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What to Expect in the Ladies Free Skate Tonight

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Well, the first thing I expect is either Yu-na Kim or Mao Asada (but really, Kim) to win the gold medal.  But here are some thoughts on what we'll see from the top six (and I'm listing them in the order that they'll skate tonight).

Rachael Flatt (USA, 64.64, Music:  Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff):  I admit, I am a girl who is distracted by shiny things.  And Flatt's short program is a snazzy, shiny thing.  Unfortunately, her flaws are a lot more pronounced in her free skate, where there is less distraction with snappy footwork and cute faces and such.  Flatt does not have great body positions or speed or even posture, which is evident in this program.  It's also just not a particularly interesting program.  The most memorable part is her jumps.  Landing jumps can make everything look great!  So, Flatt really needs to do that tonight in order to have any chance at a medal.  I have a feeling she will, although I think she might have some sloppy landings like she did on Tuesday night.  I think that, barring a disastrous performance by Rochette or Ando, Flatt will end up in fifth or sixth place.

Miki Ando (Japan, 64.76, Rome, Marco Polo, Mission Cleopatra):  The judges here are going to be fairly generous to Ando on the program components score, but she is so far out of the bronze medal position that it's definitely Rochette's to lose.  And Rochette has a better program.  So, Ando has to look toward the jumps, which is what she's done her whole career.  Ando is going to have to land a triple/triple tonight.  She was unable to do it on Tuesday, and she didn't do it in the Grand Prix Final free skate back in December.  But I think we'll at least see her attempt one tonight.  It's definitely possible for Ando to score pretty high here, as she has a lot of jumps in the back end of the program. 

Yu-na Kim (South Korea, 78.50, Piano Concerto in F by Gershwin):  I actually preferred Kim's free skate to her short program when I first saw the two.  It's a bit "Virtue and Moir to Mahler versus Davis and White to Phantom."  I am the biggest nerd in the world.  I think this music is a great showcase for all the beauty of Kim's skating, but the program may not be as memorable as some past performances (including her short).  I think Kim will win this.  She is the superior artist (she truly feels the music and connects with it and the audience).  She has great technique and she'll be doing a triple/triple at the start of her program. My true hope is that Kim does the program completely clean, because she hasn't really done that this season.  I would love to see her skate it up to her full potential at the Olympics, because she is amazing.  And hopefully she has tamed the triple flip into submission.

Mao Asada (Japan, 73.78, Bells of Moscow):  Omg, who did these draws?  Such drama!  Anyway, Asada is planning two triple axels tonight, and with the way she looked on Tuesday, I have a feeling she could land them, making her the first woman to land two triple axels in an Olympic free skate.  Even with two triple axels and a clean program, Asada will need Kim to err in order to beat her.  And if one of the axels fails, expect the life to be sucked out of the program.  The other issue Asada is dealing with is that the music is so plodding and depressing.  And she's not quite as good at connecting with it as other skaters would be.  But Asada is a beautiful skater with some great jumps, spins, and other elements.  I'm hoping she skates clean here to give us another great show like she did the other night.

Joannie Rochette (Canada, 71.36, Samson and Delilah):  Talk about a tough act to follow.  But you may very well be seeing gold, silver, bronze in a row right here.  However, if Asada or Kim has troubles, Rochette all of a sudden becomes a silver medal contender, so that could be a big deal.  Or even gold.  I don't think this it the greatest program we've ever seen, but it's a good program as far as the judging system goes.  She skated it clean at Canadian nationals and hopefully she can do the same here.  No one knows how Rochette is going to be emotionally and just getting out on that ice will likely be nearly as difficult as it was on Tuesday.  But once again, I think we'll all be pulling for her to get her through the program. She's already done things here that are more important than medals (now I sound like an NBC commentator). 

Mirai Nagasu (USA, 63.76, Carmen):  I don't know why the judges here are not that impressed with Nagasu's program components, because I love her programs.  But, what can you do?  All she can do is skate and win the crowd over like she did at nationals.  She is not exactly a sexy Carmen, but she's a cute, flirty one, and she works it.  I don't know if Nagasu can make the leap to bronze, but my hopes for her are that she can avoid jump downgrades (as well as the edge problem that plagued her short program!).  I think it will be a personal victory for her to get through the program with no downgrades.  She has speed, grace, beautiful positions and great spins.  I see Nagasu being a force in the coming years if she can regulate the technical stuff.  This can just be her coming out party.