Toss a coin, because the battle for pairs gold at NHK Trophy this week might be that much of a nailbiter. Three of the pairs in Hiroshima this week have already earned medals on the Grand Prix this season, and they are looking to grab another this week to bolster their chances to get into the Grand Prix Final. If there’s anything that will make or break the podium this week, it’ll be the side-by-side jumps.
NHK Trophy predictions
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GOLD Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro CAN - Three medals in three competitions this season - Moore-Towers/Marinaro are looking for a first career Grand Prix title. They have gotten more comfortable with their programs as the season has progressed, and after a bronze at Skate Canada, it may be time for them to move up to the next gear.
SILVER Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - Peng/Jin had a very strong Skate Canada two weeks ago, where they took silver just ahead of Moore-Towers/Marinaro. They have had a history of issues with their side-by-sides, but they are looking stronger this year in that department. Their short program is incredibly charming and plays to their chemistry as a pair - that will be the key to their success this week.
BRONZE Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - Time zone changes and back-to-back competitions are my biggest reasons for putting Zabiiako/Enbert third here. They are coming off a win at Grand Prix Helsinki last weekend, but they had troubles with their side-by-sides in both programs.
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim USA - It’s been a season of change (and then change again) for the Knierims. They went into Skate America having just split with coach Aljona Savchenko just days before. And three weeks later, they are in their second Grand Prix trying to figure out if they can smooth the waters as they look ahead to Nationals. There’s a lot of promise in their programs - can they fulfill some of that promise this week?
5. Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea USA - It was a tough start to their season at Finlandia Trophy, where they were seventh with issues on elements that they don’t traditionally have issues with. With another month of training under new coach Dalilah Sappenfield, Kayne/O’Shea will be hoping to clean up some of those errors and be the top American pair heading out of this competition.
6. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov USA - The US junior champions make their Grand Prix debut this week. They were second at US Classic and fifth at Nebelhorn Trophy.
7. Laura Barquero/Aritz Maestu ESP - Like Zabiiako/Enbert, Barquero/Maestu are doing back-to-back Grand Prix events. They were seventh last week in Finland.
8. Miu Suzaki/Ryuichi Kihara JPN - The Japanese champions have had a rough time this season so far. They were 10th at Finlandia and eighth at Grand Prix Helsinki last week.