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?
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