If you're an ice dance fan, you can't help but be in awe of what we will be seeing this week at the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships. The three best US dance teams were also three of the top six at last year's Worlds, so you are in for a treat with some amazing ice dance in Kansas City here. The big storyline won't be whether these three teams will make it to Worlds; rather, it will be the order in which they will finish in the top three.
2017 U.S. Championships Predictions
Official hashtag: #USChamps17
GOLD Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani - Last year marked the comeback of the Shibutanis, who had such a tremendous Worlds debut in 2011 with the bronze, but had to wait five years to get back on the World podium. Those five years were all about growth and change, and they took themselves to multiple new levels to where they are today. They continue to ride the momentum they brought last year to win their first US title, and their Grand Prix Final performance, where they beat Papadakis/Cizeron in the short dance, was a strong indication of their international standing. They should take this title and solidify their position at the top of American ice dance.
LISTEN (soon): Tanith White and I break down the event on #IceTalk
SILVER Madison Chock/Evan Bates - The 2015 US champions are coming into this week with a bit of uncertainty. Their programs this season have been two of their strongest, but inconsistency has made it rough for them to have the results that they wanted. The differential between their best free dance and their worst free dance of the season is almost 14 points, not terribly common to see in dance. Two clean skates will be important for them mentally heading into championship season.
BRONZE Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue - Continuous improvement is what Hubbell/Donohue have been all about. They have been solidly third for the past couple of seasons, but this one has been an upward-moving one for them. They pulled the upset at the Grand Prix Final, where they were fifth and beat Chock/Bates. Barring mistakes, I expect Chock/Bates to still prevail here, but this is going to be a really close race between these two teams.
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker - After dropping to fifth last season at Nationals, the former World junior champions came back this season with a vengeance, looking sharper and more motivated than ever. Watch for them to inch closer to the top three this season, looking to set themselves up for the Olympic year.
5. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit - Fourth at Junior Worlds last year, Pogrebinsky/Benoit are the red-hot junior-turned-senior team to debut this week in Kansas City. They took their first senior international medal in November with a bronze at Tallinn Trophy.
6. Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus - After a career-best season last year, where they were fourth at Nationals, Cannuscio/McManus haven't been able to capitalize on that momentum, with a step backward on their Grand Prix results this season.