and it's paid off, particularly in their short program. As with most competitions, the thing to watch for is not whether or not they win but how much they win by. Finlandia Trophy wasn't a great skate for them, and you better believe they are going to be here this week with something to prove.
SILVER Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier USA - I'm jumping on the bandwagon here. But what we saw last week at Skate America from Denney/Frazier was very solid, and they will be carrying that momentum into Skate Canada this week. Their biggest liability will be their side-by-sides, which are the elements that Denney is least comfortable with right now. Two clean programs here, though, will cement them as the leading US pair this season so far, especially as Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim are in recovery mode from Scimeca's surgery over the summer.
BRONZE Lubov Iliushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - Seventh at Worlds last season, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch have proven that they are more than competitive with the rest of the world of pairs. They've got the difficult technical tricks and they have developed a style during the past couple of seasons together that suits them very well - a bit of Canadian and a bit of Russian. Two clean programs put them on the podium.
4. Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov RUS - This one was a tough one to figure out. On one hand, Kavaguti/Smirnov are two of the older pair skaters still competing among the best pairs; on the other, they have been pushing the boundaries technically (last year, putting two quad throws in their free skate). But Kavaguti suffered yet another injury last season, and you wonder how many more times she can come back from injury. They started their season with a silver at Ondrej Nepela, but without the quads that defined their season last year.
5. Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang CHN - Time for the complete X factor. Yu/Zhang are the product of the Chinese pairs switcheroo over the off-season. Their former partners, Cheng Peng and Yang Jin, are now skating together. Zhang has been around and skating at the highest levels of pairs for almost two decades now, and Yu has proven herself to be a very strong skater as well. It remains to be seen how well this pair has gelled in their short time together. I get the feeling the twist and throws will be just fine though. It's the side-by-sides that will determine their place in this field.
6. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - The Italian champs started their season with gold at home at Lombardia Trophy. They are trying to break into that top group of pairs, and they've made steady progress the past few years on that journey.
7. Brittany Jones/Joshua Reagan CAN - This will be Jones/Reagan's second Skate Canada. They were seventh here two years ago, and they started off their season with a win at US Classic.