Are you ready for a very exciting week in Greensboro? I know that I am! Though most post-Olympic seasons see a variety of new faces, the ladies roster at the 2015 US Championships looks a lot like the last three years, with a majority of the major players having competed at this event before.
Gracie Gold: Many may be doubting Gold after she pulled out of the Grand Prix Final with a stress fracture, but I don't think the injury is serious enough to keep her out of the running. Both her and Coach Frank Carroll have been confident in the press that the injury is healed. Her nerves in big moments, though, certainly could effect her. Her Grand Prix series went fairly well ( a third after mistakes at Skate America and a gold at NHK Trophy against a weak field) but her performances weren't perfect. She needs to control those nerves and create some consistency in her performances to win in Greensboro.
Ashley Wagner: Ashley should still be riding high after her wonderful comeback performance at Grand Prix Final and hopefully she can bring that confidence to the Nationals ice. She seems determined to get her National title back, but it's not going to be easy. Her performances can lack the technical consistency needed to top the podium. She would have to skate cleaner in both segments of the competition than she has all season in order to win. She certainly has the best program components in the field and could make it to the top with two programs of fully rotated jumps.
Polina Edmunds: Polina has had a rough season so far, citing growing pains as the reason her jumps seem to be escaping her. In recent interviews, she says the jumps have improved and that she's confident heading to Nationals, but it will be difficult for her to repeat her surprise breakthrough performance from last year. Personally, her programs this year still heavily lack the poise and polish displayed by Wagner, Gold and others in the field. She does have the highest technical base value in the competition, so should she skate clean, the numbers could easily fall her way for a podium finish.
Mirai Nagasu: After the much talked about Nationals controversy of last year, Mirai came back and started her season so-so at her two Grand Prix events. Her programs this year are beautiful and have great potential. She's displayed a bit more "fight" than I've seen in the past, but many doubts about her mental toughness still exist. This Nationals has to carry a huge emotional weight for Mirai and it could either weigh her down- or propel her to great performances. Which Mirai will it be in Greensboro?
Samantha Cesario: This New Yorker had a good start to her season at Skate America, but Trophee Bompbard was slightly less impressive. She has a technical consistency to her programs and has some high scoring jumping passes to boot, but her footwork, spins and speed are still in need of improvement. She has two programs this year that should get the crowd involved and they really suit her well. If she takes some technical risks successfully, she could easily land on the podium.
Courtney Hicks: Courtney is a jumping powerhouse and she had the third- best Grand Prix season of all of the American ladies. Her programs this year are more polished than in the past, but she still comes off a bit clunky and rough to me. Her jumps are very impressive though, and if she skates clean, a podium finish is a definite possibility.
BOTTOM LINE: My heart would love to see Wagner come through with a gold medal, but Gracie is technically more consistent and has now gained an international reputation good enough to boost those program component scores that Wagner counts on to stay competitive. Sammi Cesario is my dark horse for bronze, but I think the technically strong Hicks or Edmunds will take it with a big score.
My wish list: Wagner, Gold, Cesario
My prediction: Gold, Wagner, Edmunds
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.