The ladies event at Skate America is like hitting the figure skating jack pot as far as line-ups go. Outside of the World Championships in L.A. (and possibly the Grand Prix Final), this is probably the deepest ladies field we'll see all season at an event.
First, the favorite, Yu-Na Kim of Korea. She owns the Grand Prix! For the last two seasons she's been the "bully on the playground" when it comes to these events. She's won the last two Grand Prix Finals and from reports about her health and training appears poised to do it again this season. The very first question to ask is...can she even be stopped?
Second, the comeback, Kimmie Meissner. We are all holding our collective breath to see if she can bounce back from the meltdown that was last season. She says her training situation with Richard Callaghan and Todd Eldredge has helped restore her confidence and she has a renewed passion for skating (much like Lysacek!). We'll all be looking to see how the 2006 World Champ can do and if she is truly back on track...I'm still a bit of a skeptic...but I'd love to write the story..."Kimmie Shut Me Up with Great Skate!"
Third, the Japanese juggernaut, Ando and Nakano. Miki Ando knows a thing or two about winning, she's the 2007 World Champ. She had an up and down season last year that culminated in a dramatic withdrawal from World's 1/3 of the way through her free skate. Miki over the last two seasons has performed very well at Skate America, winning in 2006 and placing a close second last season. If she is over her injury, she'll be a factor. Also from Japan, Yukari Nakano will also look to take the top spot. Without much fanfare, Yukari quietly landed a triple axel in every international competition she entered last season (I know, I know...it was downgraded at both Skate Canada and Worlds but come on...it still was impressive!). I also have to admit in my estimation she was completely robbed at World's last season where she turned in, what many thought, was the performance of the night only to loose ground to, among others, Carolina Kostner who was terrible. I can't imagine the wrap she has some of her jumps hurts her that much, but that's my opinion. If she's on, she'll be right in the mix.
Fourth, the young ones, American's Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt. Both made a splash last season, Nagasu by taking the U.S. National crown, and Flatt by breezing to a sophisticated win at the Junior World Championships. Also note that Flatt was the silver medalist at U.S. Nationals and Nagasu was the bronze medalist at Junior Worlds. These two are primed to make their Senior debuts and they come loaded with the goods to make it golden. Both are armed with consistent triple/triples and are seen by many, to be the go-to girls for U.S. Skating. If both of these women can pull off what they did in St. Paul, Skate America may end up being the best competition of the season!
Even past these ladies there are others that have been known to compete well in the past. Keep an eye on Valentina Marchei of Italy, Mira Leung of Canada, and Susanna Pöykiö of Finland.
My Medal Call:
GOLD - Kim
SILVER - Ando
BRONZE - Flatt
According to my poll...
GOLD - Kim
SILVER - Meissner
BRONZE - Nagasu
Disclaimer...This was a tough one for me to predict because my heart is telling me differently then my head...just so you know...I went with my head!