Friday, October 15, 2010

U.S. Senior Ladies, Class of 2011: Who to Watch

Yikes—we’re a week out from NHK! I’d better preview the U.S. ladies... pronto!

Here are the top 10 senior ladies from this year’s Nationals:
1) Rachael Flatt
2) Mirai Nagasu
3) Ashley Wagner
4) Sasha Cohen
5) Christina Gao
6) Amanda Dobbs
7) Bebe Liang
8) Alexe Gilles
9) Emily Hughes
10) Alissa Czisny

Flatt, Nagasu and Wagner are all scheduled 2 GP appearances each, as you might expect… Cohen is back out of the picture, also as you might expect… ditto for Liang. To look at Hughes’ bio at, it would appear she is still planning to compete this season, except that she’s not in any USFS team envelopes… and I’m not sure how many “byes” she gets, if any, towards 2011 Nationals (plus she’s trying to graduate from Harvard next spring, right?)… in other words, I’d love to see her back. But this time I’m going to focus on 5 ladies who haven’t quite made it “there” yet, let alone made it back… (alphabetical order, as I also did with the men)

Amanda Dobbs (age 17): When watching one of her clips at You Tube recently, I noticed someone posted a comment calling Dobbs “the American Laura Lepisto”—I assume it was in reference to Dobbs’ limited jump repertoire. But Lepisto is also 5 years older than Dobbs, and has competed at the senior level since ’07 (last season was Dobbs’ senior debut). In checking out Dobbs’ recent appearance at the Finlandia Trophy (where she finished 5th), it appears a triple lutz is still not part of her skating vocabulary—her toughest jump was a triple flip, which she fell on in the free skate. Maybe it’s because she’s also training as a pair skater… and maybe she’ll have to choose one discipline over the other soon in order to reach greater success. But she was a pleasure to watch in the second half of last season, and I hope she breaks into the top 5 come January. In the meantime, look for her to compete at Cup of China (#3 on the GP calendar this year).

Christina Gao (age 16):
Somewhere off in the shadows of the ugly Orser/Kim split from late this summer, young Ms. Gao was surely training as hard as she could—Orser is still her coach, after all, and she had a Junior GP series coming up all too quickly. From what I’ve seen thus far it’s paying off, with two silver medals earned in that JGP series and a spot earned in the Final. In observing her new programs I was also taken aback by how fluidly she’s moving such seemingly long limbs—I say “seemingly” because, at 5’2”, Gao is the most petite of the ladies on my list! Given her age, a growth spurt is still possible so we’ll have to see how she continues to evolve. For now, our next chance to watch her will be at the JGP Final in December.

Alexe Gilles (age 18): On the other end of the height spectrum we have Gilles, who is either 5’7” or 5’8” depending on the source. She’s been competing at the senior level a little longer than some on this list, but she’s a senior who is still waiting for her breakout performance—her best international finish thus far is a 5th at TEB (GP Paris) last fall. Her lack of speed (and loss of steam in free skates) has been her downfall in the past; but with all the tweeting she’s done of late about “bike sprints,” maybe her speed issues are in the past. Fingers are crossed for Gilles this season for sure—I think she needs to hit the National top 5 in the worst way. Her next scheduled event is Skate Canada (GP event #2).

Agnes Zawadzki (age 16): Young lady (the youngest of any on this list). Awesome name. Reigning National Junior champ, and then went on to grab silver at Junior Worlds. USFS has given her two GP assignments in her senior-level debut; the first one being Skate Canada in just a few weeks. There isn’t much buzz about her yet on You Tube, but a couple of good skates this fall could change all that. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating… keep an eye on her.

Caroline Zhang (age 17):
Maybe it seems unlikely I’d have her on this list—she’s already made it to the podium a number of times, and finished a dismal 11th at last Nationals—but she’s still SO young, and so many of us are hoping her coaching change this season will significantly affect her jumping technique. Last year was miserable, but she hasn’t given up yet. Perhaps we shouldn’t either. (USFS sure hasn't; her first of TWO GP events this season is NHK.)

I’m making Dobbs’ SP from Finlandia Trophy the
Clip of the Day … if you’re a fan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’ll enjoy this even more.

1 comment:

Jassen L. Bowman said...

I'd like to point out that Agnes beat Rachael by several points at the Colorado Springs Invitational last month. Granted, it's a pre-season non-qual with fresh programs....but still. :)