In ice dance, all the teams are attempting the same elements, and what the scores come down to are levels, grades of execution and program components. Teams are seeking to gain Level 4 for all of their elements, including the high value step sequences. They are looking for all positive GOEs in the 2s and 3s. And they are trying to achieve the highest program components possible. No team has earned all Level 4s in either of their programs this season. With a difference of 1.5 points between a Level 3 and a Level 4 step sequence and two in the short dance and two in the free dance, levels can make a huge difference in who ends up on the podium.
Virtue and Moir came back to competition this season in preparation for competing in next year’s Olympics. They won two gold medals on the Grand Prix and won gold at the Grand Prix Final. They are the reigning Four Continents Champions. They were beat in the free dance at Skate Canada, but since then, they have been on a roll. The coaching change they have made seems to agree with their style of movement as they have always been a more understated, lyrical team. They have the top three technical scores in the short dance, program component scores in the short dance, and technical scores in the free dance. They also have the top two program components scores in the free dance. Their personal best came at the Grand Prix Final this season where they scored 197.22. They earned nine 10.00 marks in their free dance at Four Continents. They have the best short dance, best free dance, and best total scores.
Papadakis and Cizeron seemed untouchable until Virtue and Moir announced their return. These two teams now train alongside one another. They are the two time reigning World Champions and three time reigning European Champions. They won gold at Trophee de France and lost to Virtue and Moir at both NHK Trophy and the Grand Prix Final. They’ve been missing levels and that has cost them ground in their programs and they’ve been having to come back from behind. Their personal best is 194.46, set at last year’s World Championships. They earned five 10.00 marks in their free dance at Europeans. They have the 2nd best short dance, 3rd best free dance, and 2nd best total scores.
The Shibutanis had their breakout season last year, landing on the World podium for the first time since 2011. They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists. They won two gold medals on the Grand Prix and took home gold from the Final. They have long been known as technical skaters, but were scoring in the 2s on some of their elements early in the season. They have resolved many of these issues, but still haven’t hit all 4s. Their free dance is a very subtle, artistic piece and contrasts their hip hop short program. Their program components have come up significantly this season, as evidenced by their four 10.00 marks in the free dance at Four Continents. Their personal best came at Four Continents, where they scored 191.85. They have the 3rd best short dance, 2nd best free dance, and 3rd best total scores.
Cappellini and Lanotte failed to make the Grand Prix Final this year, after placing 4th at Skate Canada. They turned their season around, winning the silver medal at Europeans. Their personal best came at that event, where they scored 186.64. They are capable of hitting top levels on all of their elements, but they haven’t been able to put together all of those elements in the same event. They are also slightly behind on program components, and did not receive any 10.00s at Europeans. They have the 7th best short dance, 6th best free dance, and 6th best total scores.
Bobrova and Soloviev are the reigning European Bronze Medalists. They won a bronze at Skate America and gold at Rostlecom Cup to qualify for the Final where they placed 4th. Their personal best was at Rostelecom Cup, where they scored 186.68. At Europeans, they had a costly Level 2 on one of their step sequences and did not receive any 10.00 marks. They have the 5th best short dance, 5th best free dance, and 5th best total scores.
Chock and Bates are the only team to beat Virtue and Moir this season, finishing ahead of them in the free dance at Skate Canada. But their season has been uneven. Their performance at Skate Canada was a personal best, scoring 188.24. At the Grand Prix Final, they finished 6th and were beaten by Hubbell and Donohue for the first time. They took home the bronze medal from Four Continents, but were over 6 points behind the Shibutanis. Their scores at Skate Canada were so high because they received Level 4s on some of their step sequences, the first team to do so this season. But they haven’t been able to replicate that since. They did receive four 10.00 marks for their free dance at Four Continents. They have the 4th best short dance, 4th best free dance, and 4th best total scores.
Weaver and Poje have found themselves slipping in the last few seasons. They nearly won a World Championship in 2014 and medaled again in 2015. But they finished 5th last season. They won a silver and bronze on the Grand Prix, and failed to qualify for the Final this year. They finished 5th at Four Continents, their worst performance ever at that event (tied with 2008 and 2009). At Four Continents they had some program component marks in the 8s, which will not be good enough to get onto the podium at Worlds. Their levels are what’s giving them the biggest trouble this season. They have not yet scored a 4 on either step sequence in their short dance or their twizzles. They are the only top team not to receive a Level 4 on their twizzles this season, which costs them about 1 point per event. Their personal best was set at the World Team Trophy in 2015 when they scored 182.93. They have the 9th best short dance, 9th best free dance, and 9th best total scores.
Gilles and Poirier won two bronze medals on the Grand Prix this season. They finished 6th at Four Continents last month and 8th at Worlds last season. Their personal best came from Skate Canada this year, when they scored 182.57. They have the 7th best free dance and 8th best total scores.
Hubbell and Donohue finished 4th at Four Continents, but they were 5 points from the podium. They did set a personal best at that event, scoring 180.82. They won a pair of silver medals on the Grand Prix to qualify for the Final where they finished 5th. They placed 6th at Worlds last season. They have the 8th best short dance and 10th best total scores.
Other teams looking to crack the top ten include Stepanova and Bukin and Guignard and Fabbri.
Virtue and Moir, the Shibutanis, Chock and Bates, Papadakis and Cizeron, and Cappellini and Lanotte have all scored above 40 points in the short program for their technical score. Virtue and Moir hold the top mark of 42.16 with the Shibutanis the next closest at 40.85.
Virtue and Moir, Papadakis and Cizeron, the Shibutanis, and Bobrova and Soloviev have scored above 37 points in program components in the short dance. The top mark was set by Virtue and Moir at 38.37 with Papadakis and Cizeron having the second highest score of 37.83.
For the free dance, Virtue and Moir, the Shibutanis, Papadakis and Cizeron, Chock and Bates, and Gilles and Poirier have scored above 56 points on the technical side. Virtue and Moir again have the highest mark of 59.25 with the Shibutanis setting the second highest mark of 58.43.
In program components, Virtue and Moir, Papadakis and Cizeron, the Shibutanis, Bobrova and Soloviev, and Cappellini and Lanotte have all scored above 56 points in program components. Virtue and Moir have the highest score of 58.14 with Papadakis and Cizeron setting the next highest mark of 57.61.
Virtue and Moir have a significant lead in all aspects of competition and that is without hitting the top levels on their step sequences. Papadakis and Cizeron have the second highest artistic marks while the Shibutanis have the second highest technical marks. What this podium is going to come down to is who can hit the Level 4s and how close will the gap on the artistic side be between the French and the Americans.
My podium predictions: