The event I'm looking forward to most at this week's 2017 European Figure Skating Championships has to be the pairs. There is such a deep field of pairs in Ostrava this week, led by Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov and World bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot. The two favorites, though, have been dealing with injuries all season, and there could very well be a surprise at the top of the podium this week.
2017 Europeans Predictions
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GOLD Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS - I'm doing it. After underestimating them all season long, I'll take the Grand Prix Final champions for the upset. Their short program has been a major highlight for them this year, and they will need all of it to set the tone for their Europeans this week. Their downfall has been inconsistency in the free skate, where the opening quad twist seems to zap their energy a bit too much. But I expect them to come into Europeans with a game plan and a focus, knowing that the title is realistically within their reach.
SILVER Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov RUS - They won their third Russian title after being out of competition in the fall, and they did it with some watered down elements in their free skate. With another few weeks of training, it wouldn't be surprising if their side-by-side jumps are back to normal. It's their side-by-sides in the free skate that keep them in line with the other top pairs, who all have one or two very difficult elements. But if they can skate cleanly and execute well, that could be enough for them to win their first European title even without the super difficulty.
BRONZE Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot GER - They've been pushing themselves technically all season, first with the throw triple axel and later with the throw quad salchow. But with the difficulty comes risk, and Savchenko injured her ankle on the triple axel during Trophee de France. There were even a few questions as to whether or not they would be able to compete here given the injury and the lack of preparation time. It wouldn't be a surprise if they watered down their elements a bit this week while Savchenko is still recovering.
4. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - These two are ready for a breakthrough. After switching coaches this season, James/Cipres have very much grown as a pair, and the results have shown it. They had their best combined Grand Prix showing this season, with a fourth at Skate American and a bronze at Trophee de France. And it was in France where they skated a superb free skate that brought them personal best numbers.
5. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - The Russian bronze medalists are in their first Europeans in a very successful sophomore season. Both skaters have had their share of pair partners over the past few years, and it looks like they have finally found the right pairing. They are dark horses for the podium.
6. Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek ITA - After a disappointing eighth at Skate America, Marchei/Hotarek have really made strides back into form. In the past couple of coompetitions, they took out their side-by-side lutzes to play it more consistent. And clean programs will have gone a long way to help with their confidence this year. And a placement over their teammates will definitely be a step in the right direction.
7. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - Speaking of teammates, Della Monica/Guarise just barely defeated Marchei/Hotarek for their second Italian title last month. They have grown a lot as a pair during the last couple of seasons, and they continue their ascent in the pairs rankings.
8. Anna Duskova/Martin Bidar CZE - The home favorites are the first pair to ever win the World junior title, and they make their Europeans debut this week.
9. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer AUT - It's been a bit of a disappointing season for Ziegler/Kiefer, whose consistency on their difficult side-by-side jumps left them in the fall. They were ninth here last seaosn.
10. Zoe Jones/Christopher Boyadji GBR - What a story this is. At 37, Zoe Jones is back at Europeans for the first time since 2001, when she was a singles skater. She made a comeback to competitive skating last year and finished second at the British championships, and subsequently learned pair skating after teaming up with Christopher Boyadji.