As we begin the much anticipated ladies competition in Shanghai, let's talk about the key things to look for as each skater attempts to set themselves up well for the free skate- and a medal.
Here's the skate order. It doesn't always have a huge impact, but mentally and strategically, it can factor in.
Elizaveta skates first- hopefully she'll be on fresh, warm legs and take advantage of that position. Gracie is next- I think it's good for her to be close to the top so that she doesn't sit around and get nervous but she can struggle skating behind big scorers like Tutktamysheva. Next is Satoko and Anna Pogorilaya, right in the middle of the pack. This shouldn't effect either of them strategically. Elena is next; if Elizaveta has struggled, she can really capitalize skating after her. Ashley is last, which she's said before she doesn't prefer, but a strong performance could really go in her favor, as she's getting the last word.
The ISU Season Bests in the Short Program for the top ladies are as follows:
1. Elena Radionova 70.46 (Europeans)
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 69.02 (Europeans)
3. Gracie Gold 68.12 (NHK Trophy)
4. Anna Pogorilaya 66.10 (Europeans)
5. Satoko Miyahara 64.84 (Four Continents)
6. Kanako Murakami 63.38 (NHK Trophy)
7. Ashley Wagner 63.86 (Skate Canada)
8. Polina Edmunds 63.27 (Figure Skating Classic)
KEY FACTORS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva's triple axel- Will she or won't she? An attempt at the triple axel from this Russian will be HUGE in determining the outcome of this competition. Cleanly landed, she can separate herself from the rest of the field in a big way. A mistake, though, costs her huge points and possibly a gold medal. Numbers-wise, her scores in the short are not as strong as Elena Radionova's, but she performs better than her teammate in the long. Attempting the 3 Axel at this competition is a bit risky and unnecessary in my opinion, but we'll have to see what it does/doesn't do for her scores.
2. Elena Radionova's consistency (in a good way)- Honestly, I expect nothing less from Radionova in Shanghai than what she has given us all season- consistent, technically strong, competitive performances. I expect her to bring her game face and lay down two great skates. I think a clean Tuktamysheva beats her overall because of her PCS and jump GOE, but my bet is on Elena skating so well that she can pounce on any slight mistake from Elizaveta to take the title.
3. Ashley Wagner's 3Lz-3T- Ashley's season best score is a bit misleading, as she's since added more difficult elements not reflected in that number. One of those elements is her triple lutz-triple toe combination, on which she can get costly edge calls and/or underrotations. She nailed it at Nationals in the long and she'll need to land it well here in the short so she can stay in the last warm-up group for the free. Bottom line, she needs a fully rotated, clean edged 3-3. Truthfully, I'd like to see her beat either Gold or Pogorilaya in the short to really set her up well for that podium.
4. Gracie's consistency (in a not-good way)- Gracie Gold always seems to struggle putting together two clean programs in competition. If she skates completely clean, she is a podium threat for sure, but she's had a rocky season and an utter disaster at Four Continents. I think she's more confident in the short than the long, so she needs to capitalize on a strong short program so she can really gain some momentum to get to the podium in the free. Her closest competitor for bronze is Wagner, who excels more in the free, so if Gracie wants to beat her out she needs to gain some points in the right at the start.
5. I could say the exact same thing about Anna Pogorilaya's consistency. (See number 4).
6. Satoko Miyahara's jump calls- The reigning Japanese champ has some serious promise, but she's struggled this season, getting some jump calls that cost her points. I think she'll be in a battle for the last spot in the final warm-up group for the long with Polina Edmunds, who tends to get fewer jump calls and better GOE. To top Edmunds, Miyahara needs fully rotated jump calls.
7. Polina Edmunds' PCS- Polina seems to have gotten her short program's technical issues under control, but she doesn't have the polish yet to get the higher program component scores she needs to really elevate her to a World podium level. She's said in pre-Worlds interviews that she hopes her Four Continents win will boost her reputation with the judges (-cough-PCSs), but I am not so sure.
The ladies short program starts tonight (Wednesday, March 25th) at 10:30 PM Eastern. I can't wait! I will be back to recap the short program action and preview the long program tomorrow!
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