Sunday, December 17, 2017

End of Grand Prix Power Rankings: 2017-2018

We've made it through the Grand Prix and the first half of the season.  Based off of what we've seen so far we have a decent idea of where everyone is as we head into nationals.  As usual, I will take a look at the top 10 ladies of the season so far and give an idea of what we can expect as we move into the second half of the season and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

10. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)

Kaori's didn't particularly impress in her first event of the season but she managed to catch everyone's eye at Skate America.  She was able to put her amazing jumps and skating skills on display and the judges rewarded her for it.  Kaori's main weapon is her technical fire power.  Of all of the Japanese women, she has the most explosive and +GOE garnering jumps.  Unfortunately Kaori's weakness--her artistry, polish and presentation--may be what keeps her off of the team.  If she can deliver at nationals, she'll have a good (but not great) shot at the Olympic team.

9. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS)

Polina medaled at her first event and was expected to medal at her second.  Unfortunately, missing a medal at Skate America kept her out of the Final and, in my opinion, has likely hurt her chances of securing a spot on the Olympic team.  She needed that opportunity for a showdown with Sotskova and she missed it.  A place on the team is not outside the realm of possibility for's just going to be tougher for her when it comes time to review her body of work this season.  She can definitely make a case for herself at nationals with two strong performances.

8. Mai Mihara (JPN)

Mai has had a strong season this year but not strong enough.  She scored over 200 points at both of her events but finished just off of the podium both times.  Her overall skating has been strong and she's made improvements to her presentation.  Unfortunately, the judges aren't giving her the kind of boost others are getting which has prevented her from placing higher.  Mai still has a strong chance to make it on the Olympic team.  She's capable of putting up huge numbers and her consistency is a major plus.  If she delivers at nationals she'll put pressure on everyone to be at their best.

7. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)

Wakaba has been the most steady of the Japanese women so far this season.  She medaled at both of her Grand Prix events and (originally) was the only Japanese woman to qualify for the Final.  Her performances and scores at her events put her in that top 5 elite tier of women and established her as a contender.  Unfortunately for Wakaba her performance at the Final was not her best.  She can re-establish that momentum she's had all season with two convincing performances at nationals.  I feel like Wakaba is a front-runner for a spot on the team, but she's going to have to earn it.

6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

Satoko's season has been a little shaky.  She placed 5th at her first event and even though she won Skate America, there's some speculation over whether she got away with a few no-calls on her jumps.  Evgenia's withdrawal from the Final gave Satoko a chance to compete, yet she only placed 5th due in large part to under-rotations.  Satoko still has the edge as the #1 skater in Japan and her overall skating is as strong as ever...but the jumps are hurting her. A clean Satoko undoubtedly gets a spot to the Olympics.  It will come down to how she delivers at nationals and what the judges decide.

5. Carolina Kostner (ITA)

Carolina has far exceeded all expectations this season.  She's kept herself in the mix by going for easier content and executing it well.  Carolina has been mostly consistent through her events so far which has kept her scores high and competitive. She placed 2nd at both of her events and narrowly missed a medal at the Final.  Carolina won her 9th national title this past week and she did so with upgraded content. It's clear she's turning on the afterburners for the second half of the season. I didn't think so before, but another Olympic medal could be very possible for her if she's able to deliver.

4. Maria Sotskova (RUS)

For every Russian who wasn't Evgenia or Alina, this season was about building a case to be considered for that 3rd spot on the Olympic team.  Maria was the only skater to accomplish that goal.  She has been quietly kicking ass all season long, medaling at all of her events and earning silver at the Final.  I feel as though her spot on the team is secure but she's can't back off at all.  Russian nationals will be the most competitive event of the season and Maria needs to be ready to battle.  If she is able to execute the way she has all season, she'll be a part of that European, Olympic and World team.

3. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)

For all intents and purposes Kaetlyn's season has been good.  She earned gold and bronze at her events and bronze at the Final.  Despite her solid results, Kaetlyn is still under-performing.  She failed to capitalize on a key opportunity to establish herself as the clear silver medal favorite for Pyeongchang...twice.  Kaetlyn's scoring ceiling is insanely high but we have yet to see what she can do.  Her spot to the Olympics is set but if she wants to be on the podium in Pyeongchang she needs to dig deep, stay focused, and pull out those two perfect performances.

2. Alina Zagitova (RUS)

Alina's debut has gone as expected.  She won both of her events and, with Evgenia's absence, was able to earn gold at the Final.  Her strategy of backloading her programs has paid off.  She's dominating the technical side of the sport and, thanks to some inscrutable scoring, she's able to compete at the top in terms of PCS as well.  Alina's strong season established her as a favorite for gold in Pyeongchang.  Evgenia is still #1 in Russia but Alina has an opportunity to beat her if she's able to deliver her content cleanly.  She can't afford step-outs and small mistakes at nationals if she hopes to take the title.  Dethroning the queen this close to the Olympics could be a game changer...

1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)

Evgenia's reign is still solidly in place; however, unlike in seasons past, the threat of someone snatching her crown is a real possibility this year.  Evgenia easily won both of her GP events yet her skating was not at its usual quality.  Major errors in both FSs as well as her injury and withdrawal from the Final has cast a cloud of doubt over the rest of her season.  It's not clear if Evgenia will compete at nationals this week.  If she opts to skip the event I don't doubt the federation would grant her a bye to the Olympics...assuming she wants to participate.  With the IOC's ban on Russian athletes Evgenia and the rest of the Russian team will have to compete under a neutral flag if they attend the games.  Evgenia pleaded with the IOC to repeal the ban arguing that current athletes should not be punished for something they had no part in...and I do agree with this.  She stated that she "cannot accept the option" to compete as a neutral athlete.  If Evgenia or the other Russian athletes do not attend the Games it's going to be a very empty event as three of the top women in the sport will not be present.  I'm sure we'll get more info on this after nationals.  For now, if Evgenia competes at nationals she is the favorite to maintain her title; however, if she's not at 100% I wouldn't be shocked to see Alina sneak in for the win.  Either way, it's going to be an extremely competitive and cutthroat event. Update: Evgenia will not be competing at nationals this year.  It is almost certain she will be granted a bye to the European Championships and Olympic Games.

Here's a look at the upcoming national championships:

  • Russia: Dec. 19-24
  • Japan: Dec. 20-24
  • United States: Dec. 29-Jan. 8
  • Canada: Jan. 8-14.

As always I'll recap the Russian and Japanese nationals in my National Round-Up post after the holidays.  U.S. and Canadian nationals will follow shortly after.  It's go time!

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