We had one half of the preview for Worlds at Europeans, though we were missing one critical pair with Stolbova/Klimov out of Euros. And we will be seeing the other half of the preview for Worlds in Taipei this week as Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford face off against Wenjing Sui/Cong Han at Four Continents. Will Duhamel/Radford gain some momentum and rebuild the confidence that they've lost a bit of this season? Or will Sui/Han make a triumphant return after injury took them out of the Grand Prix Final?
2016 Four Continents: Rocker Predictions
GOLD Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - You wouldn't know it from looking at their results, but the reigning World champions have been muscling through this season with a bit of shakiness that we didn't see as much of last year. While things like the quad salchow have been firing well, their trusty side-by-side triple lutz and throw triple lutz have been less consistent than normal. A clean short program is crucial for them this week as they go for their third Four Continents title - it's where they hold the greatest potential advantage against Sui/Han this week.
SILVER Wenjing Sui/Cong Han CHN - After being sidelined for part of the season with Sui's foot injury, the World silver medalists are back and picking up where they left off. Their showing at the Chinese Winter Games a few weeks ago showed that they haven't missed a beat. With Duhamel/Radford in the field dominating in base value, competitors have been trying to even out the playing field with harder, but less trusted elements. It will be interesting to see if Sui/Han's throw quad salchow is ready for a return. Adding that to their already strong quad twist in the free skate could make the difference, but that quad sal has never been a consistent element for them and could backfire if they are throwing it just for points sake.
BRONZE Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim USA - Coming in second at Nationals likely just fueled the fire some more for Scimeca/Knierim. Of the three American pairs, Scimeca/Knierim are still the ones who will garner the highest component marks internationally. The big question mark will be those side-by-sides, which looked strong in practice at Nationals but ultimately left them when they were on competition ice. Two clean skates here will not only be huge for their momentum but could catapult their component marks to new heights just in time for Worlds. If they want to be in contention for top five at Worlds and not just be outsiders with a chance, skating a great Four Continents is key.
4. Tarah Kayne/Daniel O'Shea USA - The new U.S. champs skated lights out in Boston last month, and their domestic success has steadily been translated into international success. Like Scimeca/Knierim, if they put down two clean programs, they will see a rise in component marks that will set them up well for Worlds. They don't quite have the international cred that Scimeca/Knierim have yet, but this too could be a turning point competition for their career if they can replicate their performances at Nationals.
5. Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin CHN - There's so much to like about Yu/Jin in their skating and their quiet but powerful skating. But their inconsistency has kept them from really breaking through to the top ranks so far this season. They also have a throw quad sal that we've seen this season, and it's not quite ready for prime time. Playing it safe might be better for their results this week, but my guess is that their push is more forward-looking. Two clean skates would be medal-worthy.
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran USA - Even though they made mistakes at Nationals, Castelli/Tran could take a lot out of that competition. One of the takeaways that many observers saw is that clean programs on the international level could really catapult their standing with the judging panels. Their skating is world class, and they are just a couple of landed side-by-sides away from really making their mark this season. Four Continents could be their shot.
7. Lubov Iliushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - After a shaky international season, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch went back to Canadians and skated two solid programs to get back onto the podium and onto the World team. A strong showing could put them in the medal hunt this week.
8. Vanessa Grenier/Maxime Deschamps CAN - Fifth at Canadians, Grenier/Deschamps are making their Four Continents debut.
9. Sumire Suto/Francis Boudreau Audet JPN - The new Japanese pairs champs are making their Four Continents debut. This will be the deepest field they have encountered yet in their first season as competing.
10. Tae Ok Ryom/Ju Sik Kim PRK - A North Korean pair! We saw Ryom/Kim earlier this season at Ice Challenge in their international debut. Key for them is to get the minimum short program technical score for Worlds.