This is the marquee event for the hosts at Cup of China this week - and it has been the case for many years, because China has been and continues to be a pairs powerhouse. And after the re-retirement of Qing Pang/Jian Tong last season, it's now more-or-less the new crop of pairs, led by World silver medalists Wenjing Sui/Cong Han. They are the favorites in a strong pairs field this week in Beijing.
Rocker predictions: 2015 Cup of China
GOLD Wenjing Sui/Cong Han CHN - Their win at Skate America was very solid, and they are building up toward Worlds and a rematch with Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford - which means being competitive technically. They already have a quad twist that is in regular attendance in their free skate, but they also have a throw quad sal that has made sporadic appearances through out their career. It's historically been a much less reliable element for them, but they know they will need it to be competitive with a clean Duhamel/Radford. Watch for that this week. They are slight to solid favorites over Kavaguti/Smirnov for gold.
SILVER Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov RUS - The veterans are still around. Kavaguti/Smirnov are continuing to hang with the best in the world, even with their inconsistency getting the best of them sometimes. And they've got their throw quad salchow, which is not the prettiest thing in the world but is more consistent than most. They've got a shot at gold, but will have to be pretty much perfect to get there.
BRONZE Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin CHN - They were fifth at Grand Prix Final last year after winning two medals on the GP last year. Yet as good of a pair as they are, they've never made it to Worlds. That will certainly change this year, but Yu/Jin have a lot to prove, especially in their place in the pecking order of the Chinese pairs. They have a very strong combination of artistry and technical skills, and should figure into the medals this week.
4. Xuehan Wang/Lei Wang CHN - After a terrific short program at Skate America, Wang/Wang had a rough free skate that dropped them off the podium, with mistakes in both their side-by-sides and their throws. Chinese pairs have a history of not being great with solo jumps, but throws are their strength, so it was unusual to see. They are a wonderfully musical pair, and if they put together two clean skates, they can definitely get on the podium.
5. Lubov Iliushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - The third pair in this field to be armed with a quad, the Canadian silver medalists have been attempting the throw quad flip in their free skate this season. They are strong pairs skaters who gelled really quickly in their first season last year. Their inconsistency so far this season makes them a slightly less favorable bet for the podium. But they certainly have the goods to get there.
6. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov RUS - It's a bit perplexing how super up and down their consistency can be, which you usually don't see as much in pairs skating. The variance is generally smaller than you see in singles skating, simply because you have two people. But they went from beating Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov in the free skate at one competition to finishing last in the free skate at Skate America. So yeah, it's tough to place them this week.
7. Mari Vartmann/Ruben Blommaert GER - The new German pair has made a solid statement in their debut season in an attempt to fill the pairs void in Germany. They have put down 60+ short programs, won an international (Cup of Nice), and generally done better than either of them did with their previous partners. They have an uphill battle here with this field, but it'll serve as solid experience for their growth.
8. Vanessa Grenier/Maxime Deschamps CAN - It's two Grand Prix weeks in a row for the former Canadian junior champs. The inconsistency they've shown so far this season doesn't bode well for their chances in this field.