1) Meryl Davis & Charlie White
2) Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
3) Madison Chock & Evan Bates
4) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
If there is any doubt in your mind that Davis & White will take the title here, then you are clearly not a figure skating fan. They have not lost a competition since the 2010 Worlds and haven't lost to anyone but Virtue & Moir in several years. It was close, but they edged their Canadian rivals yet again at the recent Grand Prix Final. They have no real competition here, so they'll use Nationals as a tune up for Worlds. This is more of an exhibition for them, a chance to make final improvements and give the fans a great show. It is a pleasure just to watch them skate and compete, even when everybody else is in their rear view mirror.
The real question is how close will Maia & Alex Shibutani get to Davis and White. They have a slim chance of edging them in the technical marks, but they are no where near the presentation level of their training mates. Yes, they won their first Grand Prix gold this season and qualified for the final, but I think they're playing it a little safe. They went in a great direction with the latin short dance, making it fun and energetic, but the free dance is too similar to last season's in my opinion. I'm all for accentuating your strengths, but at the elite level, you need to show the judges that you can perform varying styles. Alex is so classy and reminds me of an old Hollywood star, but Maia is the one who really caught my eye this year. The is much more mature now and she's bringing out the Diva within!
Anyone who watches ice dance knows who will take gold and silver, but bronze is where the real competition is in my opinion. They didn't make a huge splash in their international debut, but I think Chock & Bates will be ready to go in San Jose. There are a lot of things that aren't perfect yet, as they are a new pairing, like holds, unison, leg line, etc, but they're well on their way. Their latin short dance has a fire that I didn't see with either one of them in their previous dance teams. I think this new partnership has to go through it's fair share of growing pains, but I think it will be good in the long run. Neither had the passion or chemistry with their previous partner that they needed to get to the top. I'm not saying this team has chemistry to burn yet either, but I see flashes of it and that's the most important thing. They have a long way to go, but if they avoid errors, they have a good shot at taking bronze and making the world team. They looked unsure of themselves and under-prepared on the Grand Prix, but rest assured, Marina & Igor will have them ready.
Hubbell & Donohue, speaking of chemistry, seem like they were born to dance with each other. Maddy has always been a fiery skater, but she has more of a chance to expand on that now that she's not skating with her brother. The connection is definitely there and they seem to have also taken to each other well in terms of technique. They have great unison for a new team and I suspect they've improved by leaps and bounds since I last saw them in October. They have probably the 2nd best set of coaches in the World in Camerlengo & Krylova and they'll definitely be fighting hard for the 3rd spot on the World team. My only real criticism with them is that their free dance doesn't have the difficulty and excitement factor of some of Zoueva & Shpilband teams.
Cannuscio/Lorello-1st at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (129.80)
Chock/Bates-4th at 2011 Skate Canada (135.10); 5th at 2011 TEB (130.94)
Davis/White-1st at 2011 Cup of Russia (179.06); 1st at 2011 GPF (188.55)
Glastris/Allison-3rd at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (85.54)
Hoptman/Filchenkov-3rd at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (114.50)
Hubbell/Donohue- 1st at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (140.96)
Krienkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt-6th at 2011 NHK Trophy (126.39)
Lichtman /Copely-3rd at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (122.10)
Olson/Cowan-2nd at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (132.67)
Samuelson/Gilles-1st at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (136.86)
Schmucker/Munday-4th at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (110.70)
Shibutani/Shibutani-1st at 2011 NHK Trophy (151.85); 5th at 2011 GPF (160.55)
Wingle/McKernan-2nd at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (111.43)
Zuber/Herring-4th at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (100.23)