It's a tale of two pairs here at Internationaux de France. One pair - Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov - are looking to cement their status as Olympic podium favorites with another win this week on the Grand Prix. The other - Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres - want to move up another notch in order to get themselves truly into the conversation of the Olympic podium.
Internationaux de France predictions
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GOLD Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - It was about this time last year when James/Cipres started believing in themselves and their potential. They had a strong Trophee de France and were arguably underscored in the free skate on their way to a bronze here. But it's a different season, and their cred with the international panels has escalated. This could be a step toward becoming bona fide podium contenders for the Olympics.
SILVER Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS - Make no mistake, Tarasova/Morozov come in as the favorites for the title this week in Grenoble. But it's a question of whether or not they can continue their consistency and fend off James/Cipres, who are skating in front of their home crowd. Whatever your thoughts are of their programs, what you can't take away from them is their arsenal of incredible elements and their fantastic basics.
BRONZE Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - Fourth at Cup of China, might this be the time for Della Monica/Guarise to rise up to their first Grand Prix podium finish? They aren't the flashiest when it comes to the pair tricks, but they are solid all around, and it could very well be that steadiness that gets them that bronze this week.
4. Lubov Ilyushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch CAN - If they can put down two solid programs, a medal is theirs. But it's been a tough go this season for Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch, who finished so strongly last season to help save that third pairs spot for Canada. But after a sixth-place finish at Skate Canada, you wonder how they will fare here - and looking further ahead, how they will fare at Canadians in January.
5. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - Fifth at Skate Canada, Peng/Jin seem to have somewhat stagnated - both in results and in their programs - after a great debut last season. Their side-by-sides are the most questionable elements for them, but if they can figure them out here, they have a shot at the podium.
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran USA - Similarly for the U.S. silver medalists, it's the side-by-side jumps that always seem to make or break their chances. Castelli/Tran are strong pair skaters, but they can't seem to wrap their heads around landing those solo jumps on a regular basis in competition.
7. Zoe Jones/Christopher Boyadji GBR - A disappointing Nebelhorn Trophy kept them from qualifying for the Olympics, but they were late replacements here and will make their Grand Prix debut this week.
8. Lola Esbrat/Andrei Novoselov FRA - Like Jones/Boyadji, Esbrat/Novoselov make their Grand Prix debut in France this week. They were fifth at Cup of Nice a few weeks ago.