So, you know what's incredible? The top six ice dance teams here at the Four Continents Championships all have realistic chances at getting on the World podium next month. Perhaps only Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir have a clear advantage of the rest here, and even they can't afford mistakes when the field is this deep. It's going to be quite the competition - will the pecking order change this week? We'll find out.
2017 Four Continents Predictions
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GOLD Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir CAN - This has been about as smooth as comebacks get. Virtue/Moir have won everything this season and set world record scores in the process. But perhaps more than anything, it's the ease of their skating that has been the most impressive. They seemed to carry such a burden leading up to Sochi, and they are coming back for themselves and just look to be having more fun and skating more freely. And that's helped their programs gel better - the scores reflect that.
SILVER Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani USA - Grand Prix Final was yet another step up for the Shibutanis. They beat Papadakis/Cizeron in the short dance and made it a closer competition between them and Virtue/Moir than many would imagine. Both programs this season play to their strengths - their short dance showcases their comfort with hip-hop as a theme and their free dance highlights their precision and ability to handle sublime music. They expect to be on the podium, but a win for them would be keeping it close with Virtue/Moir.
BRONZE Madison Chock/Evan Bates USA - Their free dance has really come a long way this season, and it's turning into a signature program for them. That's what is going to set them apart from the rest of the competition this week. Chock/Bates were only a point behind the Shibutanis at the U.S. Championships for the title, and it certainly would not be a surprise if they came into Four Continents with an even greater sense of purpose, knowing that they are working with their two best programs ever.
4. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje CAN - Their coaching overhaul is starting to pay dividends. Nikolai Morozov has brought a different look to their skating this season, which has given them a fresh outlook on skating and competing. Four Continents will be the most telling test for them, as it is the first time they will be competing against more than one of these top teams in international competition.
5. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier CAN - They made a splash in their short dance at Worlds last year, and they made another splash at Skate Canada with personal best scores. Illness kept them from being at their peak form at Canadians, where they missed silver to Weaver/Poje by three points. So interested parties will certainly be looking at their rematch this week. Like every team in the top six, it wouldn't actually be a surprise if they got on the podium here.
6. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA - It's been a momentum-filled season for the US bronze medalists, one that gave them a few personal best scores and also one that saw them defeat Chock/Bates for the first time in almost five years (and at Grand Prix Final, no less). Of all the teams here, they really have the capability to draw the audience in with their dance, especially their free dance this season. Watch out, because they could really be the team to make a huge statement and surprise going into Worlds.
7. Kana Muramoto/Chris Reed JPN - With two Japanese titles under their belt now, Muramoto/Reed are certainly the top non-North American team at Four Continents this week. For them, it's about building momentum for Worlds next month.
8. Yura Min/Alexander Gamelin KOR - They made their Grand Prix debut this season and have put up some solid personal best numbers, and they will definitely pose a stiff challenge to Muramoto/Reed here.
9. Shiyue Wang/Xinyu Liu CHN - The 2015 Chinese champs have been the top Chinese dance team for the past few seasons. They were ninth here last year.
10. Linshu Song/Zhuoming Sun CHN - Eighth at Cup of China last fall, Song/Sun will be making their Four Continents debut this week.