Skate America Ladies Preview

Ashley Wagner went from ‘almost girl’ last season to a top contender with gold medal finishes at U.S. Nationals and Four Continents.  She just missed the podium at Worlds but is ready to show that last season was not a fluke.  Her scores at Four Continents were the highest recorded last season and if she hits all of her jumps she will be tough to beat.  Her recent victory at the Japan Open over both the reigning World silver and bronze medalists shows she’s on the right track and ready for the season.  

Alena Leonova won her first World medal last season.  While she lacks the grace and finesse of Ashley Wagner she makes up for it on the strength of her jumps including consistent triple+triple combinations.  Among a tough field of Russian wonderbabies, Leonova has been able to hold her place and show she’s still at the top.  Her biggest problem is her lack of consistency and she can end up anywhere in the standings depending on her jumps that day.  Wagner soundly defeated her by nearly 16 points at the Japan Open so Leonova will have some ground to cover to win the gold.

Leonova will be fighting off one of her young compatriots, Adelina Sotnikova.  Sotnikova took home two medals from the Grand Prix last season but lost ground to Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Julia Lipnitskaia and fell to 3rd at Junior Worlds.  This is her first year of Senior Worlds eligibility and she’ll need good showings if she wants to snag one of the spots on the Russian team.  Sotnikova was expected to easily walk away with a victory at Nebelhorn Trophy but was upstaged by Kaetlyn Osmond and had to settle for silver.

Also in the mix are Haruka Imai, Valentina Marchei and Viktoria Helgesson.  Imai’s best finish came at Skate America last season where she finished 4th.  At Nebelhorn Trophy, Imai came back from a 9th place finish in the short program to win the bronze medal behind Adelina Sotnikova.  Marchei showed improvement throughout the season and landed in 8th place at Worlds.  Viktoria Helgesson is the reigning bronze medalist at this event but finished a disappointing 6th at Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this season.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver: Alena Leonova
Bronze: Adelina Sotnikova

Bios of the competitors:
Mae Berenice Meite, FRA: She placed 13th at Europeans.  She finished 7th at NHK Trophy and 6th at Trophee Eric Bompard last season.  Her personal best is 150.44.  She is 18 years old.

Sarah Hecken, GER:: She finished 20th at Worlds.  She placed 8th at Skate Canada last season.  Her personal best is 155.83.  She is 19 years old.

Valentina Marchei, ITA: She finished 8th at Worlds and Europeans.  She placed 9th at Skate America and Cup of China.  Her personal best is 153.71.  She is 25 years old.

Haruka Imai, JPN: She finished 9th at Four Continents.  She placed 4th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup last season.  Her personal best is 155.29.  She is 19 years old.

Alena Leonova, RUS: She is the reigning World Silver Medalist and placed 7th at Europeans.  She placed 4th at Skate Canada, won bronze at NHK Trophy and silver at Rostelecom Cup last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she won bronze.  She is the 2009 Junior World Champion.  Her personal best is 184.28.  She is 21 years old.

Adelina Sotnikova, RUS: She is the reigning Junior World Bronze Medalist.  She won bronze at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup last season.  She is the 2011 Junior World Champion.  Her personal best is 178.87.  She is 16 years old.

Viktoria Helgesson, SWE: She finished 11th at Worlds and 5th at Europeans.  She won bronze at Skate America and placed 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard last season.  Her personal best is 161.79.  She is 24 years old.

Rachael Flatt: She She placed 10th at Skate Canada and 9th at Rostelecom Cup last season.  She is the 2008 World Junior Champion.  Her personal best is 182.49.  She is 20 years old.

Christina Gao, USA: She placed 7th at Junior Worlds.  She placed 5th at Cup of China and 10th at Rostelecom Cup last season.  Her personal best is 167.14.  She is 18 years old.

Ashley Wagner, USA: She finished 4th at Worlds and is the reigning Four Continents Champion.  She won bronze at Skate Canada and finished 4th at NHK Trophy last season.  She is the 2007 and 2009 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  Her personal best is 192.41.  She is 21 years old.