Four Continents Ladies Preview

After a rough season last year in which she relearned her jump technique, Mao Asada is on the comeback trail and has shown she can be competitive without the triple axel that has become her trademark.  She took home the silver medal at home at the NHK Trophy and improved to a gold medal at Rostelecom Cup.  She had to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final after her mother took ill and passed away but she was back on competitive ice soon after, reclaiming her national title.  This will be her first major competition back and she’ll want to set herself up for a return to the World podium.  She has the 3rd best short program, best free skate and 3rd best total score of the season.

Ashley Wagner has made it clear that this is her year and has backed up her words with her first national title.  She is one of the only U.S. ladies with a 7 triple free skate planned and her training and confidence has shown through, especially in her Black Swan free skate.  If she avoid mistakes in her short program, she puts herself in a great position to do well in the free skate and land on the medal stand.  She has the 10th best free skate score of the season.

Kanako Murakami made a big splash last season, winning the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final in her senior debut season.  While her programs this season show maturity and an improved artistry, her jumps have been noticeably less consistent.  Her best finish on the Grand Prix this year was 4th.   

Kexin Zhang was one of the big surprises on the Grand Prix this season, showcasing a slew of triple jumps and missing the podium at Cup of China by just 6 points (behind Russian phenom Adelina Sotnikova).  She doesn’t have the artistry and performance skills of the top skaters but can really capitalize if they make mistakes on their jumps.

Haruka Imai is a young Japanese talent that is training in the U.S. under the same coaches as Adam Rippon, Alissa Czisny and Jeremy Abbott.  Her best finish on the Grand Prix was 4th and while she has lovely elements, choreography and spins, she doesn’t seem to have the confidence just yet to go out and attack all the jumps in her programs.

Amelie Lacoste is coming to this event with her first Canadian national title under her belt.  She’ll have something to prove here as Skate Canada has not assigned the ladies event at Worlds and will await the outcome of this event to determine who will get the lone Canadian entry. 

Agnes Zawadzki struggled with her jumps throughout the Grand Prix but put out a stellar short progam at U.S. Nationals and followed it up with a solid free skate to claim her first bronze medal.  She’s shown that she has all the talent including good artistry and triple + triple combinations to compete with the best and was noticeably disappointed after her third place finish at nationals which should give her some extra fire to compete here.  She also had the pressure of skating last as the leader at U.S. nationals which gave her valuable experience competing under pressure.  One of her biggest advantages here is that she trains in Colorado Springs, so she’ll be used to the difficult of competing at altitude.

Caroline Zhang is also making a comeback after spending three years reworking all of her jump technique and reclaiming a spot on the U.S. National program.  She has a triple loop + triple loop combination in her short program that gives her a technical edge and her spins including her signature pearl are among the top in the world.  If she can put out another performance like nationals, she’ll be in the running for a medal.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Mao Asada
Silver: Ashley Wagner
Bronze: Kanako Murakami

Bios of the competitors:
Chantelle Kerry, AUS: She placed 13th at JGP Australia and 24th at JGP Estonia.  Her personal best is 103.05.  She is 15 years old.

Jaimee Nobbs, AUS:  She placed 20th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 20th at JGP Australia.  Her personal best is 90.83.  She is 16 years old.

Zara Pasfield, AUS:  She placed 29th at JGP Austria.  Her personal best is 74.10.  She is 16 years old.

Amelie Lacoste, CAN: She placed 9th at Four Continents last season.  She finished 16th at Worlds.  She placed 6th at Skate Canada and 8th at Rostelecom Cup.  Her personal best is 157.26.  She is 23 years old.

Alexandra Najarro, CAN: She finished 25th at Junior Worlds.  She placed 11th at JGP Australia.  Her personal best is 136.41.  She is 18 years old.

Cynthia Phaneuf, CAN: She finished 6th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 13th at Worlds.  She finished 7th at Skate Canada and 9th at NHK Trophy.  Her personal best is 177.54.  She is 24 years old.

Bingwa Geng, CHN: She finished 13th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 18th at Worlds.  She placed 8th at Cup of China.  Her personal best is 142.48.  She is 18 years old.

Kexin Zhang, CHN: She placed 4th at Cup of China.  Her personal best is 153.32.  She is 16 years old.

Qiuying Zhu, CHN: She finished 14th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 10th at Cup of China.  Her personal best is 108.57.  She is 17 years old.

Crystal Kiang, TPE: She finished 21st at Four Continents last season.  Her personal best is 96.16.  She is 21 years old.

Chaochih Liu, TPE: She finished 24th at Four Continents last season.  Her personal best is 112.49.  She is 18 years old.

Melinda Wang, TPE: She placed 18th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 20th in the preliminary round at Worlds.  Her personal best is 100.23.  She is 21 years old.

Mao Asada, JPN: She is the reigning Four Continents Silver Medalist.  She placed 6th at Worlds.  She won silver at NHK Trophy and gold at Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.  She is the 2010 Olympic Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2010 World Champion, 2007 World Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2010 Four Continents Champion, 2009 Four Continents Bronze Medalist, 2005 World Junior Champion and 2006 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 205.50.  She is 21 years old.

Haruka Imai, JPN: She placed 4th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup.  Her personal best is 155.29.  She is 18 years old.

Kanako Murakami, JPN: She placed 8th at Worlds.  She finished 6th at Cup of China and 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  She is the 2010 World Junior Champion.  Her personal best is 178.59.  She is 17 years old.

Reyna Hamui, MEX: She placed 28th at Four Continents last season.  She finished 24th in the preliminary round at Junior Worlds.  She placed 16th at JGP Australia.  Her personal best is 92.03.  She is 18 years old.

Zhaira Costiniano, PHI: She placed 18th in the preliminary round at Junior Worlds.  Her personal best is 96.61.  She is 16 years old.

Mericien Venzon, PHI: She placed 22nd at Four Continents last season.  She placed 17th in the preliminary round at Worlds.  Her personal best is 84.17.  She is 20 years old.

Victoria Muniz, PUR: She placed 17th at Four Continents last season.  Her personal best is 99.40.  She is 23 years old.

Min-Jeong Kwak, KOR: She finished 8th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 15th in the preliminary round at Worlds.  Her personal best is 155.53.  She is 18 years old.

Chae-Yeon Shur, KOR:

Yea-Ji Yun, KOR: She placed 12th at Four Continents last season.  Her personal best is 111.86.  She is 17 years old.

Brittany Lau, SIN: She placed 26th at Four Continents last season.  She finished 29th in the preliminary round at Junior Worlds.  She placed 21st at JGP Poland.  Her personal best is 87.10.  She is 17 years old.

Lejeanne Marais, RSA: She placed 15th at Four Continents last season.  She finished 18th in the preliminary round at Worlds.  Her personal best is 103.03.  She is 22 years old.

Mimi Tanasorn Chindasook, THA: She finished 19th at Four Continents last season.  She placed 22nd in the preliminary round at Junior Worlds.  She finished 19th at JGP Italy.  Her personal best is 91.54.  She is 17 years old.

Sandra Kophon, THA: She placed 14th at JGP Australia.  Her personal best is 96.66.  She is 18 years old.

Melanie Swang, THA: She placed 23rd at Four Continents last season.  She finished 15th at JGP Romania.  Her personal best is 97.53.  She is 17 years old.

Ashley Wagner, USA: She won bronze at Skate Canada and finished 4th at NHK Trophy.  She is the 2007 and 2009 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 167.02.  She is 20 years old.

Agnes Zawadzki, USA: She is the reigning World Junior Bronze Medalist.  She finished 8th at NHK Trophy and 7th at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2010 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 161.07.  She is 17 years old.

Caroline Zhang, USA: She finished 6th at Skate America.  She is the 2010 Four Continents Bronze Medalist, 2007 World Junior Champion and 2008 and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalist.  Her personal best is 176.48.  She is 18 years old.