Thursday, January 21, 2010

U.S. Nationals Preview (Ladies)

Finally, we have reached the ladies competition at Nationals. Seems like it took forever to get here. More than any other discipline, this one is completely up for grabs with lots of ladies with a shot at taking it (or second place which secures the other Olympic Berth).

Rachael Flatt - She's winning my poll on who people think will win the title. She's been the runner up for two straight years now and looks poised to finally take the crown. Her big moment this season so far was at Cancer.Net Skate America where she upset Kim Yu-Na in the free skate. Kim went on to take the title but Rachael proved she could be a heavy hitter. She has a crowd pleasing short program that could vault her ahead of the competition. A betting person would put their money on her...will they cash in?

Alissa Czisny - The defending champion has had an up and down season to this point. She did nab the silver medal at HomeSense Skate Canada but it wasn't off a great performance. Alissa is one of the most gifted skaters as far as artistry is concerned in the competition. Holding her back is those nerves; something she and her mentor, Brian Boitano, have been working on. If she can keep the nerves under check, land her jumps, and most importantly rotate her jumps, she'll have a great chance of making the Olympic Team.

Mirai Nagasu - She arrived in Spokane in good spirits. The 2008 Champ has looked far more confident this season but she is still getting those pesky jump downgrades from under-rotating her jumps. The only thing between her and an Olympic berth is a quarter turn cheat. She admitted during a USOC Presser in Chicago earlier in the season that she was a bit 'intimidated' by the presence of Sasha Cohen in the event. She'll need to get over the 'fear factor' and trust her training has prepared her for this moment.

Caroline Zhang - She's had a rough season to this point. She was late settling on a coach going from Li Mingzhu to Charlene Wong...then back to Li. After a so-so start in Paris she landed a devastating 8th place at HomeSense Skate Canada after numerous mistakes and jump downgrades. Along, with jump downgrades, Caroline is often slow and also receives edge calls on lots of her jumps. Her coach, Li, has also stated that she enters this championship with a back injury that will require constant therapy...further setbacks indeed. She'll need to do several things to be competitive for an Olympic berth in jumps, skate faster, and find a way to connect with the audience. When Caroline is on she has a natural way of relating to the crowd but if she's off, it just doesn't work.

Sasha Cohen - A good portion of the skating world (myself included) doubted she would even make it to this event. After withdrawals from Trophee Eric Bompard and Cancer.Net Skate America and continued talk of injury and unsuccessful triples...the writing 'seemed' to be on the wall. But her coach John Nicks said she has worked harder in the several weeks leading up to this event than she has ever worked in her life. We all took a deep breath when she actually arrived in Spokane and then our jaw dropped when in her first practice session she looked amazing! Now translating a solid practice to a solid competition is another issue. Artistically she can't be touched. People keep talking about her inexperience with the IJS but in fact she is one of the most experienced skaters, posting some of the systems top scores after its inception (her 2003 Skate Canada score is still #6 on the top score list). I had a sneaky suspicion that if she showed up in Spokane she'd be up to the challenge. Olympics bound for the third time?

Emily Hughes - Finally making it back to Nationals after a two year hiatus, she's kind of the wildcard in the bunch. Spokane ice has been good to her, the last time she was at Nationals was here (2007) and she was the silver medalist. A silver medal here would send her back to the Olympics again. At Cancer.Net Skate America she looked a tad rusty but was giving it good attack. If she worked out the rust and is rotating her jumps fully (that is what did her in at Skate America) and can bring that spark that comes natural to her (all Hughes'?), I suspect she'll be in the hunt for a medal and perhaps a trip to the Olympics.

Ashley Wagner - Ashley was the lone American woman to make the Grand Prix Final where she placed a respectable 4th. She's looked solid in practice leading up to the event and has seemed very focused. She's stated that rather than attempting lots of tricky triples, she's just trying to do what she can do well and earn positive GOE's. Third in 2008, fourth in 2009, is 2010 her year? In my poll she is in second place for those predicting who will win this competition. She's been the U.S. leading lady so far this season...does it continue with a trip to Vancouver?


Anonymous said...

my dream podium?
Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver: Alissa Czisny
Bronze: Rachel Flatt

Second and Third place are a tough choice for me because I also like Emily Hughes!

Xan said...

Such a deep and excellent field. USFS really blew it holding up the babies two and three years ago, thus sending inexperienced or lower ranked skaters to worlds and losing us our 3rd berth. Gonna take some strategic world assignments this year to get that 3rd spot back.

Anonymous said...

Two years ago USFS was forced to send the lower ranked skaters to the World Championships because several of the top finishers were too young to skate. (I think that's Xan meant by holding up the babies, right?)

Queen of the Road said...

Love the Dream Team, idea. Mine would be:

Gold: Sasha
Silver: Alissa
Bronze: Caroline

I'm a sucker for artistry.

Anonymous said...

Let's see who has the best possibility to get onto the podium at the Olympics: Squasha and Alissa. But of course these two are some of the biggest headcase in US ladies figure skating ever. If both perform to their potential (ie. don't fall on jumps), I can see one of them getting at least a bronze. But again, it's a big if.

The most deserving are probably Wagner and Flatt. But both lacks sparkle and maturity. If we send them to the Olympics, we are pretty much guarantee no medals. But those two are consistent (when compare to the current US ladies) so they are good for the Worlds.

If I were a betting man, this is how I would play my cards: Squasha and Alissa to the Olympics and Wagner and Flatt to the Worlds.

Anonymous said...

Mirai surprised me. Good for her. Hopefully she can keep it up. Squasha is still the best bet for US to snag a medal at the Olympics. Not a clean program (again) but hey, having not competing for four years and this is her first time out, it's a fantastic effort! Flatt got the short end of the stick being out so early on. But all three scores are close so it's really a toss up who ended up in top 2. Wagner's score got held up pretty good even with a pretty big mistake..... She actually has a chance to be in the top two if not win (a bit unfair but hey, that's the way it is)...!

Stella said...

really? 'Squasha'? What does that even mean? Worse than 'Plushy' even.