The pairs roster this season looks similar, but oh so different, than they have in the past few seasons. A lot of the big names in recent memory have either retired or are taking a break or are sidelined with injury. It means that the field here includes a few new names who are really trying to make a strong push to the top. As with a lot of pairs’ previews, the podium could really come down to side-by-side jumps this week.
Grand Prix Final predictions
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GOLD Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - Can you believe this is their first Grand Prix Final? They were first alternates last year, but they come into this one with two Grand Prix titles and a great deal of momentum. There were some whispers last season that, after their World bronze medal, they were thinking about leaving on a high note. But it’s a good thing the didn’t, because they are even stronger this season. A Grand Prix Final title here would really do a lot to getting them the cred they want ahead of the World Championships.
SILVER Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS - They won this competition two years ago, and they have a great chance at winning it again here. Tarasova/Morozov have been undefeated so far this season, but their wins have come with errors. That said, the material they are putting out this season, with Maxim Trankov now on their team, is the best they’ve ever had in their career. They have shown a new side of their musicality that complements their incredibly strong overall skating. It’ll be a fight for gold.
BRONZE Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - The third pair to win two Grand Prix golds this season, Zabiiako/Enbert trail the top two in the bigness of their skills and the excitement in their skating. They’ve been generally very steady this season so far, which will help them greatly if they are to get to the podium for the first time. They were last at the Grand Prix Final two years ago, where they finished fourth.
4. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - They have been the lone Chinese pair team carrying the torch for a program that has consistently put out top pairs in the world. With Sui/Han and Yu/Zhang both sidelined so far this season, the spotlight has been on Peng/Jin, and they haven’t disappointed, taking two silver medals and making their second Grand Prix Final. They were sixth here two years ago, but they have improved since - expect them to be part of the podium conversation. And if somehow, they find side-by-side triple salchows in Vancouver, their chances at a medal go way up.
5. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - It’s been a banner year so far for Della Monica/Guarise. They followed their career-high fifth at Worlds with two Grand Prix silver medals this season on their way to their first Final. It will be a different kind of occasion for them here, squarely among the very best pairs in the world and deservingly so. They haven’t put down consistent programs in competition so far, but they were certainly ramping up at Rostelecom Cup, where they put down one of the best short programs of their career.
6. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin RUS - Making it to the Grand Prix Final in your very first season as senior skaters is no small feat. They have put themselves in a position as ones to watch for the future, though their overall skating is likely to be outclassed by the other teams in this field.. But two strong performances this week will help them get a leg up on the other up-and-coming pairs (and there are many) on the Russian scene.