- Short dance: 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET / 5:45 p.m. Moscow / 11:45 p.m. Tokyo
- Free dance: 4:30 p.m. PT / 7:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 a.m. Moscow / 8:30 a.m. Tokyo (4/1)
You often think about ice dance as the discipline where one team dominates. But there hasn't been a back-to-back champion since 2007, when Albena Denkova/Maxim Staviski won two in a row. Even during the Virtue/Moir and Davis/White era, they alternated years in their four combined title wins. Will we have our first repeat in almost a decade? Or will the defending champs be dethroned?
The ice dance event will open competition in Boston this week on Wednesday, with five teams that have paths to the top of the podium. But one thing's for sure, ice dance will be most certainly be the best chance for Team USA to medal at these World Championships.
Rocker Predictions: 2016 Worlds
GOLD Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani USA - It's been all about momentum for the newly-crowned U.S. and Four Continents champions. The Shibutanis' return to glory has been well-documented this season, but I'll do it again anyway. It was five years ago that they earned a surprise bronze in their Worlds debut. But since then, they haven't even been close to the medals, often playing second (or third) fiddle to their teammates. But last season's fifth-place at Worlds signaled both a renewed spark in their skating and a recognition of their improvements by the international judges. This season, their win at NHK Trophy catalyzed their ascent in both scores and placements - they went on to be more competitive at Grand Prix Final than they had ever been, after which they won their first U.S. title and first Four Continents title, defeating teams that have caused all sorts of trouble for them during the past couple of seasons.
The arrows have been pointing upward for the Shibutanis more than for any other team this season. So much of their chances this week will depend on the short dance, particularly in where they are in the skate order. But it may just be the home ice advantage that will push them over the top this week. Savor their free dance, it's magic. And the home crowd will be putty in their hands.
SILVER Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron FRA - The defending World champions come in after a season full of troubles. Papadakis suffered a concussion earlier in the season during training that took them out of the entire international season up through Europeans. And even with that interruption, they won Euros, though with a second-place showing behind Cappellini/Lanotte in the short dance. And just last week, we learned that Papadakis took a fall in practice that required stitches to her left knee. So their preparation for Worlds has not been ideal, and you wonder whether their lack of competition time is going to be an issue for their element levels. If they can max out those levels, then I see that second World title in their future.
BRONZE Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje CAN - Speaking of levels, the Grand Prix Final champions lost all sorts of points in their free dance at Four Continents with low levels, which cost them a chance at the title there. But up until then, they had won everything they entered this season.
4. Madison Chock/Evan Bates USA - Chock/Bates' silver behind the Shibutanis at Four Continents marked their most confident skating yet this season. They took silver last year at Worlds and will most certainly be in the hunt again for a medal.
5. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte ITA - World champs two years ago, Cappellini/Lanotte have been more solid this season than they were last year, where they couldn't really find their rhythm. But silver at Euros and defeating Papadakis/Cizeron in the short dance will help boost their confidence on the way to Boston this week.
6. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA - Hubbell/Donohue are certainly in the category of most improved this season, with their short dance in particular showcasing the kind of atmosphere they are able to create with their programs. They have never been higher than tenth at Worlds, but the time is right for them to finally crack the top six.
7. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov RUS - With Bobrova/Soloviev out of Worlds after Ekaterina Bobrova tested positive for meldonium - the newly-banned performance-enhancing drug that has rocked Russian athletics - Sinitsina/Katsalapov get their chance to lead the Russian teams in Boston. They were fourth at Europeans.
8. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier CAN - Sixth last year at Worlds, Gilles/Poirier haven't found their way to break into the very top pack of ice dance teams quite yet. They will be taking a risk by debuting a new short dance this week in Boston after not quite having the success and comfort with the one they've been competing all season.
9. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin RUS - But the direct beneficiaries of Bobrova/Soloviev's withdrawal are Stepanova/Bukin, who were the first alternates for Team Russia. They were ninth last year at Worlds.
10. Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland GBR - Like Gilles/Poirier, Coomes/Buckland also made a change in their short dance this season, and they debuted it successfully at Europeans a couple of months ago. They will be looking to get back into the top ten at Worlds after missing last year's Worlds with illness.