2017 Junior Worlds preview (men/dance): Can last year's winners defend?

Three of the four champions from last year are back to defend their titles at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. For the men, Daniel Samohin returns to try to salvage a topsy-turvy season. In ice dance, Americans Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter face another tough battle for the top spot. So much intrigue ahead.

2017 Junior Worlds preview
Official hashtag: #WorldJFigure

Men: Samohin faces uphill battle

Top 10 predictions
GOLD Vincent Zhou USA
SILVER Dmitri Aliev RUS
4. Daniel Samohin ISR
5. Alexander Samarin RUS
6. Alexei Krasnozhon USA
7. Nicolas Nadeau CAN
8. Alexander Petrov RUS
9. Andrew Torgashev USA
10. Roman Sadovsky CAN

This may be one of the most hotly-contested men's events at a Junior Worlds we've ever seen. A number of skaters this week at Junior Worlds have competed (and competed successfully) at international senior events. In fact, Vincent Zhou, one of the favorites, didn't even fare all that well on the Junior Grand Prix in the fall. But the second half of his season has been unbelievable - with silver at U.S. Nationals and gold at Bavarian Open, both senior events. He comes in with the most difficult technical content of any of the men, and that may just give him the edge over the rest of the field for the biggest title of his career.

The three medalists at the Junior Grand Prix Final look to be contenders for the podium. If Russia's Dmitri Aliev can keep his consistency together this week, he's got a great shot at the title. He has the two strongest all-around programs of any of the men here. His teammate, Alexander Samarin, also has a shot at the podium, especially if he can repeat his performances from Russian Nationals. South Korea's Jun Hwan Cha started the season off incredibly strongly and boasts one of the highest scores of any of the junior men this season.

But what about last year's champion? Samohin had an absolutely epic come-from-behind victory last year when he pulled up from ninth to win the title. But his season has been a complete rollercoaster of inconsistent results and bad luck (the airline lost his skates at Europeans and he subsequently failed to qualify for the free skate in borrowed skates). He has all the goods to repeat as champion though, so watch out.

Dance: A three-way fight for gold

Top 5 predictions
GOLD Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons USA
SILVER Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd RUS
BRONZE Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter USA
4. Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko USA
5. Angelique Abachkina/Louis Tauron FRA

The top three from last year are shaping up to be the top three this year as well, though the order might be a tad bit different. It's been an undefeated season for U.S. junior champs Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons, who took silver last year. They have stepped their skating up to a different level this year, and that's made a huge difference in their results this season. But they are only very slight favorites for the title, as they are very evenly matched with their two rival teams.

Defending bronze medalists Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd have had some strong results, though they come in on the heels of a subpar free dance at the Russian Junior Championships. Likewise, reigning champions Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter made mistakes at the U.S. Junior Championships in their free dance. Both teams come in looking for redemption.

The dark horses will be their third American team, Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko, who have had a breakthrough season. They will be trying their hardest to secure a medal sweep for the U.S., which would be the first ever for the Americans in ice dance at Junior Worlds.