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.
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