It is almost U.S. Nationals week! I get excited about Nationals week like some people get excited about that whole Shark Week situation on the Discovery Channel. Last year, Nationals were held in my hometown of Boston and I spent so many days in a row at the arena that it started to feel like my second home. And man, was it the best. So much great skating to watch, and so much pre-Olympic excitement. This year there is the excitement of a brand new Olympic cycle—though with many familiar faces. It is great to see some of the big names from Sochi sticking around and in the mix again this year. But there are also new faces coming up from the junior ranks who are ready to prove themselves and stake their claim for 2018. So with that said, let’s make some predictions!
The pairs event will feature some familiar faces from Sochi, but none of them will be skating with the same partner. Olympic Bronze Medalists from the team event Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir both have new partners, as does Nate Batholomay (his partner Felicia Zhang retired over the summer). I think this event may be a bit of a free-for-all, but here are my picks for the podium:
- Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim
- Haven Denny and Brandon Frazier
- Maddie Aaron and Max Settlage
- Gretchen Donlan and Nate Bartholomay
The scores of the top three on this list were all in the same ballpark on the Grand Prix series this year, but Scimeca and Knierim have the most experience at this level and are hungry for the title after missing out on the Olympic team last year. They also had a solid Grand Prix season with 4th place finishes at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bombard. Denny and Frazier grabbed the silver medal ahead of Scimeca and Knierim at Skate America, so they could ride that momentum to a surprise title here. Aaron and Settlage are right on the heels of these two teams in terms of scoring, but they are a bit of a younger team. This is their first year at the senior level after winning the junior title last year.
My 4th place prediction is probably the wildest guess of the bunch. I really liked Nate with his previous partner and wonder if his solid pairs skills and experience could carry this new team? I can’t say the same for former Olympians Castelli and Shnapir, as neither has received overwhelmingly positive reviews with their respective new partners.
Next up: predictions for the ice dance event! Stay tuned.