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Lipinski, Weir believe home ice could benefit USA

Stylish broadcasting duo excited to show off coordinated outfits for worlds
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With the exception of pairs, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were in agreement on how most of the disciplines will shake out at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships. -Getty Images

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have hit the red carpet in matching outfits everywhere from the Oscars to the Kentucky Derby, but the duo's finery won't be the only thing in sync at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships in Boston next week.

On an NBC Sports Group call on Wednesday, the two were in remarkable agreement handicapping the event for reporters, with one key exception.

Both Lipinski and Weir think a home world championships presents a golden opportunity for Gracie Gold or Ashley Wagner to climb the podium and break a decade-long world medal drought for U.S. ladies. (The call took place prior to Polina Edmunds' withdrawal and the subsequent addition of Mirai Nagasu.)

"Should one of the skaters really skate perfectly and blow the roof off of the building, the judges will be kind of hard-pressed to go against the wishes of such a pro-American audience," Weir said. "We saw it in the 2002 Olympics, with how well the American team did. We saw it at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, where Evan Lysacek won kind of a blinding world title."

"Gold and Wagner, they're doing the triple-triples," Lipinski said. "Gracie, skating clean, skating lights out, adding the emotion, selling a program -- I think a medal is not just a maybe, it's a should-be. It's hers to lose."

Weir favors Russian wunderkind Evgenia Medvedeva, who handily defeated both Gold and Wagner at the Grand Prix Final in December.

"She is so strong this season, has performed so well, has even won major titles with mistakes. She seems to be the clear frontrunner," he said.

He's not discounting Gold and Wagner's chances, though.

"Wagner and Gold, who have that international respect and the ability to skate well, make the Grand Prix Final -- they certainly have a chance to really ignite the audience," Weir said. "People often forget the judges are the first row of the audience, and if the audience is feeling it, the judges will feel it, and up go the presentation and artistic scores."

Neither Lipinski nor Weir predict three U.S. men's spots for next season's world championships. Weir fears the trio of Adam Rippon, Max Aaron and Grant Hochstein will do well to place in the top 10.

"If everyone skates their best, including the favorites -- Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan, Javier Fernández, Han Yan, Boyang Jin, Shoma Uno; the list goes on and on -- [top 10] would be like winning a medal," Weir said. "The U.S. men just are not as strong as the rest of the world and could even get locked out of the top 10 if they don't have their strongest skates."

While a clean quad lutz from U.S. champion Rippon would ignite the crowd and carry a base value of 13.6 points, it may not be enough to make a big dent in the standings.

"The difference between landing one quad versus a Boyang Jin, who isn't as strong artistically but is landing four quads, won't be the same as at the U.S. nationals, where Adam was able to overtake Max Aaron and Nathan Chen, who both landed multiple quads," Weir said. "It won't really make a difference in such a strong men's field."

"Once you get out on a world stage and you have guys putting out three quads as if it's nothing -- that's like a triple to them -- you see that there is a big difference and that a lot of room needs to be made up for these American men to really compete with the best of the best," Lipinski said.

While the duo counts Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France as favorites in ice dance, they look to Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani to challenge for gold.

"Should Maia and Alex, with Boston roots and everything, really skate their amazing Coldplay free program, there could be an upset in dance," Weir said. "The U.S. audience is definitely an advantage for the U.S. team, but they have to show up and skate well."

Pairs is the one discipline where the two part ways. Both think a Russian duo will prevail but back different couples.

"The Olympic champions (Tatiana Volosozhar and Max Trankov), in my mind, are on a different level," Lipinski said. "They have the air. They have the confidence of Olympic champions, and when they take the ice, they grab your attention. They have class. They have style. So to me, they are in a different league. If they skate well, it's theirs, in my opinion."

Weir says, not so fast. He prefers the edgier style of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

"I have to disagree with my little lady," Weir said. "[Stolbova and Klimov] were so strong at the Grand Prix Final. Of course, they missed the European championships due to injury, but the class of both programs, the choreography, the costuming -- everything has them on such a special level.

"While Volosozhar and Trankov do command the ice when they're on it, they have been prone to making little mistakes here and there," he continued. "I think their free program (set to a medley of Dracula movie themes), the music is a little bit downtrodden. I don't think it will give the audience that inspired feeling to make them all stand up, no matter how well they skate."

Away from the ice, Lipinski and Weir hope their wardrobes inspire standing ovations, especially for NBC's live primetime broadcast of the ladies free skate Saturday, April 2.

"The clothes are really the smallest part of what we do, but we like to draw attention to our sport and to the real talent inside it, even if it is through our fashion," Weir said.

"We send pictures, and we sort of discuss this for weeks in advance," Lipinski said. "We do like to match here and there, and it is skating's biggest event of the year, so you have to come prepared. So definitely, we have good outfits in the bag for primetime."