With returning Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova out of this competition with an injury, there's really a wide open field here in Japan. This event hold huge implications for the Grand Prix final so it will be interesting to watch and see how it all plays out!
GOLD: Though her style is really not my taste, I have a feeling this is Gracie Gold's time to finally break into a Grand Prix final with her first win here in Japan. She is favored to win, and she has the technical potential and international reputation to post a high score here. She has struggled recently with consistency, but two fairly clean skates here should get her a gold medal. Let the "punny" news headlines begin...
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara had a good showing at Skate Canada and I expect her programs to be better received here in Japan to clinch her a silver medal. She doesn't have the powerful presence that the other skaters do, but she's clean and consistent and her long program is really beautiful. This would leave her in a tie for a spot in the Grand Prix final with Ashley Wagner. Wagner has a point advantage going in, but posted a lower score last week which leaves the door open for Miyahara.
BRONZE: Had she skated a clean short program at Cup of China, Polina Edmunds would have been on the podium. I think she will improve on her performance there and grab her first Grand Prix medal with a third place finish. If Gold and Miyahara land 1-2, a third is not good enough for the final. However, a medal here would certainly be an accomplishment for her as she prepares to defend her podium spot at Nationals in January.
Other Contenders: Japan's Kanako Murakami has one bronze medal finish in the Grand Prix and also still has a shot at the Final with a 1-2 place finish here. Her scores weren't that high at her first event, but she could certainly benefit from skating at home. Russian Elena Leonova had a good short at her first event, but fell apart with a very sloppy long program. If she can clean that up, she could contend for a spot on the podium, but that still wouldn't be enough to get her to the Final.
WHO IS IN: Elena Radionova, RUS- 30 points; Anna Pogorilaya, RUS- 28 points; Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, RUS - 28 points; Julia Lipnitskya, RUS- 26 points
ON THE BUBBLE:
Ashley Wagner, USA 24 points
SKATING THIS WEEK:At the last event in the series (NHK Trophy), there are four ladies in contention for a spot at the Final: Gracie Gold, Satoko Miyahara and Kanako Murakami (all with 11 points) and Polina Edmunds with 9 points.
THE SCENARIOS:For Gold, Miyahara and Murakami, a win gets them a guaranteed spot in the Final with 26 points. If one of those 3 wins and one of those three skaters also gets 2nd place, the second place winner would be in a tiebreak situation for the Final with Ashley Wagner at 24 points. In that scenario, a third place would not be good enough to qualify those skaters for the Final.
Polina Edmunds needs to win to have a chance for the Final. That would put her at 24 points, a tie with Ashley Wagner.
THE TIEBREAK: In the event of a tie, the total number of points each skater accumulated over their two events is used to decide a winner. After their first event, Ashley Wagner had a point advantage over the other four contenders: 4.25 points over Satoko Miyahara, 6.62 points over Gracie Gold, 16.61 points over Kanako Murakami and 24.73 points over Polina Edmunds. However, Wagner's scores were lower at her second event and leave the door open for Gold and Miyahara to outscore her.
BOTTOM LINE: Gracie Gold is favored to win and could easily grab a spot at the Final with a 1st or 2nd place finish. Ashley Wagner is most vulnerable point-wise if Gold and Miyahra go 1-2. Polina Edmunds and other competitors could break into the top three and really mix things up.
This week, I got 6/12 picks correct. The highlight for me was surprisingly getting all 3 pairs picks, as that's an area I usually struggle. I got 55 bonus points, with a total of 2190 points. For the event, I was ranked 345th. Overall, I am currently ranked 147th with 10,823 points.
Elena Radionova blew the rest of the competition out of the water- winning both segments of the competition and posting a HUGE score in the free skate. She is the first lady to score over 200 points this season and she is the only lady to win both of her Grand Prix events. She needs a lot of polish, but the potential is certainly there. She is so exciting to watch and I'm looking forward to her skating in the Final against the other 3 Russian powerhouses.
Russia's darling from last season-Julia Lipnitskya- improved on her shaky performance from Cup of China and secured a spot in the Final with a silver medal. I really liked her new long program dress and thought she definitely improved her performance from two weeks ago. She seems to be struggling a little with her new-found fame this season, but hopefully she can pull it together later in the year.
The bronze medal went to USA's Ashley Wagner. Though her numbers here were lower than at Skate Canada, she maintained high program component marks and added a gutsy triple lutz combination to the end of her long program. She said she was not feeling well for the long, and I could tell her full energy wasn't there. This bronze puts her on the bubble for the Final. I sincerely hope she gets to compete there, as I think it's important for her to keep competing leading up to Nationals.
Other News off the podium: American Courtney Hicks had a strong technical showing to grab third place in the long program and fourth place overall. She needs much work in the presentation area, but her jumping abilities will really keep her in the game for the US Nationals.
Here we are for week five of the Grand Prix series! It's a little easier to pick as we get deeper into the season goes on, as we have seen all of these skaters skate already. Bonus-this week, I made sure that every one of my pics was on the ISU roster still : )
The overall picture for the Grand Prix Final will look much clearer after this competition is all said and done. Three of the top names- Ashley Wagner, Elena Radionova, and Julia Lipnitskya- will be hoping for a podium finish to keep them in the race for a spot at the Final. Watching the matchup between countrywomen Radionova and Lipnitskya may be the highlight of the event. Hmmm, this is a tough one to call, with both of the Russians highly capable of running away with the competition with clean skates.
GOLD: However, I'm going with my gut and predicting Elena Radionova will edge out Lipnitskya for the gold medal. Elena was on fire at Skate America and I look for her to bring that competitiveness to France. I think Julia will be ahead after the short, but Radionova's point-packed long program will put her on top overall. A first or second place here will guarantee her a spot in the Final.
SILVER: After the "worst skate of her life" at Cup of China, I look for Julia Lipnitskya to come back strong and win the silver medal in a close fight. I don't think she'll make the same mistakes in the long program that she did two weeks ago, but she's struggled with consistency since the Olympics. A second place here will assure her a spot in the Final, where we will really see a great competition, with the possibility of four extremely talented Russians as the headliners.
BRONZE: For Ashley Wagner, a bronze medal here is the realistic outcome. She doesn't have the technical points to compete with the Russians, but has enough program components to keep her in the game. A second place or better would get her in the Final for sure, and a third place would put her on the bubble. She had a good start at Skate Canada so I hope she takes that confidence to this competition to stay on her feet and get on the podium.
Other Contenders: Americans Samantha Cesario and Courtney Hicks had great starts to their seasons with fourth place finishes at Skate America and Skate Canada, respectively. If Wagner falters, either of these two have the point potential to grab a medal.
WHO'S IN: As highly predicted, Anna Pogorilaya solidified a spot at the Grand Prix Final with her silver medal at the Rostelcom Cup. She joins countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who also has a spot with a total of 28 points earned.
SKATING NEXT: This weekend at Trophee Bompard, three ladies will be vying for a spot in the Final, with Elena Radionova, Julia Lipnitskya and Ashley Wagner skating in their last Grand Prix event. Elena has 15 points already after her win at Skate America, with Ashley and Julia tied at 13 points after second place finishes. These three will need a spot on the podium this weekend to move into the Final, and only a first or second would be a guarantee for Wagner and Lipnitskya.
NHK TROPHY: The last event in the Grand Prix series will certainly be an interesting one to watch. American Gracie Gold is a podium favorite, as well as Japan's Satoko Miyahara and Kanako Murakami. Each of those three ladies have 11 points currently and could win a spot in the Final with a gold medal in Japan.
Two more spots should be finalized after this weekend so I will update after that!
Japan's Rika Hongo pulled the upset win over favorite Anna Pogorilaya, claiming the first Grand Prix medal for a nation other than Russia. She skated two clean programs- something that the other medallists were unable to do- and won her first Grand Prix medal. Personally, Hongo does not wow me, but she had a good competition. Unfortunately, her fifth place earlier in the Grand Prix will not be enough to get her to the Final, but sets her up well for her Japanese Nationals, a competition that looks more and more interesting each day.
Anna Pogorilaya struggled here, but managed to stay on the podium for the silver medal. She seemed disconnected from her music and her jumps were tentative and off. As expected, she has solidified a spot in the Final with her two medals in the Grand Prix. I am excited to see her skate against the other Russian ladies in December at that competition. She will need to have a fiery and clean skate there to better the likes of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Julia Lipnitskya and Elena Radionova.
The bronze medal went to another surprise- Alaine Chartrand from Canada. She actually led the field after the short program after a great skate. She struggled in the free skate; her music overpowered her and the jumps were messy. She left the door open enough to fall two places, but held on strong for her first Grand Prix medal. Considering no one really expected this finish, she has to be pleased with that. She also will not compete in the Final, but we will probably see her again at Worlds.
Other News Off the Podium: Mirai Nagasu had a much better outing here that at Skate America and won fourth place. She lost many points in the free skate (about 10) on under rotated jumps. If she had cleaned those up, she could've gotten on the podium. It's an improvement and we'll see what she brings to Nationals.
Well, overall my picks were a vast improvement on last week... with the exception of picking a pairs team that didn't even skate : ( That really hurt my points and I am ranked 297th for the event with 2083 points. Overall I have 8,633 points and am in 137th place.
I was 6/12 in picks and got 60 bonus points- which is a big plus! Note to self: Check the ISU rosters to make sure all are competing; because USFSA does not alter the roster once its posted.
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.