It is a jam-packed field at Skate America for the pairs this week. After having a showdown at Skate Canada earlier in the season, it's time for another one for Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford and Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot, two of the favorites for the Olympic podium in February. But the depth of the field goes even beyond those two pairs, with Grand Prix Final spots on the line this week.
Skate America predictions
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GOLD Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - They sure got their groove back in the free skate at Skate Canada. And it may very well be that program that will prove to be the turning point for their Olympic season. Had they had another subpar showing, it would have been much more difficult for them to dig out of the hole that they have found themselves in since last season. Expect them to build on that momentum in Lake Placid.
SILVER Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot GER - The big news today is that Bruno Massot received his German citizenship, and while it was never particularly in doubt, it has to be a weight off their shoulders to know that they are now able to compete in PyeongChang. And you wonder how much that will affect their outlook this week. Their biggest obstacles this season have been getting the consistency down, not just on the hard stuff, but on the side-by-sides, which have traditionally been solid for them.
BRONZE Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang CHN - With a silver at Cup of China, Yu/Zhang are vying for one of those three remaining spots in the Grand Prix Final. They don't have the kind of all-around programs that the top two pairs have here, and so to be competitive for the title, they will need to rely on mistakes from the top. But as with all the Chinese pairs, they will be most concerned about their side-by-sides.
4. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro CAN - Moore-Towers/Marinaro have found themselves as the second strongest Canadian pair of the season going into Skate America, and another strong performance here after their surprise bronze at Cup of China will set them up very well for the Canadian Nationals coming up in January. For them, it's all about showing the Canadian judges that they, too, can get big scores in international competition.
5. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim USA - After a fifth place at NHK Trophy, the Knierims are looking at this competition as another building block toward the second half of the season. They remain the top pair for the U.S., and they will remain so after this competition is said and done. That said, if they can find their side-by-sides this week, they have a realistic shot at the podium.
6. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - Fourth at Skate Canada to start their Grand Prix, Zabiiako/Enbert are really trying to position themselves well for Russian Nationals in December, as their main rivals for that third spot on the Olympic team, Astakhova/Rogonov, have grabbed two bronze medals this season on the Grand Prix.
7. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier USA - The U.S. champs were seventh at Skate Canada. They have always had trouble with their side-by-sides, and that will be key for them here to be competitive with the Knierims.
8. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay USA - A full 17 years after Stellato competed in her one and only Grand Prix as a singles skater, she is back with Nathan Bartholomay in pairs. They started off their summer with tons of promise and upgraded difficulty, but have backed off a bit since. Let's see where they are here with a few months of training since their last competition.