Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sochi Olympic Sojourns IX: Every-Four-Year-Fan's Update on The Ladies


Olympic Gold Medalist Kim Yu-Na (KOR) didn't compete in the 2010-11 season except worlds, where she won silver. After skipping the 2011-12 season altogether, her only major event the following season was 2013 Worlds... which she won. It’s worth noting that she has never finished lower than 3rd at the World Championship level.

Following the 2010 Worlds—in which she defeated Kim—Olympic Silver Medalist Mao Asada (JPN) went about re-learning the technique on all her jumps in an effort to be more consistent with them. Consequentially, 2010-11 and (some of) 2011-12 were rough competitive years, with Asada finishing 6th at Worlds both times. But by 2012-13 she—and her triple axel attempts—were back in business with a bronze medal at Worlds.

Olympic Bronze medalist Joannie Rochette (CAN), whose mother passed away during the Vancouver Games, effectively retired from amateur competition in 2010.

Meanwhile... Team Japan remained strong both in terms of veterans (Asada, 2012 World Bronze Medalist Akiko Suzuki, and 2011 World Champion Miki Ando) and new blood (19 year-old Kanako Murakami).

Team Russia had two ladies in Vancouver, neither of which has had a remarkable career since (though one, Alena Leonova, was World Silver Medalist in 2012). Instead, a bevy of "baby ballerinas" have replaced them at the top... most notably Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia, both of whom are in Sochi.

Team Canada has had a difficult time finding its next "Joannie", though Kaetlyn Osmond (2-time National Champ) has emerged over past couple of years as a force for the future.

Finally, Team Italy has Carolina Kostner, she of the up and down career that gave her a 16th place finish in Vancouver but also made her a World Champion in 2012.

What about Team USA? Aha, that’s the most mixed bag of all! 

2010 National Champ and Olympian Rachael Flatt had some success in 2010-11 season, but injuries and then a full courseload at Stanford led to her fade from the top. And 2010 Teammate Mirai Nagasu,  as you might have heard, was ALMOST here. But is not. (Scroll down to my January entries for more about all of that!)

2011 National Champ Alissa Czisny had her best season ever in 2010-11, winning her second national title, a Grand Prix Final title, and finishing 5th at Worlds (easily the highest placement of her career there). But 2011-12 was not as kind to her competitively, and recurring hip injuries/surgeries have kept her out of major competitions for the past 2 years.

After just missing the 2010 Olympic team, 2012 & 13 Nat champ Ashley Wagner. eventually did a major overhaul (moving west, picking up John Nicks as a coach). And it paid off when, by the end of 2013, she’d become the most decorated and consistent lady the U.S. had seen in several years: nine Grand Prix medals, two Grand Prix podium finishes, 4th and 5th place finishes at the last two World Championships, and a Four Continents title in 2012. This is why she was named to Team USA in Sochi, despite a fourth-place finish at last month’s Nationals.

As for reigning National Champ Gracie Gold—if you didn’t hear that name much until the past month or so, that’s because she hasn’t been around the senior ranks very long. Just two competitive seasons, to be exact. But with two GP medals and a U.S. title-in-an-Olympic-year to her name, her presence is already being felt.

Now that you’re all CAUGHT UP... ready to celebrate some new athletes?

My preview/predictions for the ladies will be up before the SP gets underway at 10AM Eastern time on Wednesday! Stay tuned...

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