One of the very interesting storylines in the pairs' event at this week's Cup of China is the head-to-head of the two pairs who had partner-switcheroos over the summer. Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang and Cheng Peng/Yang Jin were both skating with each other's partners just eight months ago. Yu/Zhang already had a successful debut at Skate Canada. Can Peng/Jin follow suit and do the same?
Cup of China Predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #CoC16
GOLD Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang CHN - Yu/Zhang had a spectacular debut at Skate Canada, where they took the silver with two clean programs. They are skating within their technical bounds and they have already shown that they have gelled as a pair just in a few months' time. Another two clean programs and they are on top of this podium and definitely on their way to the Grand Prix Final.
SILVER Lubov Iliushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - Bronze at Skate Canada behind Yu/Zhang, the Canadian bronze medalists are looking to clean up some of their errors from earlier in the season. Their lifts are going to be some of the best in the competition, and they set this pair apart from the rest of the field. Will there be a throw quad attempt from them? Might be the time to try it.
BRONZE Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov RUS - At Skate Canada earlier this season, Kavaguti/Smirnov looked solid but not spectacular. Their side-by-sides kept them from the podium, and Kavaguti is still very much recovering from the injury that took them out of competition mid-last season.
4. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - This week might be their big breakthrough. The Italian champs have looked strong this season, and the strides they have made since last season are really starting to pay off. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they ended up on the podium in this field at Cup of China.
5. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - This is a bit of an unknown. Peng/Jin showed off their new programs during the off-season, but Cup of China will be their first international competition together. They don't quite have the difficulty in side-by-sides that most of the other pairs have, so they will need to skate clean programs to contend for a medal.
6. Xuehan Wang/Lei Wang CHN - Unlike their teammates here, Wang/Wang had a relatively normal off-season. They are an elegant pair who have great potential but have not been particularly consistent in competition. And it's that inconsistency that will keep them from really challenging here.
7. Mari Vartmann/Ruben Blommaert GER - In their second season together, Vartmann/Blommaert have come into this season with a bit of upgraded difficulty, particularly in their second free skate throw.
8. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan USA - Pfund had surgery over the summer to repair injured ligaments, and Cup of China will be their first Grand Prix since their debut last season at Skate America.