It's shaping up to be a great ice dance competition at this week's 2013 Hilton HHonors Skate America. The reigning World champions are looking for their fourth consecutive title, while two other American teams will be battling the Italian champions for spots on the podium.
GOLD Meryl Davis/Charlie White USA - Silver medalists in Vancouver at the last Olympics, Davis/White are looking for a gold medal season, and they started very strongly at U.S. Classic last month with some big scores. They are competing internationally at home, once again, but this week's competition will be a notch up from the last. Still, it would take a complete disaster and a half for them to finish anywhere but the top.
SILVER Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte ITA - Steady improvements from season to season have gotten Cappellini/Lanotte hovering near the very top of the world of ice dance. They finished a career-high fourth at Worlds in March, and they hope to carry that momentum to this season. Early season success could mean a lot for this team, especially in a discipline where consecutive placements often build upon each other.
BRONZE Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani USA - The 2011 World bronze medalists have certainly been fighting an uphill battle since that triumph. But the Shibutanis have stayed the course and continued to improve, though whether or not the international panels have fully appreciated their improvements is a different story. They are certainly looking over their shoulders at their teammates, who have finished right behind them at Nationals during the past two seasons.
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA - A win at Nebelhorn Trophy and a career best total score there started their season well. Hubbell/Donohue certainly have international cred, having finished tenth at Worlds two seasons ago. Their free dance is a great piece and could help them get on the podium. Getting full value on their elements will be crucial to their chances for the bronze this week.
5. Pernelle Carron/Lloyd Jones FRA - The #2 team in France have had some volatile results in international competition, especially relative to other ice dance teams. A bronze at Cup of China and then 21st at Worlds both in one season, and then a 7th at Skate Canada and 12th at Worlds both in one season. They have a fine easy-going style on the ice and could challenge if they can get their elements together.
6. Julia Zlobina/Alexei Sitnikov AZE - Sixth at U.S. Classic wasn't really how they had hoped to start their season. They are known for being just a bit quirky with their dances, and that can work for or against them.
7. Cathy Reed/Chris Reed JPN - Having qualified Japan an ice dance spot in Sochi, the Reeds can compete with a little less worry on their minds.
8. Isabella Tobias/Deividas Stagniunas LTU - The Lithuanians were bronze medalists at this competition a couple years ago, but last season was a tough one for them - with Stagniunas' injury and the denial of Tobias' application to fast track Lithuanian citizenship.