With Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot out with injury, it's really Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford against the rest of the pairs here at the 2016 Grand Prix Final this week. It's not a done deal, though, as we saw at NHK Trophy a couple of weeks ago, where a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes put them in jeopardy of losing a competition for only the second time in the past three seasons. They managed to pull out the win, but they can't afford the same close calls this week with the depth of this field here.
2016 Grand Prix Final Predictions
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GOLD Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - On paper, this might look like a potential easy win for the reigning World champs. And it could very well be. But as we saw at NHK Trophy, it's a challenge to go clean with two of the most difficult programs in the world. In a lot of ways, Duhamel/Radford are competing against their own risky elements this week, because given all pairs skating clean, they win. But it will be necessary for them to go back to their consistent selves and make that happen. Last year's Grand Prix Final is, incidentally, the only competition they have lost since the the 2014-15 season started.
SILVER Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang CHN - What an incredible start to their partnership. In their debut season so far, Yu/Zhang have looked incredibly solid and have looked like they have been skating together for years. But we have to realize that their partnership started only about seven months ago, and so it's certainly a testament to their prowess as pair skaters. Of all the teams, they have the consistency to really make it interesting for the title should Duhamel/Radford make a few mistakes.
BRONZE Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau CAN - It's been a strangely up and down season so far for Seguin/Bilodeau, who were looking to figure into the top pairs conversation. But their short program, especially, has been a bit of a liability during the Grand Prix. It's, then, no wonder that they decided to go back to their short from last season - and with that, they also took out their new element, the side-by-side loops, in favor of the more consistent sals. It's a crucial competition for them, though, because they do need two solid skates to bring back the momentum that they were looking for this season.
4. Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS - The short program has been the highlight for them so far this season, as they have established themselves as the top Russian pair in the absence of Stolbova/Klimov and Volosozhar/Trankov. But it's likely their free skate - and in particular, the opening quad twist, that will tell the medal story for them. Two clean programs gets them to at least silver here.
5. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - Like their teammates (and former partners) Yu/Zhang, Peng/Jin have had a stellar start to their debut season. But their side-by-sides are more inconsistent than the rest of the top pairs, and so it will take a bit more for them to figure into the medals this week.
6. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - The first substitutes got the call after Savchenko/Massot dropped out of the competition. Zabiiako/Enbert are an elegant pair with big tricks, though their free skate does not quite have the difficulty that the other pairs' free skates have (unless that throw double axel turns into a triple this week).