Mao Asada showed improved control in her first event this season to claim the silver medal at NHK Trophy. Her free skate was beautifully skated and a definite improvement over last season. She didn't put the triple axel in her programs but showed control over the rest of her jumps. She has the 7th best short program, best free skate and 2nd best total score of the season.
Adelina Sotnikova won the bronze medal in her Grand Prix debut but showed that nerves were clearly affecting her performance. While she had good skating skills and performance quality, the nerves affected some of her jumps. She is normally a very clean skater and with one event under her belt, she's said she wants to improve her performance and skate to her full potential, but she'll be competing in front of the home crowd for the first time in an international competition. She has the 9th best free skate score of the season.
Haruka Imai recently changed coaches to Jason Dugjen and Yuka Sato and they seem to be the right coaches for her lyrical, expressive style of skating. She has some jump issues and they're breaking down her technique but that will continue to improve throughout the season.
The qualification scenarios for this event are a little more complicated. Asada can qualify with a gold or silver medal while a bronze medal would put her in a tiebreaker if Leonova or Sotnikova win gold and silver. Leonova and Sotnikova can qualify with a gold. They can both qualify if they win gold and silver and they beat Asada on the tiebreaker if she wins bronze or if Asada finishes 4th or lower. Imai will qualify with a gold medal finish.
Asada can also qualify with a 4th place finish if two of Leonova, Sotnikova and Imai finish below her. Leonova and Sotnikova can also qualify with a bronze medal finish if two of Asada, Imai and Leonova/Sotnikova finish below them. Imai can qualify with a silver medal finish if two of Leonova, Sotnikova and Asada finish below her.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, Carolina Kostner, Akiko Suzuki and Alissa Czisny have already qualified for the Final.
My podium predictions:
Gold: Mao Asada
Silver: Adelina Sotnikova
Bronze: Alena Leonova
Bios of the competitors:
Amelie Lacoste, CAN: She finished 16th at Worlds and 9th at Four Continents. She finished 6th at Skate Canada. Her personal best is 157.26. She is 22 years old.
Kiira Korpi, FIN: She finished 9th at Worlds and is the reigning European bronze medalist. She finished 6th at NHK Trophy. She is the 2007 European bronze medalist. Her personal best is 169.74. She is 23 years old.
Mao Asada, JPN: She finished 6th at Worlds and is the reigning Four Continents silver medalist. She won silver at NHK Trophy. She is the 2010 Olympic silver medalist; the 2008 and 2010 World Champion; 2007 World silver medalist; 2008 and 2010 Four Continents Champion; 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist; 2005 World Junior Champion and 2006 World Junior silver medalist. Her personal best is 205.50. She is 21 years old.
Haruka Imai, JPN: She finished 4th at Skate America. Her personal best is 155.29. She is 18 years old.
Sofia Biryukova, RUS: She finished 6th at Cup of Russia last season. Her personal best is 153.05. She is 17 years old.
Alena Leonova, RUS: She finished 4th at Worlds and 5th at Europeans. She finished 4th at Skate Canada and won bronze at NHK Trophy. She is the 2009 World Junior Champion. Her personal best is 183.92. She is 20 years old.
Adelina Sotnikova, RUS: She is the reigning World Junior Champion. She won bronze at Cup of China. She qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final last season and won gold. Her personal best is 159.95. She is 15 years old.
Rachael Flatt, USA: She finished 12th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents. She finished 10th at Skate Canada. She qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and finished 6th. She is the 2008 World Junior Champion. Her personal best is 182.49. She is 19 years old.
Christina Gao, USA: She finished 4th at Junior Worlds. She finished 5th at Cup of China. She qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final last season and finished 6th. Her personal best is 152.48. She is 17 years old.
Agnes Zawadzki, USA: She is the reigning World Junior bronze medalist. She placed 8th at NHK Trophy. She is the 2010 World Junior silver medalist. Her personal best is 161.07. She is 17 years old.