Ummm...that was a LOT of skating the past two weeks with only more to come in the coming weeks. I feel that the past two weeks have taught us a lot about where things are headed. Here are some reflective thoughts I had about how I see things moving forward:
The Olympics are Evgeny Plushenko's to win or lose. Believe me, it pains me to say that. Some out there will probably disagree but I think it's just how it is and I think we should get used to it. Aside from the fact that despite being off for a few years he's technically solid as a rock, the judges (and lots of fans for that fact) simply love him. Also, he has an overwhelming amount of self confidence (bordering on near arrogance) in the belief that he IS the best. I'm a big believer in self-prophecy...you become what you believe and for Plushenko it's complete commitment to the belief that he will win Gold in Vancouver.
On the flip side, I think many will give Plushenko a run for his money and if he should stumble...well there are plenty of under-studies to step in as the leading man! Despite some minor issues in Spokane, I think Evan Lysacek is right on track to be a serious medal threat. If he can work out the kinks in his technically revised free skate he'll be formidable. Lambiel looked strong as well at Europeans actually defeating Plushenko in the component scores and could be a threat. Jeremy Abbott emerged as a serious (serious!) threat to anyone in Spokane with two amazing performances and a free skate including a quad. Takahashi and Oda are also lurking out there as potential spoilers. Also, if Joubert gets mad enough about his beat down in Tallinn he could kick it into high gear as well!
Ice Dance will be a ridiculously close fight in Vancouver. It was close between Davis and White and Belbin and Agosto and that was just U.S. Nationals. Add in Virtue and Moir from Canada, Domnina and Shabalin (controversial OD and all!) from Russia, a surging Faiella and Scali from Italy, and wildcards Delobel and Schoenfelder from France and you have yourself a fantastic competition! I can't tell you how this will all play out in the end but I'm certain those are the six teams to watch in Vancouver.
In pairs, expect the unexpected. McLaughlin and Brubaker's struggles coupled with Evora and Ladwig's triumph only proved the point that nothing is ever a done deal and anything can truly happen. Kavaguti and Smirnov also sent a clear message not only to Savchenko and Szolkowy but to Shen and Zhao...they are as much a contender as they are. Kavaguti and Smirnov were desperately close to catching Shen and Zhao's record total at Europeans and that was with a bobble on Yuko's triple toe in the free...imagine a clean skate. Denney and Barrett's ridiculous consistency as well as pure inspiration at the mere chance to be Olympians may find them skating amongst the best.
Team Canada will be under the pressure cooker! Virtue and Moir, Dube and Davison, and Joannie Rochette had big performances at Canadian Nationals...BIG! Canada...you know...90% of the eyes that will be on them in that arena...will be expecting them to repeat those performances and rake in the precious medal hardware. For Patrick Chan, they'll be expecting him to improve upon his performances as of late and live up to his potential. I think having the opprotunity to skate in the Olympics at home must either inspire or weigh one down from the pressure and expectation. I would expect most would be envious of them while at the same time glad they aren't dealing with the same level of pressure.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...don't count out Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu. Their heads are perfectly together and they don't have near the pressure or level of expectations that Kim Yu-Na, Mao Asada, Joannie Rochette, or Miki Ando (possibly Suzuki). And realistically, past those four or five, who else is making a serious podium threat and/or skating as well as Flatt and Nagasu. The European Championships showed that the top European Ladies are nowhere close to being able to compete at that level. The USOC has adopted as their motto: Amazing Awaits. I think it may indeed!