As the 2015-16 season has officially ended, let’s take a look at the world’s top ladies and where they stand after this year- let’s continue with part 2, the U.S. ladies. Read Part 1
Ashley Wagner- Ashley leaves the season at a high point in her competitive career, with a World silver medal and back on top of the U.S. ladies in world ranking. Though her results from one event to the next were inconsistent, she earned several personal bests this year. She continues to improve her TES to match her strength in PCS. If there was ever a time to run with momentum, next season would be the year to do it before all eyes turn to the Olympics. Ashley will need to fine tune all her technical elements and compete with more consistency if she wants to firmly establish herself as the U.S.’s leading lady. Her programs this year showcased her strengths and I want to see more along the same lines next year!
Gracie Gold- Reflecting on her season, truly, it was the same as the last two- a great success when she’s clean, but no proven ability to be clean consistently. Gracie’s technical strengths and overall packaging make her a judges’ favorite and a medal threat for every competition she enters, but in terms of mental/competitive ability, she’s really making no progress. I think her team did make some progress in choosing *better* music, but I think they still need to do more. Gracie cannot connect to all of the classical warhorses that are pretty, yet boring. I feel like there’s a more intense side to Gracie that they are not tapping into. A dramatic, powerful program could showcase her, not confine her, and let her natural strengths shine.
Mirai Nagasu- Mirai should be proud of the incredible strides her career took this season. What stands out most was her CONSISTENCY this season. Every event, every skate, she looked solid and steady. Her jumps have improved and she looks happier on the ice. The great results she got this year will provide her with more competitive opportunities next season, and Mirai needs to continue to take advantage of those chances before 2018. I would like to see her programs next year have intricate choreography and transitions, and some Mirai sass! This season should hopefully give her the confidence to head into next year with the focus and mental toughness she’ll need to make a run at the top three U.S. ladies spots.
Polina Edmunds- It seems the last two seasons have been tough years for Polina, with a growth spurt, boot problems and a late season injury that took her out of Worlds this year. While she gets high scores domestically, the international judges haven’t been so friendly and Polina seems frustrated by that. I think Polina’s competitive drive is clearly there in competition but the overseas judges aren’t getting what they want from her. I 100% think more mature music and packaging choices need to be made by her team if they want her to move up internationally and fend off the other U.S. ladies from taking her spot in the top three. I liked the maturity of Moonlight Sonata for her but I’d like to see faster paced programs.
Courtney Hicks- Courtney competed at two Grand Prix events this year and came away with a medal, which was a great moment for her. Unfortunately rough skates at U.S. nationals ended her season. Courtney’s powerful jumps are exciting to watch, but without the jumps, her programs can feel empty as she lacks the refined lines of the top contenders. She’s made efforts to improve her artistry and I expect those efforts to continue again next year. If Courtney wants to get on the last World team before 2018, she’ll need to find a more balanced and complete package.
Karen Chen- In her debut season on the Grand Prix, Karen came away with two respectable top five finishes but equipment issues all year kept her from being consistent enough for a good showing at Nationals or Four Continents. Karen’s artistry, spins and spiral show tons of promise, however. I hope a restful offseason will take care of the boot problems and give her time to generate the consistent skating she’ll need to get back on the U.S. podium.
Overall, we no longer have to hear about the goddamn U.S. ladies World medal drought (thanks, Ashley!) but skating well time after time has been hard to find among the U.S. women. Though Wagner and Gold have been great at times, neither one has had the consistency to take the leading lady spot convincingly. I expect their battle to continue next year, as well as the battle for the third spot on a very important 2017 U.S. World Team.
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