Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 U.S. Nationals Predictions: Pairs and Ladies

It’s Nationals week here in The States! Which means it’s time to break out the guesswork if you’re a skating blogger like me. And I’m changing it up a little bit this time, so pay attention:

1) For the first time, I’m making a stab at the 4th place Pewter Medalist as well as the Top 3. Because if USFS cares enough about 4th place to give it a medal, then I should care enough to predict it... am I right?? It’s also one more chance to be dead wrong about some aspect of this competition. So, there’s that.

2) Introducing... my inaugural picks for “Nowhere” skaters. Inspired by what Johnny Weir said during the NBC preview shows about there always being a skater at Nationals who “comes out of nowhere” to finish at or near the top... I’m casting a vote as to who this year’s “Nowhere” skaters might be among the men and ladies. But unlike the Dark Horse picks—who are generally longshots to win or medal, but have more “ice cred”—I’m only allowing myself ONE choice per singles discipline.

The two areas I’m guessing on today get started Thursday afternoon and evening! Are you ready? Let’s go...


GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier
SILVER: Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim
BRONZE: Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage
PEWTER: Dee Dee Leng/Simon Shnapir

Dark Horse: Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea

I’m going with the ones we know the most about for the podium. Denney/Frazier performed well in the GP series, earning silver at one and getting hosed out of a bronze at the other. They have better side-by-side landing consistency that most U.S. pairs teams, including Scimeca/Knierim; this is why I’m thinking silver for them (despite the promised unleashing of a quad twist in Greensboro). Reigning junior champs Aaron/Settlage had a pretty good start to their senior career (5th and 4th in the GP), so a bronze for them wouldn’t surprise me at all.

As for the “who’ll be better?” wonderings about Leng/Shnapir and Castelli/Tran... this is a tough call. What we saw of the former (on the GP circuit) was the pairs equivalent of a moderately underbaked cake, but it’s more than we saw of the latter. (For the record I watched C/T’s free skate at Eastern Sectionals -- they did mostly doubles, and had trouble on the few occasions they went to triples.) I’m picking Leng/Shnapir because they’ve already had more competitive experience, but it’s quite possible that another team will leapfrog both these teams... I’m looking at you, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea...


GOLD: Gracie Gold
SILVER: Ashley Wagner
BRONZE: Polina Edmunds
PEWTER: Samantha Cesario

Dark Horse: Courtney Hicks or Mirai Nagasu
“Nowhere” Lady: Hannah Miller

Gracie or Ashley? It’s as tough a call as we’ll have to make at this Nationals. Gold has that never-enviable task of defending a title, plus it’s her first event back since a foot injury kept her out of the GP Final. Wagner has it even worse, I think, because it’s not about “simply” wanting a title back—it’s about redemption from last year’s Nats. She’s told the press she intends more than ever to treat this like any other competition, but try as she might, I think her history at this event (not just last year) will make that nearly impossible. If both women skate to their full potential, I’d say Wagner for the win. But I’m not convinced that will happen.

As for the bronze battle? It could be a spirited fight with a lot of contenders, but Edmunds really left her mark on this event last year. Even if she has trouble with her SP (as she did on both GP assignments this season), I think she’ll rally (also as she did on her GP assignments) and find herself on the podium after all. To me, her closest likely competitor will be Cesario... but Edmunds generally has her beat in terms of speed and jump difficulty.

My dark horse vote goes to Hicks and Nagasu, for two entirely different reasons. With Hicks you’ve got speed, powerhouse jumps (when landed), and twizzles within her footwork that put many world-class ice dancers to shame. With Nagasu you get a complete package if she fully rotates her jumps, if she skates with heart, if she’s well-trained, etc. etc. But the biggest thing about Nagasu this year is what happened with her last year. Does she come to this event with more quiet determination than ever to prove she should’ve gone to Sochi? If so, will we get yet another Lights Out performance from the 2008 champion... just to find out underrotations and edge calls did her in yet again?? Talk about a wild card...

And my out-of-“nowhere” choice Hannah Miller was tenth in ’13, ninth last year, and boasts a really strong season so far in this, her first full year at the senior level (gold and silver at two Challenger Series events). I say this is her year to make a move.

What do YOU say? (Leave a comment!)

Dance and Men’s predictions coming soon!

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