Grand Prix Final–Ladies Preview

This is another event featuring veterans like Ando, who is attending her 6th Final and newcomers like Murakami in her first senior season.

Miki Ando has the highest scores of the season and more impressively skated a clean free at Rostelecom Cup with a back injury.  She has come from behind to win twice and nails all of her jumps in her free.  If she can improve her short program scores, she could guarantee herself this gold medal.  Alissa Czisny has a personal best free skate and total score at Skate Canada to win the gold medal.  She changed coaches in the offseason and it looked like the new coaching was having an effect.  She has gorgeous lines, spins and footwork sequences but jumps have always been her downfall.  She had a bad free program at Trophee Eric Bompard but was able to hang on for the bronze medal.  She has one of the best and one of the worst scores this season out of this group and she can go either way depending on how her jumps are that day.

Kostner is also battling injuries this season and has taken most of the difficulty out of her jumps.  Skating clean won her the gold medal at NHK, but she fell to bronze at Skate America and scored 10 points less.  Without the technical difficulty, I don’t think she can keep up with this field.  Murakami is in the Final in her first season on the senior circuit.  She scored nearly 15 points higher at her second event than her first.  Her short program is a delight to watch and she is working on consistency in her free skate.  Her program components are still at the bottom of the bunch but that is not unusual for a younger skater and she is one of the few ladies who attempts a triple-triple combination.

Suzuki had a solid Grand Prix season and really closed in on Ando in her second event.  She took the lead after the short both times this season but was unable to avoid errors in her free skate which cost her the gold.  If she can take out some of these small errors, she could top the podium here.  Her program components are slightly lower than some of the other skaters, but she has made a real improvement this season, and I expect this number to rise.  Flatt, who is normally the picture of consistency, has had problems with some of her jumps this season.  She has won the free skate at both her events, but had to settle for silver both times.  She was plagued with leg pain at Skate America and had to forego her planned triple-triple.  If she has been able to solve her pain issue and can put the technical difficulty back in her programs, she is a podium threat.  She has often been criticized for her artistry, but has made an attempt this season to improve her flexibility and performance and has been rewarded with higher program components.

My predictions in order of finish:
Gold: Ando
Silver: Suzuki
Bronze: Flatt
4th: Murakami
5th: Czisny
6th: Kostner

My USFSA Fantasy Team is:
A) Miki Ando
B) Kanako Murakami

Information on the competitors in order of qualification:

Miki Ando, JPN: Ando placed 5th at the Olympics and 4th at the World Championships.  She is the 2004 World Junior Champion and 2007 World Champion.  She is the only lady to ever land a quadruple jump in competition.  She won gold at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup.  She took home silver from the GPF last season.  This is her 6th consecutive trip to the Final.

Alissa Czisny, USA: Czisny won Skate Canada with personal best free and total scores and took home bronze from Trophee Eric Bompard.  This is her 2nd trip to the Final.

Carolina Kostner, ITA: She finished 16th at the Olympics, 6th at Worlds and is the reigning European champion.  She has one silver and one bronze medal at worlds and 2 additional gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal at Europeans.  She won gold at NHK Trophy and bronze at Skate America.  This is her 3rd trip to the Final.

Kanako Murakami, JPN: Murakami is the reigning World Junior Champion.  She won bronze at NHK Trophy with personal best scores across the board and gold at Skate America with a personal best free skate and total score in her first season on the Grand Prix.  She won the JGPF last season. 

Akiko Suzuki, JPN: Suzuki placed 8th at the Olympics Games with personal best short and free program scores.  She also placed 11th at the World Championships and 2nd at Four Continents.  She won silver at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup.  She took home bronze from the GPF last season.  This is her 2nd trip to the Final.

Rachael Flatt, USA: Flatt placed 7th at the Olympics with personal best scores across the board and 9th at Worlds.  She is the 2008 World Junior Champion.  She won silver at NHK Trophy and Skate America.