Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sochi Olympic Sojourns X: Ladies Preview/Predictions


There are 30 ladies from (I think) 20 nations scheduled to take the ice in Sochi for the short program. The top 24 will advance to the free skate on Thursday.

The Favorites: Before the Games got underway, reigning Olympic and World Champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea was probably the odds-on favorite to retain her OGM status. That was before Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia (who I endearingly refer to as Gumbyskaia due to her jaw-dropping flexibility) was revealed to the rest of the world via the Team Event. Now, I’m guessing these two are considered co-faves for gold by many.

The Top Challengers: Japan’s Mao Asada, who won silver here in 2010, is a highly competitive force—especially if she nails one or both triple axels she has planned in her programs. But if/when she makes mistakes, teammate Akiko Suzuki has the goods to outskate her (as she did at Japanese Nationals this season). Italy’s Carolina Kostner is the tallest of the ladies, the fastest, typically garners huge component scores, and won Worlds in 2012—she should not be overlooked. Also very much in the mix is Adelina Sotnikova of Russia; kind of off-the-radar since Gumbyskaia hit it big in Sochi, but it’s worth noting that Sotnikova has narrowly defeated her teammate a time or two this season.

(What about) The USA (?): Yes, we have a shot at the podium—but I don’t think it’s as solid a shot as NBC would like us to believe. Scott Hamilton hinted at this last night when they briefly discussed the Ladies event in prime time, indicating that while reigning US Champ Gracie Gold may indeed have “the goods” and may indeed deliver them, her relative inexperience and youth may translate into back-of-the-pack placement among four or five ladies competing with the same degree of technical difficulty. (NOTE: this argument doesn’t really apply to even-younger Gumbyskaia because many believe she already skates with the maturity of a twenty-something. This is part of what makes her an OGM favorite.) As for Ashley Wagner, she’s at a slight disadvantage on the technical side of things because her most difficult jump is a triple flip/triple toe—it gets a lower base score than the triple lutz/triple toe of others because it’s considered a little easier. But if she can avoid the slight two-footing and underrotations that prompted her infamous “disappointed” face during the Team Event, she should be in very good shape.

Polina Edmunds! What about her, you ask? I honestly do not know because she has never been in an international senior-level competition, let alone one as monumental as this. Yes, she too possesses magical triple-triple combos... but assuming she can pull them off here... will she come off as too “juniorish” to compete among the Suzukis and Kostners and Kims and fellow 15 year-old Gumbyskaia?

My Predictions for medals:
SILVER—Julia Lipnitskaia, RUS

Because... in a battle between Kim and Lipnitskaia (which has not yet happened anywhere; the latter was not part of last year’s Worlds and Kim was out the early part of this season with a foot injury), I simply think Kim is still going to emerge the winner.

What if Asada lands her triple axels cleanly, and has the skate(s) of her life? I will be SOOOOO happy for her because I personally get the feeling that Asada has worked the longest and hardest for this. There, I said it.

Bonus predictions! Other names to look for finishing in the Top Ten (in alphabetical order):
Gracie Gold, USA... Carolina Kostner, ITA... Kanako Murakami, JPN... Kaetlyn Osmond, CAN... Adelina Sotnikova, RUS... Akiko Suzuki, JPN... Ashley Wagner, USA.

Remember, the Ladies SP starts today, 2/18, at 10AM on NBC SN (Sports Network), with highlights coming in prime time Wednesday night! (And the FS is Thursday 2/19!)

I will be live-tweeting as much as I can... follow me on Twitter @KLBSt8ofSk8.

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