After Monday’s announcement of the Grand Prix athlete assignments… let the analysis begin! I will do an overview of each discipline and then break down each event to predict the medallists. What else is a fan to do in the off season??
The overall top ladies scorers of last season should have a relatively easy walk into the Grand Prix Final. Reigning World Champ Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s only threats would be Gracie Gold (TEB), Ashley Wagner (SC) or Kanako Murakami (both events), but she can easily outscore them with a triple axel or two. Elena Radionova’s competition will come from her own country- Anna Pogorilaya at CoC and Evgenia Medvedeva at RC and Japan’s Mao Asada at CoC. Truthfully, these two were in a league of their own in terms of scoring last season, with averages right around 200. If they skate anything like they did last year, they should both collect gold or silver medals at each event and earn a spot in the final.
If anyone could possibly spoil their reign, it could be Japan’s Mao Asada, returning to the Grand Prix after a year off competitive ice. Her average international score (excluding Sochi) from the 2013-14 season was 208.21, so she certainly has the potential to score big. How much of a factor Mao will be on the competition is hard to predict, because we don’t know how much training she did in the meantime. A big factor will be whether or not she intends to compete with the triple axel. We would have to wait for the possibly of a showdown between Tuktamysheva and Asada’s 3A until the Grand Prix Final, but it would sure be fun to watch!
Another potential spoiler to the Tuktaymsheva/Radionova party could be another Russian- Julia Lipnitskya. She had a horrible season last year, but let’s face it- she’s had tons of time to rest, recover and redo that jump technique that gave her so much trouble last season. She has such potential to score big and tons of talent. My gut tells me she will be an entirely different skater next year and with the focus on her Russian teammates, maybe she can have enough mental breathing room to skate well under pressure.
Japan’s reigning champion and World silver medallist Satoko Miyahara will face some challenges this year in following up her breakout season last year. She will be up against a stacked field in each of her events- Lipnitksya, Medvedeva, Gold at Skate America- and Leonova, Pogorilaya, and Wagner in addition to Asada at NHK Trophy (which will be much anticipated and a preview for their battle for the Japanese crown later in the year.) I feel like her World silver medal will give her some more credibility with the international judges, so she should fair better in the GP this season and perhaps get a spot in that final.
USA’s top two skaters are facing a deep field in their events also. Each will face Tuktamysheva and Miyahara at one of her events. Ashley Wagner will have to compete against Mao at NHK, and Gracie Gold will see Lipnitskya at both of her events. These two are such wildcards competitively-It’s possible that they both could win an event with a great skate and other’s mistakes- OR place fourth if they get too nervous. To make the Final, they need at least one silver medal if not two in the series. In the end, it very well may come down to a battle between these two for the last spot at the Final.
Japan’s Rika Hongo and Kanako Murakami could certainly see some hardware on the circuit, but I don’t see either qualifying for the Final at this point. Rika could easily grab a bronze at both of her events (competing with Radionova and Asada at CoC/ with Radionova and Medvedeva at Rostelecom Cup). Kanako could be a medallist at her first event- Skate Canada with Tuktamysheva and Ashley Wagner. Again, I think both will win a medal or two on the circuit, but won’t make the final. It will be an exciting battle between these two for that last Japanese World team spot if Mao is at her best : )
Reigning Junior World champ Evgenia Medvedeva will make her senior Grand Prix debut this season and I can easily see her winning a medal or two in the season. It will be anyone’s guess how the judges will score her at the senior level, but her season’s best score from last year was the fifth highest of any of the ladies, so there is definitely potential there.
I will make early predictions for each event in a separate post later on! It is October yet?
Yesterday, the ISU posted the athlete assignments for the 2015-16 season and as expected, there is plenty to talk about! Here’s some highlights and my thoughts:
I have many more comments to come, but here is the link to a PDF of all disciplines for you to use!
PS- USFSA broke my heart with no Ashley at Skate America.
Here's a snapshot of the skating news floating about recently. I am already excited for Monday, June 15 when the Grand Prix assignments should be announced : ) We will have much to talk about after those lists go out- STAY TUNED!
VERY EXCITED FOR GP ANNOUNCEMENTS MONDAY! I'll post them as soon as I see them : )
Thoughts on the top ladies after the season & looking forward to what's next
DON’T FORGET ABOUT….
JULIA LIPNITSKYA: Oh, my little Russian baby, what happened to you this season? The amount of potential is this child is mind blowing but she had a terrible year, with her jump technique completely escaping her. She looked absolutely miserable - on and off the ice. It is amazing how much her reputation has changed in one season. If you would've asked me about her last September, I would've picked her as a favorite for World title and she didn't even make the team? I'm hoping next year she'll be the Liza T of this season and make an incredible comeback. She has too much talent to waste and I truly enjoy her skating. Reports have said that she is getting new programs for the new season. With the formatting for the Grand Prix series, she should still get two assignments and I’d really like to see what she comes up with. It would certainly be VERY interesting to watch her compete at her best with the Lenas and Lizas of the world. She can emote and perform well, but it’s that jump technique and mental toughness that we have to hope she worked on in the off season.
ADELINA SOTNIKOVA: Word on the street is that this Russian is going to come back next season. Well...I will believe it when I see it. But-It would certainly be interesting if she did, though. The drama would certainly go up several notches if the Olympic champ finally competed again. Not to mention that she’s just ANOTHER Russian lady competing for international competition spots. It’s hard to say how much of an impact she could have on the competition next year since its been so long since we’ve seen her skate. I do not envy her, though, as much will be expected of her if she comes back- and many people will be talking if she does not skate well. Fair or unfair, she has something to prove after the Sochi controversy.
MIRAI NAGASU: Mirai ended her rocky season with a huge letdown. At Nationals, she suffered a bizarre and dramatic fall in the long program and we’ve heard very little about her since. I didn’t really feel any passion from Mirai this season. I loved her program choices, but she just seemed to be going through the motions. I don’t even know what to say about Mirai’s fall at Nationals...she went from grit to distraught to relief to smiles to…. I don’t even know what. I give her credit for powering through, but the whole thing was odd to say the least . She recently wrote on her blog that she is a fighter and will fight to get to the top next season.I do love Mirai’s skating, but she’s always lacked the emotional and mental consistency to show the everyone that she really does have a fight in her. We shall see what next year brings...
MAO ASADA: The three-time World Champ recently announced a comeback to competitive skating. She is such a legend in the sport that watching her skate again could be truly magical. I would be highly interested in seeing her compete against Liza T- triple axel V. triple axel. I think Liza has better jump technique overall, but Mao has the complete package that Liza lacks. Here’s hoping that the Mao that returns is an even better version of Mao of the past. The competition in the ladies field would certainly be hot if Mao is on next season.
EVGENIA MEDVEDEVA: This junior World champ has made it official that she will compete fully as a senior next season. She dominated the junior circuit this year, without any falls on the ice. Her season’s best short program score was fifth highest of any lady competing- senior or junior,so she’s got the goods to score high. She’s just yet ANOTHER Russian name that could put herself into the medal mix for next year.. She should also get two Grand Prix events so she could make a name for herself very early on. I’m hoping her programs and packaging take a step up from this year, so she can present more mature skating.
Thoughts on the top ladies after the season & looking forward to what's next
US TOP THREE
POLINA: Polina had a wake up call season, in my opinion. (Not if you ask her, though) Body changes threw off her jumps causing her to have a bad Grand Prix season and a fourth place at Nationals. She capitalized on others’ mistakes to take Four Continents, but was held down by the judges (rightfully so, if you ask me) at Worlds. She seems to have found better control in her jumps, but this is causing her to stalk jumps and have very slow entrances to jumps. Technically, I think she can rebound but her junior packaging needs step it up a couple notches, STAT. A pink fairy dance long program is not going to cut it. I know Polina is only 16, but in figure skating, 16 is not that young. And Karen Chen (only 15) and Elena Radionova (also 16) have double the musical expression and emotional depth on the ice that I get from Polina. I need to see a more mature music selection, better costuming and hopefully some improvement on her limb-y body lines. Her body style reminds me of Carolina Kostner, who found a way to look graceful on the ice- so there's hope for Polina. And I know I'm being too picky- but can we ditch the braided hairstyle? And the hair flowers? Please and thank you.
GRACIE: I'm gonna pause and say a huge "Hallelujah, Amen!" that I will never be forced to see her two programs from this season again. I've had enough of her short after two seasons and my ears need a break from her screechy POTO long program. I'll be honest- Gracie has grown on me a bit over the season, personality-wise, but I struggle with her as a performer. I can really see big things for her, but she's trying way too hard to be figure skating Barbie and it is not helping her. I want to mess up that perfect bun, put her in a sexy dress and give her some FIERCE music. Enough of this bland, classical-but-pretty crap; it doesn't seem to motivate Gracie well. She "paints by the numbers" when she skates and I feel like Frank and Lori Nicol are smothering the life out of this girl. (Sorry, Frank). I need to see some more fire, and less plastic-looking performances, Gracie. And maybe a sports psychologist is in order? She needs to get a handle on her headcase competitive fears- fast. The judges always hold her up and are practically BEGGING to hand her medals, no matter how plastic her skating is. She has a huge opportunity- can she take it?
ASHLEY: What a rise from the ashes-The trajectory of Ashley’s season was great to watch. Considering everyone was bashing her for continuing her career, a season that included three medals in the Grand Prix, a National title and a top five Worlds finish certainly showed the haters that she’s still competitive. I thought her music and packaging this season worked well for her and I would love to see more of the same next year. That said, it’s still a long three years before South Korea and the little girls with big jumps will NOT.STOP.COMING. Ashley made technical progress this year and she needs to continue to get more difficult technical content to stay competitive. And perhaps some choreography that has more content to it as well. I liked her free skate, but the choreo was lacking in transitions and step sequences. I recently watched her Samson/Deliah free from the 2014 season and that’s the type of choreography that I’d like to see from her next season. She also needs to get a handle on her #shortprogramprobs so she’s not coming from behind all the time.
The last installment (Part 4: Don't Forget About...) will be posted Thursday!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.