Whichever pair stands atop the podium this week at Grand Prix of Helsinki, they will be doing it for the first time in a Grand Prix event. There are a few pairs this week who are looking at this season as a way to step up their game on the international scene. And it will mark the first time that an North Korean skaters have competed on the Grand Prix series.
Grand Prix of Helsinki preview
Official hashtag: #GPHelsinki
GOLD Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - Last season was a breakout one for them - they were seventh at the Olympics and then fourth at Worlds. But crazily enough, with the depth of the pairs field, they didn’t even get on the podium at either of their Grand Prix events. But that will change in a pretty dramatic way this week in Helsinki, with Zabiiako/Enbert coming in as the slight favorites. Their troubles often happen in the free skate, so expect them to grab the lead after the short and try to hold on for their first Grand Prix title.
SILVER Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - But Zabiiako/Enbert’s potential gold in Helsinki is nowhere near a done deal, because the pair who finished right behind them at Worlds, Della Monica/Guarise are looking to win this thing as well. They started off their season with a bronze at Lombardia Trophy, so they will certainly have to be a good bit better than that to challenge this week.
BRONZE Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay USA - Ready to prove their worth on the international scene, Stellato/Bartholomay make their second Grand Prix appearance after two medals on the Challenger series earlier in the season. With the field as open as it is, they have a great shot at going home with a first Grand Prix medal together.
4. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer AUT - Crazily enough, it took them five season together to even qualify for the free skate at the World Championships. It was as if a weight was lifted off their shoulders when they did it last season, and they had a lot to be proud of with the improvements that they have made as a pair over the past two years. They have never been higher than sixth at a Grand Prix - and this is as good a time as any for them to break that pattern.
5. Tae Ok Ryom/Ju Sik Kim PRK - It’s the first time North Korean skaters have competed on the Grand Prix, but the skating world know Ryom/Kim’s names well. They started off their season with a silver at Asian Open, and they will be looking to challenge for a medal in Helsinki.
6. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin RUS - The World junior champions make their first appearance on the senior Grand Prix after starting their freshman season with a fifth at Finlandia and bronze at Ice Star. Their free skates have not been terribly consistent, and that may be their achilles heel this week.
7. Laura Barquero/Aritz Maestu ESP - Speaking of firsts, Barquero/Maestu will be the first Spanish pair to compete on the Grand Prix. They have already had a slew of competitions early this season - fifth at Lombardia, eighth at Finlandia, and silver at Ice Star over Pavliuchenko/Khodykin. They have certainly made improvements in their second season as a pair.
8. Miu Suzaki/Ryuichi Kihara JPN - The Japanese champs are in their second career Grand Prix event. They were tenth at Finlandia Trophy to start their season.