I feel like Carolina Kostner is the pink elephant in the middle of the NHK room. Figuratively not literally of course.
She's a veteran of the sport, she's a two-time World Medalist, three-time European Champion, and has a sprinkling of medals from various Grand Prix events (including Grand Prix Finals), and yet no one is talking about her winning this weekends NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan.
The last two seasons have been rough for Carolina. After taking the Silver Medal at the 2008 World Championships betwixt Mao Asada and Kim Yu-Na, she had a disastrous 09-9 season that culminated in a 12th place finish at Worlds where she skated a free skate where she failed to land a single clean triple. At that point she left coach Michael Huth, moved to L.A., and began working with Christa Fassi and Frank Carroll.
Despite the coaching change, her rocky road continued. Two six place finishes in her Grand Prix events left her out of the Grand Prix Final and then she lost the Italian Championships to Valentina Marchei, and with only one Italian berth at the Olympics in Vancouver (due in large part to her poor performance in L.A.), she was in Jeopardy of not even making it to the Olympics.
The skating stars aligned somewhat for Carolina and after one of the weakest set of skates from the top ladies at the 2010 European Championships, Carolina managed to take the European title and earn a trip to Vancouver. But disaster struck again and Carolina Kostner finished an unimaginable 16th in Vancouver. She saved face a bit by placing 6th at the World Championships at home in Torino, but the damage was done.
So, Carolina enters NHK with, I think, no one expecting much from her. Fans, judges, media. She is far more decorated than many of the girls getting better press than her: Ashley Wagner, Rachael Flatt, and Kanako Murakami to name a few. She quietly left Frank Carroll this spring and returned to Micahel Huth, perhaps looking for familiarity.
I think Carolina must land on the podium at this competition or she might as well hang up the skates. It's do or die for her career.