I don't know about you, but I am thrilled that the season is FINALLY about to begin! It's been quite awhile since last year's worlds and I am so ready for new results to talk about! As we prepare for the exciting Grand Prix circuit, here are my thoughts on the ladies field for this year.
From Russia with Love
DID YOU KNOW that every single medal on the Grand Prix circuit last year (won by a skater who still performing this season) was won by only two countries? Yes, it's true. Russia and the US won every Grand Prix medal with the exception of medals won by Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, or Carolina Kostner--none of whom are skating this season.
My biggest prediction is that Russia will dominate the medals again this year. Last year, 4/6 Grand Prix Final spots were Russians; I'm betting that 5/6 of those spots go to Russia this year. The Russian ladies field is DEEP, fierce and highly competitive.
Julia Lipnitskya is ranked #2 in the world and is the headlining lady for this season. Based on her performances last year, she may be the one to beat. I've seen a preview of her short program and it has tons of potential. Last year, she struggled with consistency at the end of the season, but she's deadly when she's on.
Reigning Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova is the biggest question mark for me heading into this season. Prior to the Olympic games, she had never won an international event. With huge pressure on her shoulders this season to preform at an Olympic champion-level, will her Sochi medal give her confidence to rise to the top or will the expectations be too much?
Behind those two leading ladies from Russia, are several other skaters, who can be just as dangerous. Reigning Junior World Champion Elena Radionova made her successful Grand Prix debut last season, winning a sliver and a bronze. She threw down a HUGE score at the Japan Open this year, with a long program that included two triple-triple combinations. The audience loves her and she's aiming for more mature content this year. I think she will surprise many this year with her vault to the top.
And let's not forget Anna Pogorilaya who placed fourth at the World Champonships last year. She has the technical goods to get on any podium, but she's always struggled with connecting to her music and the audience. She needs some polish before she can really threaten for the top, but her Grand Prix assignments have her set up for a spot in the final if she skates clean.
And yet another- YES another- Russian lady has risen from the ashes to vie for a top spot this year. Elizaveta Tutkamysheva has won three titles at the beginning of the season, putting out very high scores. Many may count her out after her disappointing Olympic season performances, but I think she is on the path to recreate her Grand Prix success of a few years ago.
Red, White and Blah....
I love the US skaters, but if I'm being perfectly honest- the real competition lies in Russia. Though each of these ladies has huge potential, none of them seem to have been able to put the whole package together yet.
Gracie Gold has the technical potential to be at the top, but she has a history of underperforming when the pressure is on. This season she's skating to the much used (and abused) music of Phantom of the Opera (seriously- enough with the Phantom, already!). I don't think Gracie has the emotional depth to pull off this music but the judges tend to overscore this ice princess. If she skates clean, Gracie can most definitely grab some hardware on the circuit.
Polina Edmunds is the Tara Lipinski of today--The skating world is in love with this little girl. As with most little girls, she jumps well- and jumps well consistently. Bold prediction- she may be on top of the US podium this year, based on that consistency and technical ability. She struggles with clean lines and looking polished on the ice, but that will take time to come. I do see her getting at least one medal in the series. (Full picks to come later).
The wily veteran Ashley Wagner has returned to skate another day. She had great success on the Grand Prix circuit last year, but her scores have seriously struggled in the competitions since 2014 Nationals. I'm in love with the concept of her Mulan Rouge long program and it has great potential, but I'm not sure Ashley has the technical content to compete at the top. If the judges are scoring fairly, she should do well in PCS, but none of that will matter if she can't squeeze out a triple-triple (fully rotated!) in the long program to stay in the mix.
And of course- the much talked about Mirai Nagasu. This lady has had an up and down career to be certain, but she seems to be making some improvements. The programs I've seen in the preseason are better, but again, I don't believe she has the technical consistency or the emotional ability to get on an international podium.
OH- and Japan, too!
Other than the US and Russia- look out for two ladies from Japan to jump into the Grand Prix medal mix. Sakoto Miyahara had a beautiful skate at the Japan Open and a matching score to go with it. She's quiet-but clean- and that subtle consistency could very well put her on a podium in the Grand Prix.
Kanako Murakami can also put some heat on the top ladies- but she has to be ON.
Much to speculate about, but it's going to sure be fun to watch!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.