It is no doubt the most anticipated pairs lineup on the Grand Prix series. Three of the best pairs square off this week at 2017 Skate Canada International - one of them two-time World champions, one of them two-time World medalists (and half of the pair a two-time Olympic medalist), and one of them a potential dark horse for an Olympic medal. I'm so excited about this - and you should be too.
Skate Canada International predictions
Official hashtag #SCI17
GOLD Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - I bet you didn't expect this one. Ever since their breakthrough at Trophee Eric Bompard last season, James/Cipres have been on the rise (even with that crazy fall on the triple twist at Worlds). It's plain and simple - they found their groove and they have figured out their own secret ingredient to become a well-rounded pair. And it doesn't hurt that their quad salchow has gotten more and more sound over the past season. With the other two top pairs going through some inconsistency, it may be time for James/Cipres to break through once again and win their first Grand Prix title.
SILVER Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN - Last season was the first time Duhamel/Radford had finished off the podium at Worlds since 2012. It was a shocking turn of events for a pair who has been confident and consistent for 2 1/2 years. And so when they started off Autumn Classic a few weeks ago with a strong short program, you thought they may have righted the ship - only to see them falter in the free skate and finish behind James/Cipres there. This competition is less about the title and more about regaining that belief that they are capable of delivering in competition again - the rest will follow.
BRONZE Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot GER - The World silver medalists started off their season with a silver at Nebelhorn Trophy behind Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, who won Rostelecom last week. They have insisted on continue to push the envelope with the throw triple axel in both programs, but it just hasn't had the kind of success rate that they have been hoping for. Two clean programs get them to the top of the podium, but that's a tall order.
4. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - Gold at Finlandia Trophy to start their season, Peng/Jin are the most likely to spoil the top three and get on the podium. They have great chemistry and the expectedly strong Chinese pair elements, though their level of difficulty isn't quite there. They will have to rely on clean programs and mistakes from the top in order to sneak in there.
5. Lubov Ilyushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - Canadian citizenship in tow, Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch hope to build on the momentum of a career-high sixth-place finish at Worlds and make a bigger name for themselves in this Olympic season. They started off with a fourth place at Finlandia Trophy and will need to be more solid on their elements to come away with a medal this week.
6. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - The Russian bronze medalists are looking to hold on to the spot that they earned last year at Worlds and make their first Olympics this season. They had a strong start with two wins on the Challenger series, but this is a very different set of pairs they are up against this week. They also have an outside shot at a medal.
7. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier USA - The U.S. champs are looking to put their Worlds disappointment behind and look ahead to getting that one American spot for the Olympics this season. Getting past the side-by-side jump hurdle will be crucial for their success this season - and more topically, this week.
8. Sydney Kolodziej/Maxime Deschamps CAN - Sixth at Canadians last season, Kolodziej/Deschamps are making their Grand Prix debut this week.