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Saturday, March 9, 2013

World Championships Ladies Preview

Mao Asada is entering this event as the favorite and seems to have reclaimed her top competitive form.  After winning gold at both of her Grand Prix assignments, she claimed gold at the Grand Prix Final.  At the Four Continents Championships she included the triple axel in her programs en route to another gold medal finish.  She is the only skater to cross the 200 point mark this season at an ISU competition and the triple axel in her short program gives her a seven point advantage over the rest of the field.  Her season's best score is over 10 points better than the next skater and she has the ability to blow the field away if she can stay focused and land her jumps.

Carolina Kostner is the reigning World Champion and had a breakout season last year.  After sitting out of the Grand Prix series, she's entered a few Senior B events before defending her European title.  Although she didn't win either segment of the competition at Europeans, her performances were good enough to land her on top of the podium after others faltered.  She won her World title with lower technical content last season but was able to skate cleanly while others made mistakes.  If everyone else skates clean she might find herself off the podium but her strategy allows her to focus on the performance and to minimize errors.

Ashley Wagner started off the season on a hot streak claiming her first Grand Prix title at Skate America and backing it up at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Her choreography is stunning and she's given great performances this season.  The one thing she's been lacking is a triple + triple combination, but she still has the third highest short program score of the season despite not having the more difficult combination in her programs.  At the beginning of the season her solid performances had her as a favorite for the World title but she's hit some stumbling blocks along the way.  She had two uncharacteristic falls in her free skate at the Grand Prix Final and one caused a hip pointer injury which had her off the ice after the event.  At US Nationals, food poisoning and nerves led to a shaky free skate which nearly cost her her title.  She declined to attend Four Continents to take time to recover and train properly for Worlds and is planning a triple + triple combination in her programs.  

Akiko Suzuki won the bronze medal at Worlds last season.  She has always been a very consistent skater but seems to fly under the radar and not always get the attention she deserves.  Her Cirque du Soleil free skate is quirky and suits her personality perfectly and is one of the highlights of the season.  For the first part of the season she seemed to struggle with her short program and was faced with making a comeback in the free skate.  While she skated her best short program of the season at Four Continents, she couldn't back it up with a clean free skate.  If she wants to land in the medals again this season, she'll need two clean programs.

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Adelina Sotnikova have been big names in figure skating for several years despite the fact that they only became eligible to compete in Senior ISU Championships this season.  After success in the past, they have both struggled this season with injuries and growing but have fought through.  Both won a medal on the Grand Prix this season and Tuktamisheva qualified for the Final.  They both won medals at their first European Championships, Sotnikova the silver and Tuktamisheva the bronze.  Sotnikova is stronger in the short program while Tuktamisheva is stronger in the free skate.  This is their first World Championships and the pressure is on to hang on to three spots for Russia at the Olympics next year, but both young ladies have a good chance to make the podium with their triple + triple combinations.  

Kanako Murakami made a big splash in her first senior season but hit the sophomore slump last year.  She has been showing major improvements in consistency and confidence throughout the season and won the bronze medal at Four Continents to complete the Japanese sweep of the podium.  She finished 5th at Worlds last season, and will be looking to make the jump to the podium.

A trio of young skaters is also looking to make their mark.  Zijun Li of China has impressed this season with her lyrical quality and has nearly made the podium at each of her events this season.  This is her first Senior Worlds and while she likely won't be in the medals, should be able to secure a top 10 finish.  Kaetlyn Osmond captured the Canadian audience with her gold medal finish at Skate Canada.  She went on to win her first national title but faltered a bit at Four Continents.  This is only her third senior event, so gaining experience is key going into the Olympic year.  Gracie Gold has struggled with her nerves and the pressure of being the new darling of US figure skating but has some of the most difficult technical content in the world.  Her jumps are textbook and soar above the ice but she's still working on developing the artistic side of her skating.  After a disastrous short program at US Nationals, it seemed she wouldn't be heading to Worlds but rebounded with a fantastic free skate that nearly won her the US title.  If she can skate both programs cleanly she could find herself in a position to medal, but she not only has to overcome her own nerves but the pressure of securing three spots for the US in Sochi.

Yuna Kim is a wild card at this event as she has only competed in one event this season, a Senior B in which she scored over 200 points.  She had several jump mistakes in her program and was likely overscored so it is difficult to assess how she would really score with clean programs and if she is well trained enough to hit clean programs.  If she is at her 2010 level, she could blow the field away as her personal best of 228 eclipses anyone else.

Another wild card is Alena Leonova who claimed the silver medal at Worlds last season.  She had horrible Grand Prix outings and didn't even make the podium at Russian nationals and was left off the European team.  After monitoring, the Russian Federation decided to send her to Worlds.  The past two season she's put out her best performance at Worlds so it's too soon to count her out of the running.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Mao Asada
Silver: Yuna Kim
Bronze: Ashley Wagner

Bios of the competitors:
Brooklee Han, AUS: She finished 12th at Four Continents.  She placed 8th at JGP USA and 12th at JGP Turkey.  Her personal best is 134.90.  She is 17 years old.

Kerstin Frank, AUT: She placed 21st at Worlds last year.  She finished 12th at Europeans. Her personal best is 143.56.  She is 24 years old.


Kaat Van Daele, BEL: She finished 18th at Europeans.  Her personal best is 139.00.  She is 23 years old.


Isadora Williams, BRA: She placed 26th at Four Continents.  Her personal best is 123.93.  She is 17 years old.


Kaetlyn Osmond, CAN: She placed 7th at Four Continents.  She won gold at Skate Canada.  Her personal best is 176.45.  She is 17 years old.  She has the 10th best free skate score.


Zijun Li, CHN: She placed 5th at Four Continents.  She finished 5th at Cup of China and 4th at NHK Trophy.   Her personal best is 174.11.  She is 16 years old.  She has the 9th best free skate score.


Kexin Zhang, CHN: She finished 7th at Worlds last season.  She placed 10th at Four Continents.  Her personal best is 162.59.  She is 17 years old.


Anita Madsen, DEN: She placed 16th at Europeans.  She placed 11th at JGP France and 17th at JGP Turkey.  Her personal best is 133.35.  She is 17 years old.


Elena Glebova, EST: She placed 13th at Worlds last year.  She finished 13th at Europeans.  She placed 7th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Her personal best is 148.71.  She is 23 years old.


Juulia Turkkila, FIN: She placed 18th at Worlds last year.  She finished 17th at Europeans.  Her personal best is 136.68.  She is 18 years old.


Mae Berenice Meite, FRA: She placed 10th at Europeans.  She finished 6th at Skate America and 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Her personal best is 157.58.  She is 18 years old.


Elene Gedevanishvilli, GEO: She finished 10th at Worlds last season.  She placed 14th at Europeans.  She placed 5th at Skate Canada.  She is the 2010  and 2012 European Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 165.93.  She is 23 years old.


Nathalie Weinzierl, GER: She placed 9th at Europeans and 10th at Junior Worlds.  She finished 9th at JGP Austria and 10th at JGP Germany.  Her personal best is 147.52.  She is 18 years old.


Jenna McCorkell, GBR: She finished 14th at Worlds last year.  She placed 21st at Europeans.  She finished 8th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Her personal best is 150.90.  She is 26 years old.


Carol Bressanutti, ITA: Her personal best is 119.40.  She is 19 years old.


Carolina Kostner, ITA: She is the reigning World Champion and European Champion.  She is the 2008 World Silver Medalist; 2005 and 2011 World Bronze Medalist; 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 European Champion; 2009 and 2011 European Silver Medalist; 2006 European Bronze Medalist; and 2003 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 194.71.  She is 26 years old.  She has the 5th best short program, 3rd best free skate and 2nd best total scores of the season.  


Valentina Marchei, ITA: She finished 8th at Worlds last season.  She finished 4th at Europeans.  She placed 4th at Skate America and 9th at Rostelecom Cup.  Her personal best is 171.06.  She is 26 years old.


Mao Asada, JPN: She placed 6th at Worlds last season.  She is the reigning Four Continents Champion.  She won gold at Cup of China and NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she won gold.  She qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season.  She is the 2010 Olympic Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2010 World Champion, 2007 World Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2010 Four Continents Champion, 2011 and 2012 Four Continents Silver Medalist, 2009 Four Continents Bronze Medalist, 2005 World Junior Champion and 2006 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 205.50.  She is 22 years old.  She has the best short program, 2nd best free skate and best total scores of the season.


Kanako Murakami, JPN: She placed 5th at Worlds last season.  She is the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalist.  She won bronze at Skate Canada and placed 4th at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2010 World Junior Champion.  Her personal best is 181.03.  She is 18 years old.  She has the 6th best short program, 8th best free skate and 7th best total scores of the season.  


Akiko Suzuki, JPN: She is the reigning World Bronze Medalist.  She is the reigning Four Continents Silver Medalist.  She won silver at Skate Canada and NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she won bronze.  She is the 2010 Four Continents Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 190.08.  She is 27 years old.  She has the 4th best short program, 5th best free skate and 5th best total scores of the season.  


Alina Fjodorova, LAT: She placed 27th at Worlds last season.  She finished 26th at Europeans.  She placed 19th at JGP Turkey and 23rd at JGP Slovenia.  Her personal best is 133.48.  She is 17 years old.


Inga Januleviciute, LTU: She placed 16th in the preliminary round at Worlds last season.  She finished 31st at Europeans.  She finished 15th at JGP Austria.  Her personal best is 104.60.  She is 17 years old.


Anne Line Gjersem, NOR: She finished 22nd at Europeans.  She placed 10th at JGP Turkey and 14th at JGP Germany.  Her personal best is 124.48.  She is 19 years old.


Yuna Kim, KOR: She is the 2010 Olympic Champion, 2009 World Champion, 2010 and 2011 World Silver Medalist, 2007 and 2008 World Bronze Medalist, 2009 Four Continents Champion, 2006 World Junior Champion and 2005 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 228.56.  She is 22 years old.


Alena Leonova, RUS: She is the reigning World Silver Medalist.  She placed 7th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2009 Junior World Champion.  Her personal best is 184.28.  She is 22 years old.


Adelina Sotnikova, RUS: She is the reigning European Silver Medalist.  She won bronze at Skate America and placed 5th at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2011 Junior World Champion and 2012 Junior World Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 193.99.  She is 16 years old.  She has the 2nd best short program, 6th best free skate and 3rd best total scores of the season.  


Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, RUS: She is the reigning European Bronze Medalist.  She placed 4th at Skate Canada and won silver at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she placed 5th.  She is the 2011 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 188.85.  She is 16 years old.  She has the best free skate and 6th best total scores of the season.  


Monika Simancikova, SVK: She placed 15th at Europeans.  She finished 11th at JGP Austria and 7th at JGP Germany.  Her personal best is 137.47.  She is 17 years old.


Patricia Glescic, SLO: She placed 28th at Europeans and 28th at World Juniors.  She finished 14th at JGP Austria and 11th at JGP Slovenia.  Her personal best is 125.46.  She is 18 years old.


Sonia Lafuente, ESP: She placed 15th at Worlds last season.  She finished 7th at Europeans.  Her personal best is 152.29.  She is 21 years old.


Viktoria Helgesson, SWE: She finished 11th at Worlds last season.  She placed 5th at Europeans.  She placed 8th at Skate America and 8th at Rostelecom Cup.  Her personal best is 161.79.  She is 24 years old.


Tina Stuerzinger, SUI: She placed 20th at Europeans.  She placed 12th at JGP USA.  Her personal best is 128.38.  She is 17 years old.


Natalia Popova, UKR: She finished 17th at Worlds last season.  She placed 19th at Europeans.  She finished 10th at JGP Austria.  Her personal best is 138.60.  She is 19 years old.


Gracie Gold, USA: She placed 6th at Four Continents.  She finished 7th at Skate Canada and won silver at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2012 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 175.03.  She is 17 years old.  She has the 10th best short program score.


Ashley Wagner, USA: She finished 4th at Worlds last season.  She won gold at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she won silver.  She is the 2012 Four Continents Champion and 2007 and 2009 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 192.41.  She is 21 years old.  She has the 3rd best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total scores of the season.  

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