Historically, ice dance has been the figure skating discipline that is easiest to predict, whether it was judging consistency or pecking order or sheer stratification of skill. But this year at the 2017 World Championships, all of that might go by the wayside. The top dance teams in Helsinki this week are not only incredibly talented but also incredibly deep. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir is the one clearcut favorite coming in, but even their dominance is not as strong as it was before when they and Meryl Davis/Charlie White commanded the top of the leaderboards.
In counting, there are nine teams who are very much capable of medaling here - and seven of them have medaled before. So here goes, the prediction of the unpredictable ice dance competition.
2017 World Championships predictions
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GOLD Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir CAN - It's been a dream comeback for Virtue/Moir - six wins in six competitions. And a win here this week will actually mark the first undefeated season for them. They came back to competition facing a completely different, and much more talented, landscape of dance teams, and they have responded by upping their game and skating more freely than they ever have. Are they the favorites? Yes. Is it overwhelming? No. Making sure they stay on point this week with levels and execution is still important.
SILVER Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron FRA - The reigning champs have proven to be big-competition skaters, and you better believe they are coming in this week looking to put their best material out there once again. They will need to make sure they put down a strong short dance, because that's been more of their liability so far this season. And perhaps for them more than for any other team, the clarity of their element levels will be most important if they are to challenge for that gold.
BRONZE Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani USA - Silver last year, the Shibutanis have continued to build on their momentum from last season. In fact, they beat Papadakis/Cizeron at the Grand Prix Final in the short dance and were only five points behind Virtue/Moir at Four Continents. The World title has never been so close within their reach, and if they can hit all their levels and skate with abandon, they could be the absolute spoilers this week in Helsinki.
4. Madison Chock/Evan Bates USA - Another team with immense growth this season is Chock/Bates - they have transformed into a team with a very distinct point of view on their style and identity. And nothing shows that off better than their free dance, which is one of the more out-of-the-box programs in ice dance this season. I may have them fourth here, but they very much have the goods to get back onto the podium. For them, it's a matter of not letting their performance overtake their precision, which sometimes leads to mistakes that cost them valuable points.
5. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje CAN - Like Chock/Bates, Weaver/Poje have taken a leap of faith this season in their overall packaging. But they took an even riskier path by working with Nikolai Morozov to revamp their skating from the basics. There's certainly to be a lag with these kinds of changes - and some have even gone as far as to say that other teams have passed them by in the process - but the payoff looks to be starting to show in the second half of the season. This week will be an important one for them as they figure out their place in ice dance ahead of the Olympic season.
6. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA - There's dark horse potential written all over Hubbell/Donohue, who made great strides last season and took it up a few notches to become one of the very best in the world. Their performance quality is unrivaled in this field - and they have refined their programs even more in the past few weeks in hopes of really breaking through into the medals. Can they do it?
7. Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviev RUS - In a lot of ways, Bobrova/Soloviev are here as an unknown after missing Worlds for the past four years. But they have come back from injury and (questionable) drug suspension even stronger than before. Seventh, really, is a conservative placement for them. They could very well figure into the top six, but where and how?
8. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier CAN - It's been an up and down season for Gilles/Poirier, whose earlier season showed so much promise. But they have had issues with consistency, most recently at Four Continents with a rough short dance that dropped them sixth overall. Two clean skates will do wonders, and they can definitely put on a great show.
9. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte ITA - World champions three years ago, Cappellini/Lanotte have found themselves half a step behind the other top teams. But they do have a way of bringing their best to Worlds ice.
10. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin RUS - The Russian silver medalists are in their third Worlds and coming in looking to make some waves among the top teams.