Gilles and Poirier hope to solve the Shib Sibs at Skate America

Editor’s note: is live streaming every short and free program at Skate America, beginning Friday at 6:20 p.m. ET. The event will also be featured on CBC Television’s Road to the Olympic Games shows on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time. Here’s Pj Kwong’s breakdown of what to expect at the Grand Prix event.

Experience counts for a lot in figure skating.

This week at Skate America, the final event before the Grand Prix Final, the stage will belong to veteran competitors whose names are already so well known within the skating community. 

Men: Chen putting it all together

There are a few men in the field in Lake Placid, N.Y., who are competitive on the world stage to be sure. However, my attention is drawn to two Americans: Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon.

The 18-year old Chen’s technical and jumping wizardry — he performed a record-setting five quadruple jumps in one program at the U.S. nationals last January — has been a game changer. Couple that phenomenal jumping ability with an emerging artistic style and, just like that, Chen is a legitimate threat to win gold at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

American Nathan Chen holds on to win at Rostelecom Cup9:15

In the meantime, the veteran Rippon’s breathtaking creativity also puts him in the running for a spot on the Skate America podium.

Pairs: Duhamel & Radford waste no time

At Skate Canada, I thought that two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford might not have had enough time to practice some newly incorporated, last-minute changes to their free program. I was wrong, and the Canadians won the title in easy fashion.

Will it be the same story this week as they face off for the second time against the two-time world medallists from Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot? I think so. Duhamel and Radford’s meticulous preparation puts them in the medal hunt every time they take the ice.

Duhamel and Radford win pairs gold at Skate Canada0:29

Ladies: Can Daleman put it together?

I would like nothing more than to see 2017 world bronze medallist Gabrielle Daleman hit her stride in Lake Placid. The Canadian’s explosive style and huge jumps place her very high on the athleticism scale in women’s figure skating. So far this season, though, Daleman has faltered in competition, dropping from first after the short to sixth by the end of the Grand Prix of China event.

Skate America won’t give Daleman the chance to secure a spot for next month’s Grand Prix Final, but it will give her the opportunity to confirm for herself and others that her 2017 world bronze medal was no fluke.

Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman falls to 6th-place finish at Cup of China7:39

The stumbling block to Daleman’s success is three-time U.S. national champion and 2016 world silver medallist Ashley Wagner. At 26 years old, Wagner is a veteran in a youthful international women’s field and I think that wealth of experience can play to her advantage.

Dance: Gilles & Poirier build their case

The constant quest for new, original and fresh material always excites me when Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier dance, and this season’s programs are no exception.

They have adopted an interesting storyline where an unaware gumshoe is taken in by a seductive siren. The backdrop to their free dance is music from the old Perry Mason show. The result is very clever and entertaining, and it draws me in every time.

Translating that kind of innovation to a medal at Skate America is the challenge, and with some big-name contenders in the event, it won’t be easy. 

The team to beat in Lake Placid is the brother-and-sister duo of Maia and Alex Shibutani. The two-time American champions have been on a roll for the last two years, collecting two world-championship medals among their accomplishments. The “Shib Sibs,” as they are sometimes known, already have one Grand Prix gold medal this season, and I fully expect them to add another at Skate America.

Pj’s gold-medal picks

Men: Nathan Chen (United States)

Ladies: Ashley Wagner (United States)

Dance: Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (United States)

Pairs: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (Canada)

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