The women at Russian Nationals this week look to once again be the marquee event, as the depth in Russian skating continues to impress. But whereas the hallmark of Russian Nationals for the past five or so years has been the rise of new skaters, the story of this season's Nationals will be whom of the current crop will cement their place with the Olympics coming up in 14 months. For the pairs, all eyes will be on the return of Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov, who have been out with injury so far this season. Are they recovered enough to win their third title?
2016-17 Russian Nationals Predictions
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Ladies top 10 predictions
Three spots for Worlds
GOLD Evgenia Medvedeva
SILVER Anna Pogorilaya
BRONZE Elena Radionova
4. Maria Sotskova
5. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
6. Alina Zagitova
7. Anastasiia Gubanova
8. Alena Leonova
9. Elizaveta Nugumanova
10. Serafima Sakhanovich
Unless something disastrous happens, Evgenia Medvedeva and Anna Pogorilaya are your top two. They have shown over and over again this season that they are, so far, the two best skaters in the world, and their consistency should carry them through this week.
So then the spotlight is on the third spot on the podium - and possibly the third spot on the World team. Up until Grand Prix Final, Elena Radionova looked to have a pretty firm grasp on that third spot. But if last season was any indication, there's nothing she likes more than a good comeback. But you better believe Maria Sotskova, who finished right above her at GPF, is eager to grab that spot from her. Sotskova has had a fantastic debut senior season, though her potential downfall could come in underrotations.
Rewind the tape four years and you'll get Elizaveta Tuktamysheva winning the Russian title. Rewind it four more years and you'll get Tuktamysheva winning her first Russian medal (silver) at age 12. She's been here for a long time and is familiar with the ups and downs of Nationals, and has a shot at getting back onto the podium.
Pairs top 5 predictions
Three spots for Worlds
GOLD Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov
SILVER Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov
BRONZE Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert
4. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov
5. Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov
Coming in hot and going for their first title are Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, who just took the Grand Prix Final title a few weeks back. But in a lot of ways, it will be Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov's readiness for competition that will determine the champions here. Given their status in Russian skating, it's tough to imagine that they are coming into Nationals unprepared. But given that they haven't been in competition all season so far, I don't see them at full force here, which will open the door for Tarasova/Morozov.
The rise of Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert internationally has taken some by surprise, but they have shown a lot of promise since last season, their first together. They come in with the edge for bronze over Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov, who have been steady this season, and former champions Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov, who have not looked themselves yet since Kavaguti's injury took them out late last season.