If you threw pieces of paper into a hat with the names Amelie Lacoste, Cynthia Phaneuf, Myriane Samson, Valentina Marchei, Haruka Imai, Fumie Suguri, Ksenia Makarova, Sonia Lafuente, Sarah Meier, Alissa Czisny, Alexe Gilles, and Agnes Zawadzki, would you have a better chance of predicting the outcome of this field by pulling the pieces of paper out one by one? Seriously, after my Wagner-Asada-Zhang disaster prediction last week, I don't even feel like starting to think about this one!
Then we have the pairs competition. Due to withdrawals of the top athletes, there are eight teams here and none of them have ever medaled at a senior Grand Prix competition. The top ranked team (according to the up-to-date ISU World Standings) is Chinese pair Dong/Wu, who failed to advance from the short program at the 2010 World Championships. Second-ranked coming in are British pair Kemp/King, who realistically are probably going to be fighting for the top six-- even in this field. So who does that leave? Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the bronze medal in their first international event together, Nebelhorn, earlier this year. They have the technical content that could put them in serious contention for the gold (and with that, hopefully an opportunity to skate again later in the series if spots open up). Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch also have a huge opportunity here. They were sixth at the event last year, but when you notice that all five teams above them were either top nine in the Olympic Games or World Championships, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia are probably the other "leading" team at this event. She has some absolutely beautiful qualities about her, but the jumps remain their nemesis. However, this team has the potential to possibly give themselves a bit of a cushion after the short program if they can deliver.
While Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have withdrawn from the ice dance event, teammates Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier (7th at Worlds) look to battle for the gold with British siblings Sinead and John Kerr (5th at Worlds). Former World Junior medalists Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam (2nd in 2010), Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov (3rd in 2008), and Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (champions in 2009) look to battle for the bronze, along with French team Pernelle Carron / Lloyd Jones. Less than six points separate all four teams' personal best free dance scores, so the race to the podium should be exciting here.
The mens field has kept itself together and should once again prove to be the highlight of the event. Patrick Chan, Adam Rippon, and Nobunari Oda lead the way, while Kevin Reynolds, Alban Preaubert, Artur Gachinski, and Javier Fernandez look to possibly sneak in for a medal. Gachinski has started out his season with two international wins, while Oda looks to redeem himself from his shocking 28th place finish at the World Championships. Rippon was the top scorer at the recent Japan Open team competition, besting both Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeny Plushenko.
I have created polls to the right asking who you think will win the gold in the ladies and pairs competitions. I also added the event schedule and starting orders based on up-to-date ISU World Rankings, which you can find below the polls.