12sa-weaverpojeA field of seven teams will kick off the I.S.U. Senior Grand Prix at Hilton HHonors Skate America, hosted for the first time by the Seattle suburb of Kent, Washington. The event will offer the unveiling of some anticipated programs and early battles between top international and rising American couples. The levels in the Yankee Polka portions of the short dance have played a major role so far this season, with many valuable points left on the table.

Reigning U.S. champions and world silver medalists Meryl Davis & Charlie White will be in pursuit of their third consecutive Skate America title. The team will also debut their new programs: a short dance set to selections from the ballet Giselle, and a dramatic free dance to pieces from the musical Notre Dame de Paris. At 2011’s Skate America, Davis & White earned some impressive marks, finishing more than twenty points ahead of silver medalists Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA). Given their likely edge over the field, the goal at this premiere outing will primarily be to earn some useful international feedback before their next event at NHK Trophy.

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (pictured, right) are coming off a victory at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial, where their contemporary free dance to “Humanity in Motion” from The League of Extraordinary Dancers fared particularly well, scoring almost twenty points above second place and netting them all positive GOEs. After a fourth-place finish at the 2012 World Championships, the couple will aim to begin the Grand Prix season with a splash. Weaver & Poje took silver at each of their Grand Prix assignments last season, and a similar start here is likely. Since they already have some mileage on their innovative free dance, they could be setting themselves up to begin inching closer to the world podium.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev of Russia are also recent champions, winning gold at Finlandia Trophy. Though earning a good program component score with their tale of mad lovers, the team actually finished second in the free dance at that event, behind Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, as a result of lower technical marks. Bobrova & Soloviev, then, will aim here to improve their element score and create momentum heading into their next event at Cup of China, as well as establish the opportunity for a repeat trip to the Grand Prix Final.

Bronze medalists at September’s U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt (USA) will be competing at their only Grand Prix event of the season. Last year’s Grand Prix outing at NHK Trophy resulted in only a sixth-place finish, but they rebounded at the national championships, earning the pewter medal. The couple’s country-western short dance and Adele free dance have so far been well-received, and if skated cleanly here, should net the team a strong finish.

Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi (GER) won bronze at last month’s Nebelhorn Trophy, though finished only fifth in the free dance with their “Two from the Grave” program, due to lower technical marks and a deduction for time violation. This will be the team’s second appearance at Skate America, where they finished fourth in 2011. While the field this year is a bit deeper than at last year’s event, the team stands a good chance of achieving similarly strong results and preparing themselves well for their next event at Rostelecom Cup.

For Americans Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus, Skate America marks the team’s first senior Grand Prix event. Most recently, they finished sixth at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic after an uncharacteristically low score in the short dance, but before that, performed well at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and placed sixth in a challenging field at last season’s Nationals. The event here will grant Cannuscio & McManus some additional key world ranking points and the opportunity to establish an ISU season’s best.

Italy’s Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi recently won silver behind Detroit training mates Weaver & Poje at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial with a Mary Poppins short dance and free dance to selections from The Artist. Skate America will serve as their only Grand Prix event this year. Last year, the team finished fifth at NHK Trophy before becoming national bronze medalists and competing for the first time at the World Championships. In their third season as seniors, Alessandrini & Vaturi will aim to continue the progression they’ve shown so far.

Bronze medalists at last season’s Skate America, Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas (LTU) were slated for this year’s competition but withdrew last week due to a back injury to Stagniunas, an issue which also led them to pull out of Nebelhorn Trophy. Because of the late date of their withdrawal from this event, substitutes have not been named.

The competition opens with practice sessions on Thursday, October 18. The short dance is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, and the free dance Sunday morning.