Figure Skating: From the Boards

A Look Ahead: The Ladies of the GP Series May 24, 2012

Let’s hear it for the ladies!

Last year, the women made this event ever-unpredictable and, as always, a premiere event to watch. Looking at the lineup this season, I expect to see much of the same! Here’s how it breaks down.

Skate America: 

Mae Bernice Meite (FRA)
Sarah Hecken (GER)
Valentine Marchei (ITA)
Haruka Imai (JPN)
Alena Leonova (RUS)
Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)
Rachael Flatt (USA)
Christina Gao (USA)
Ashley Wagner (USA)

Okay, lots of goodies here. First, we see US and Four Continents champ Ashley Wagner’s Skate America debut. We all know the season she put together last year, but this will be an even bigger test — living up to these new expectations.

Speaking of expectations, Rachael Flatt will be interesting to watch this year. There’s no doubt she adores the sport and the challenge of training to compete. But, will she be able to shake off last season’s disappointments and the weight of college academics to be competitive again?

Personally, I adore Christina Gao. Her carriage over the ice is almost regal. If she can stay healthy, look for a much better GP season from her in 2012.

The Russian return to the top in ladies skating has been coming on for some time now. Many think Adelina Sotnikova is the strongest hope for the podium in Sochi. If that’s the case, she needs to make great use of the next two years in order to build her stamina and consistency to compete with the best of the best.

Don’t overlook Alena Leonova, though. She’s not quite ready to give in to the budding youngsters — and you don’t have to look further than her World medal for proof of that!

Skate Canada: 

Amelie Lacost (CAN)
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)
TBA (CAN)
Elena Gedevanishvili (GEO)
Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Ksenia Makarova (RUS)
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (RUS)
Gracie Gold (USA)
Caroline Zhang (USA)

Another very interesting lineup, I must say!

For starters, we’ll see two of Japan’s best in Suzuki (who is skating with such confidence and determination these days!) and Murakami (who is maturing oh-so-quickly into a glorious skater).

Then there’s the Russian duo — Makarova (who is just lovely, but terribly inconsistent) and Tuktamisheva (who may, in fact, have a better chance than Sotnikova at being “Russia’s next great hope.”). Little Liza, as she’s known, has it all: jumps, jumps and more jumps, passion and artistry that extends through the tip of her fingers, and, as Dick Button always used to say, real theatre.  She’s something special.

Don’t forget about the dynamic American duo, though. Each has her own unique, but captivating, story.

Gracie Gold — the youngster who had all of American skating buzzing with her performances last season (her easy-peasy triple-triple combo didn’t hurt!). She made her senior debut at the World Team Trophy and, to be honest, looked a little overwhelmed. But, she still managed to put out decent programs and has oodles of potential.

Caroline Zhang has had potential for a long time. She was supposed to be America’s rising superstar, the second coming of Michelle Kwan. Yeah. Talk about pressure to live up to! Flawed technique and nerves kept her from living up to that, even a little bit. And then at Nationals in January, she staked her claim — finishing an exceptionally strong fourth and earning a spot on the Four Continents team where she won bronze.

Again, the coming season will tell the full story, but she’s had us all shouting, “She’s BAAAAACK!!!” and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Moving on…

Cup of China: 

Bingwa Geng (CHN)
Kexin Zhang (CHN)
TBA (CHN)
Yretha Silete (FRA)
Miki Ando (JPN)
Mao Asada (JPN)
Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
Joshi Helgesson (SWE)
Mirai Nagasu (USA)

Shanghai gives us our first look at the reigning World champ, but Carolina Kostner will have her hands full.

Former World champs Mao Asada and Miki Ando return this season, no doubt with their eyes on the highest prize that creeps ever-closer: Olympic Gold. But, to get there, they must first get back to their highest levels — not such an easy task as it may sound. For Ando, that’s even tougher after not competing at all last season.

Mirai Nagasu’s 2012 GP debut could be quite telling. In 2010, she seemed well on her way to becoming America’s sweetheart, the next great US champion. And yet, time after time she falls apart when it matters most. Is it mental? Is it training? Is it coaching? Is it commitment?

We’re about to find out. New coach and  renewed determination in hand, this season has definite “make or break” potential for the prima ballerina.

Rostelecom Cup: 

Kiira Korpi (FIN)
Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Valentina Marchei (ITA)
Alena Leonova (RUS)
Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
TBA (RUS)
Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)
Gracie Gold (USA)
Agnes Zawadzki (USA)
Caroline Zhang (USA)

Here we should start to see a bit more polish. All except Korpi and Zawadzki will be competing in their second event, and hopefully will have dusted off the last bit of off-season rust.

Again, we could see a Japan/Russia podium. But, don’t be surprised if one of the American girls spoils the party. If Carolina Zhang, for example, does what she’s capable of, she has a good medal-shot here. As does Agnes, for that matter.

Trophee Bompard: 

Kexin Zhang (CHN)
Lena Marrocco (FRA)
Yretha Silete (FRA)
TBA (FRA)
Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Miki Ando (JPN)
Polina Korobeynikova (RUS)
Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (RUS)
Ashley Wanger (USA)

Only one American lady in Paris, this time around. But, it’ll be a rematch between Wagner and Kostner. Add Ando into the mix and you’re looking at three very strong World Championship podium contenders.

Of course, last season proved you can’t leave Little Liza out of any podium predictions. Simply put, the girl’s got the goods!

NHK Trophy: 

Zijun Li (CHN)
Elena Gedevanishvili (GEO)
Mao Asada (JPN)
Haruka Imai (JPN)
Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Sofia Biryukova (RUS)
Kzenia Makarova (RUS)
Polina Shelepen (RUS)
Alissa Czisny (USA)
Agnes Zawadzki (USA)

Finally, we see American Alissa Czisny’s name on the list. However, it is not without reservation. Just this week, it was revealed to Team Czisny that she has been skating with an injury that requires a significant surgery.

She has a torn left labrum (a similar injury to both Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan) and will undergo surgery as soon as possible in Nashville, TN.

The injury, she learned, occurs over time. Of course, thinking back to her disastrous experience at Worlds, perhaps the damage was already being done, and was then exaggerated by the repeated struggles at the end of her season. In fact, the ankle and calf injury around the time of the Grand Prix Final may have started the ball rolling, and in an attempt to compensate, she injured that left hip.

Regardless, she requested a GP assignment as late as possible to at least attempt to give herself enough time to recover and be ready to compete again.

This event could quickly turn into a preview showdown of Japanese Nationals, of course, without Murakami or Ando.

It’s also a great opportunity for Agnes Zawadzki to jump up to the podium in the final GP event of the season.

Then, we’ll see the best of the season in Sochi. If you had to pick the upset, who would you choose to make it to Sochi unexpectedly?

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2 Responses to “A Look Ahead: The Ladies of the GP Series”

  1. Reader1 Says:

    You’ve mixed up names – it is ANDO who did not compete this year. ASADA was on several podiums.


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