Much like in the men’s event, ice dance at Grand Prix Final this week will be missing a big name. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron aren’t here because they missed their first Grand Prix while Cizeron was nursing a sore back from a fall in practice. That, plus the fact that Madison Chock/Evan Bates were out of the Grand Prix with Chock recovering from surgery, meant that there are some new faces in the Grand Prix Final this week. Of the six teams that are here, only one of them - Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue - have qualified for the Final before.
Grand Prix Final predictions
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GOLD Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin RUS - The momentum is on Stepanova/Bukin right now. Based on programs and abilities, it would seem that, on paper, the battle for gold is between them and Hubbell/Donohue. But while the Russians are still fairly fresh in people’s minds off their win at Rostelecom just a few weeks ago, the Americans haven’t been in competition since Skate Canada in week two of the series. So in some ways, Stepanova/Bukin is a bit more of a known quantity coming into Vancouver. Expect it to be close.
SILVER Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA - It is part of their brand to make big sweeping changes to their programs throughout the season based on feedback and based on continuous improvement. And so you better believe that in the five weeks since their Skate Canada win, they have tweaked and edited and revamped their programs for re-debut here in Vancouver. It could play in their favor and really push their levels and components up, or it could be a work in progress and result in minor errors that keep them from really delivering their best.
BRONZE Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov RUS - After a few years of promising but not spectacular results, Sinitsina/Katsalapov look to be finding their stride this season - two silver medals and some big free dance scores got them here. But their rhythm dance hasn’t been received quite as well as their free dance has so far, and that could very well be the difference between them and the top two teams here.
4. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri ITA - As the heirs to ice dance royalty in Italy, Guignard/Fabbri have really stepped up this season and found a path to the top of the ice dance world internationally. They have done well on the rhythm dance and posted some strong scores as a result of hitting good levels throughout - and for me, their Tango Romantica patterns are perhaps even a bit underrated. And for them, this week is about continuing to skate clean elements and pushing their artistic side even more to have a chance at the podium.
5. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker USA - It’s been a season of firsts for Hawayek/Baker - a first Grand Prix title a few weeks back, and now a first Grand Prix Final appearance. As we’ve seen with them in the past, the free dance is their strength, and the short tends to be the place where they lose a bit of ground to their competition. Levels are of utmost importance to them this week - skills and content-wise, they are very much in the mix for a top four finish. But without level 3s and 4s across the board, it makes it a lot more difficult for them to contend on the TES mark.
6. Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro RUS - As I’m writing this preview, Guerreiro is still waiting his skates to arrive. It means that they essentially missed a full day of practice (Zagorski was on the ice by herself today). Fortunately for them, the rhythm dance doesn’t begin until Friday, so they have a bit of buffer time. Nonetheless, you’d expect a hiccup like that to probably affect them just a bit - and in a field like this, they can’t afford much in the realm of mistakes to get them in contention for the podium.