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World Championships Preview: Ladies

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For some people, the Yu-na Kim excitement is unbearable, in a good way.  For others, the Yu-na Kim excitement is unbearable in a bad way.  For me, I am just hoping that the season ends better than it began.  Although I am definitely very excited to see Kim.

The Contenders

Miki Ando (Japan):  Ando has had the most successful season of the ladies skaters, and yet she is still not truly in the media conversation with Mao Asada and Yu-na Kim.  I suppose that's because Asada's artistry is stronger and with her triple axels, she puts up a better fight against Kim.  Ando needs to pull out whatever emotion she can scrounge up to really try to draw the judges in.  I have no doubt she can go out there and skate a challenging program cleanly.  But I have seen too many instances of a clean Ando fading into the background.  Ando will have to fight for it and maybe hope for some mistakes from Kim and Asada.

Mao Asada (Japan):  Asada has been getting better and better this season.  She really needs to build to a technical and emotional peak in this competition.  Asada has made some changes in her technique throughout the season but she really needs to be meticulous here.  With Kim in the competition, every flutz and underrotated triple axel can mean the difference between gold and silver and bronze.  Asada starts out with a slight program components disadvantage and a larger grade of execution disadvantage versus Kim, so she needs to make up for that. 

Yu-na Kim (South Korea):  Kim is back!  She is competing for the first time since a subpar outing at last year's worlds (in which she still won the silver).  Kim will be debuting her programs here (one, a tribute to Korea, the other, set to the ballet Giselle), and count me among those who can't wait to see what she's got and how she's changed since her overwhelming Olympic victory last season.  We can expect her to have her triple/triples which will be a technical edge, not to mention her very high grade of execution and program components scores.  The drawback to Kim is that she very rarely skates completely clean, but unless someone like Mao Asada  or Miki Ando can put all of the pieces together and then some, Kim won't have to skate completely clean in order to win.

The Dark Horses

Alissa Czisny (USA):  Czisny's Grand Prix Final victory was luminous and heartwarming.  Czisny is a gorgeous skater.  Her less-difficult technical elements than Asada and Kim and her somewhat low program components (compared with some of the other top skaters) will work against her here.  But if Czisny can skate well, she may be able to mesmerize the judges into putting her on the podium and giving the United States its first world's medal in years.

Rachael Flatt (USA):  Flatt is no longer the picture of consistency.  She also doesn't push the technical envelope, so she has no obvious edge over other skaters, while she does have some obvious disadvantages (GOE, program components).  If she is clean, she should be in the top six, but I can't say that I expect her to medal.  Her short program is much better than the one she started the season with so it will be interesting to see if she rack up some program components scores there.  I would never count Flatt out because I think she can be a fighter.  This is also her last competition with coach Tom Zakrajsek because she is starting at Stanford in the fall.

Kiira Korpi (Finland):  I've enjoyed watching Korpi this season much more than in years past.  I think the programs suit her well and the judges want to give her the scores.  She's also been doing a triple toe/triple toe which helps garner some points.  Korpi needs to be consistent here to have a podium shot.

Carolina Kostner (Italy):  In some ways, this was a comeback season for Carolina Kostner.  But I think her podium finishes in some of the competitions were more an indicator of the weakness of the ladies field this season rather than a sign that she's eradicated her jumping issues.  Additionally, Kostner is working through an injury and it's unclear which jumps she'll be attempting at worlds.  Kostner's inconsistency and the possibility that she won't be doing a triple lutz here make her an underdog for a medal.

Kanako Murakami (Japan):  Murakami is adorable.  She has some amazing jumps and a ridiculous short program that simply must win the crowd over.  Murakami has had a very successful senior debut and she's displayed potential that will help her become one of the sports stars in coming years.  However, don't tell these young skaters they have to wait their turn.  I would not be surprised to see Murakami jump onto the podium here.  I assume that she's one of the few ladies who will be attempting a triple/triple that is not a triple toe/triple toe, and she'll definitely bring the wow factor that may be missing in other performances.

I realize I did not spotlight the Russian ladies, but the ones competing here have not given me much to go on.  Ksenia Makarova impressed in her first competition and promptly faded into the background, and Alena Leonova hasn't been a standout this season. They have both been overshadowed by the Russian juniors.  

Prediction

1) Yu-na Kim

2) Miki Ando

3) Mao Asada

I am also on the fence about whether the American ladies will snag another spot for next season's worlds.