Golden Skate

2017 World Figure Skating Championships: Ice Dance Preview

Ice Dance: The Rumble for Silver and Bronze

Since their return to competition, 2010 Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada have steamrolled the competition, winning every competition they’ve entered with record-breaking short dance and total scores at the Grand Prix Final—a victory which had previously eluded them in their epic pre-2014 back-and-forth competition with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The occasional misstep or twizzle problems that have nagged them in the past have been out of sight this season. They’ve gathered lots of momentum in their comeback season with a fresh approach to their packaging, making them the heavy favorites to win gold in Helsinki.

Two-time World Champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France have had an up-and-down season, starting with a surprise second-place finish behind Virtue and Moir at the NHK Trophy and Grand Prix Final after making some uncharacteristic mistakes. After capturing their third European title in Ostrava, Czech Republic, earlier this year, it appears those early season problems might be behind them. If they can finally hit their  level 4 elements in the short dance and match their world-record caliber free dance performance from Boston 2016, a three-peat may be possible. When at their best, the quality of their skating and performance could give Virtue and Moir a big challenge for the gold.

USA’s Maia and Alex Shibutani have capitalized on their 2016 US National Championship gold and World Championship silver to medal at every championship this season, with performances that are steadily improving while setting personal bests in their short dance, free dance and total competition scores at the recent 2017 Four Continents Championships. While the siblings have not out-competed the Canadians or French, they’ve overtaken Papadakis and Cizeron in the short dance at the Grand Prix Final last December, indicating they’re well-equipped to upset the ice dance apple cart.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates are at the ready to ensure the USA’s podium hopes don’t lie exclusively on their teammates. After uncharacteristic mistakes and a last-place finish at the recent Grand Prix Final, the 2016 World bronze medalists showed tenacity at the US Nationals, winning the free dance to finish second by only a point to the Shibutanis. After making progress artistically this year, their dynamic free dance to music by Queen may grab at the attention of the judges in Helsinki, given the comparatively slower-tempo themes many of their top competitors have chosen this season.

Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are slowly continuing their return to ice dance excellence that won them the 2013 World Championship bronze medal. A fourth-place finish at the Grand Prix Final and bronze medal (while winning the short dance) in Ostrava, show that this team still has a fighting chance to challenge. Their presence on the ice and statuesque lifts make them a team that could shake things up, especially if any of the top teams falter.

For Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, due to a combination of tough placements in events with talented and surging teams, this season started slowly by missing the Grand Prix Final. However, the 2014 World Champions managed a spark when they won the silver medal in Ostrava, over Bobrova and Soloviev. If they can reclaim their show-style glory of the past in Helsinki, they have the charisma and charm to displace the top medal contenders.

Also putting pressure on the top teams will be Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje and Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier, Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, and Italians Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri.