Surprises, surprises! Some skating fans and experts may have called the 2014 Grand Prix Final ladies result, but I was not among them.
Elizaveta Tutkamysheva stole the show and the gold medal from all her fellow Russian countrywomen. Throwing out two clean, high scoring programs with intensity was what won the title for her. The consistency and presentation of her programs this season have really vaulted her to the top and it was great to see her pull off such a big win. I'm looking forward to seeing her compete at the Russian Nationals over Christmas; that competition is arguably the most hotly contested event of the season!
Russia's Elena Radionova won the silver medal after a surprising fall in the short program that left her several points out of first heading into the free skate. She rebounded quite well in the free, completing all her jumps cleanly with great expression as well. Bonus: She's got a new costume that's about ten pounds lighter and not wearing HER! She's still skating incredibly well and I see such a competitive fire in her. I think she'll bring the best of her best to the Russian Nationals, where she definitely has a shot at the gold medal.
In perhaps the most surprising finish, Ashley Wagner rebounded from a disappointing last place finish in the short program to a bronze medal position after her best long program of the season. She scored less than a full point off her personal best free skate after adding in new jumping passes and completing six clean triples. I hope this finish is a huge confidence booster for her as she prepares for the US Nationals, where she really needs a podium finish and a trip to Worlds to keep moving her career forward.
Other News Off the Podium: Anna Pogorilaya of Russia finished fourth after struggling with her jumps in both programs. She can be technically powerful, but her lack of consistency will need to be improved if she intends to earn a spot on the Russian National Team. The fourth Russian, Julia Lipnitsjya, unfortunately continued to struggle this season with a disastrous free skate. Another new costume couldn't even save her from herself, as it appears she's not handling pressure well. Her short was wonderful, however, and she HAS the potential to win big- she just has to own it. Japan's Rika Hongo finished sixth with two decent performances. She was simply out of here league in this field, but it was a great stepping stone for her senior career.
Who-hoo! Pretty good week over here! For the Final, I got 6/12 picks correct with a total of 2,498 points (including 45 bonus). I was ranked tied for 94th for the event- My best finish since Week 2. Overall, I moved up several spots to 116th place with 15,456 points.
With only six competitors per discipline, this should be an interesting event. Each A,B and C pool contains only two skaters everyone has a 50/50 shot of getting each pick right! I'm expecting big scores this week : )
It's time to see the "best of the best" compete head-to-head for the first time this season! Earlier last week, Gracie Gold announced her withdrawal from this competition, due to a foot injury and has been replaced by Japan's Rika Hongo. Gold could've challenged for a podium spot, but now it looks like Russia will claim the medals.
Gold- She's dominated this early season, and I see no reason that that wouldn't continue- I'm picking Elena Radionova to win gold here. She's carrying a lot of momentum to this event and I think that she's still hungry for a big international win. Her short program is not as strong as her free, so she may be behind after that segment of the competition, but her point-packed long program should carry her to the top of the field.
Silver- I see Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continuing her wonderful comeback season with a silver medal in the Grand Prix final. She has wonderful jumping technique and her programs this year truly suit her style. I look for her to put down two clean skates, but falling short of Radionova, point-wise. A silver medal here will really prove her consistency this season and give her a boost for the Russian nationals.
Bronze- This one could really be a toss up between the two other Russian ladies. I know Anna Pogorilaya has had the better season mathematically, but I look for Julia Lipnitskya to improve on her season and grab the bronze medal here. She's posted the highest short program score of all of the ladies this season, and her long program has major potential. She has much better presentation skills than Pogorilaya and I look for those marks to pull her onto the podium.
Other Entrants: Anna Pogorilaya could definitely challenge for a podium spot with her high-scoring jumping passes. She needs some polish and to connect with her music more fully, but she has the technical ability to medal with a pair of clean skates. Ashley Wagner should look to build consistency at this competition. I think she lacks the technical points to challenge for a medal, but I think its important for her to have two clean skates here to gear up for Nationals. Rika Hongo lacks the polish and skills to be at the top of this competition, but its a huge opportunity for her to gain some international exposure.
I had my best week since Skate Canada with 7/12 picks correct. I received 45 bonus points and picked 3/4 winners. For the event, I was tied for 187th place with 2135 points. Overall, I am currently in 132nd place with 12,958 points. Improvement!
Finally, we know who will square off in the 2014-15 Grand Prix Final:
1. Elena Radionova, RUS 30 points
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, RUS 28 points
3. Anna Pogorilaya, RUS 28 points
4. Gracie Gold, USA 26 points
5. Julia Lipnitskia, RUS 26 points
6. Ashley Wagner, USA 24 points
It will be exciting to watch a competition that consists of ALL heavy hitters and contains all of the best dominating ladies of Russia. At the World Championships in March, only three Russian ladies are allowed in the competition so this will be the only time we see them all at once against the Americans. I will make podium predictions as we approach the competition, but I think it may look a lot like the Russian national podium...
USA's Gracie Gold won her first Grand Prix gold medal and her first international competition with a first place finish. She had a high-scoring short program that put her in a slight lead. Her long program also had the best score of the day, but she was not perfect- she took a fall and turned a couple triples to doubles. This performance was a definite improvement on her Skate America showing and should giver her some confidence heading to the Final. However, she needs to get her jumps back on track to have a shot at the podium at the Grand Prix final, where the field will be much deeper than here in Japan.
Alena Leonova rebounded from her disappointing finish at Skate Canada with a silver medal. She had a wonderful short program that garnered a high score and second place by less than a point. Her long program was better than her poor one at Skate Canada, but she's still struggling with it and it looks messy to me. This finish did not qualify for the Final, so she can take some time off to train before the Russian Nationals. She will need much more polish to her programs to have a chance to medal at that highly competitive event and make it to Worlds.
Claiming her second bronze medal of the series, Satoko Miyahra also did not qualify for the Final- although she is an alternate. The judges do not seem to be giving Miyahara any slack. As I've said before, I really love her long program and overall skating style, but she's getting lower component scores and getting hit with under rotation calls. I think this young skater has incredible potential. She's proven herself to be a contender to the Japanese ladies title and I cannot wait to see how she does at that event. I would love to see her qualify to skate at Worlds.
Other News Off the Podium: American Polina Edmunds had a disappointing eighth place finish after a disastrous short program. She seems to truly be struggling so far this season with her jumps. Is it the pressure or is she hitting the end of her little girl skater glory? We will have to see how she pulls it together for Nationals as she tries to defend her podium finish. Japan's Kanako Murakami had the third place spot over countrywoman Miyahra heading into the free skate, but made several mistakes and dropped to fourth. She will face stiff competition from Miyahara for the Japanese ladies title.
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