And finally, the last prix-view, the pairs competition. Here's my assessment of the field and predictions of the winners.
Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (Russia): These two don't look happy out there, and they make a lot of errors. I don't think they can challenge for the top spot. It's unfortunate that a tiebreaker got them in instead of McLaughlin and Brubaker or Dube and Davison, who would have added a lot more excitement to the competition, in my opinion.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov (Ukraine): I think this pair would have to be nearly perfect to win. Any mistakes and I don't see them contending.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong (China): They impressed at the NHK, despite errors. But I'm not convinced this pair can contend with the other top teams.
Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov (Russia): These two are moving on up. Not sure yet if they can be spoilers in this competition, but they are definite medal contenders. They were not competitive in last year's Grand Prix final, but what a difference a year makes.
Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (China): They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I always like to watch them, I find them very exciting. The judges seem to agree. They came in second to the German pair at last year's Grand Prix. I'm sure they'd like to avenge that loss and show that this season won't belong to Savchenko and Skolkowy the way last season did.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Skolkowy (Germany): They're strong,they're the reigning world champs, they've won two Grand Prix events, and while they made mistakes doing so, I never got the feeling that they might lose the competition. If they can combine their confidence with clean (enough) programs, they might be the favorites.
No surprises in these predictions, but hopefully the competition will have some drama (on the ice):
1) Savchenko and Skolkowy
2) Zhang and Zhang
3) Kawaguchi and Smirnov