2015 US Figure Skating Championships - Ladies: Gold vs. Wagner
The US Nationals starts next week, and the second of the four senior disciplines that I am covering are the ladies, who compete on Thursday the 22nd and Saturday the 24th. There are two main contenders here who will be battling it out, but there are many other ladies could capture the bronze. It'll be an exciting fight, so let's take a look at the two favorites, the other podium contenders, as well as the dark horses in the event to watch out for.
The gold and silver and pretty much locked up already. The only question is what order will they be in? There are two ladies fighting for the top, and either one of them could take it.
Gracie Gold - The reigning US champ was fourth at the Olympics and fifth at Worlds. She followed that up this year by winning the NHK Trophy and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. Within days, she had withdrawn due to an injury. She has all the goods to be one of the top skaters in the world - the jumps, the technique, the artistry, everything. A second straight national title would go a long way to cementing herself going into Worlds.If she can skate cleanly like she did at Nationals last year, she could easily walk away with the title again.
There is only one woman who can dethrone her...
Ashley Wagner - She is the 2012 and 2013 Champ. She did not have the best Grand Prix season, despite placing second and third in her two events. She barely qualified for her third straight Grand Prix Final - fourth overall - and was the only American lady there again after Gold's withdrawal. After a disappointing short, she proved every hater wrong by doing the best free she's done in years to win her second straight bronze medal - third straight medal overall. She lost her title to Gold last year after a disappointing competition. The key for her is not under rotating her jumps. If she can put her free skate at the Final with a clean short, she could very well win her title back.
Bronze Medal Contenders
There are many ladies who could win the bronze medal, and all but one would be earning their first trip to Worlds. Will Edmunds find herself on the podium again or will another lady have her day?
Courtney Hicks - With two fourth place finishes on the GP circuit, she was the third ranked US ladies skater (behind Gold and Wagner). Her main selling point as a skater is her technique and her jumps. If she skates cleanly, she can vault herself onto the podium and her first trip to Worlds. She can't afford mistakes, though. She doesn't have the component scores to back up her skating. Her two fourth place finishes have proven that she is gaining some consistency this season, which might help her out.
Mirai Nagasu - Nagasu has not been consistent the past few years and lost out on her second trip to the Olympics last year despite placing third at Nationals. (Wagner was chosen over her.) She is a beautiful skater with gorgeous spins and has decent component scores. Her main issues are her jumps - like Wagner, she has a tendency to under rotate them. She has also lacked consistency lately, as well. If she can put together two clean programs, and not under rotate her jumps, she could find herself going to Worlds again for the first time since 2010.
Samantha Cesario - Ceasario has been riding under the radar the past couple seasons but has placed as high as fourth in Grand Prix events. She has all the goods to put herself on the podium - good jumps, good technique and she's a beautiful skater. However, she has not yet put together the competition needed to put herself on the podium in a deep ladies field. If she can manage to do that, she could be going to Worlds.
Polina Edmunds - Edmunds surprised everyone at Nationals last year by giving out to nearly perfect programs to place second overall and earn a trip to the Olympics. (I don't think that she should have, but that's another story.) However, she has not had the season that many were expecting, placing fourth and eighth in her two events. The key for her will be the short. Her frees have been decent, but her shorts have been what killed her. If she can put together two clean programs, not just one, she could find herself going back to Worlds.
None of the skaters are really in contention for the podium, but they might surprise and find themselves in the top five. Either way, they're ones to watch.
Christina Gao - She was called to compete at the Grand Prix Final in 2012, and placed fifth at Nationals for four straight years. Many thought going into the Olympic season that it was going to be her turn. A disappointing free skate ended that hope, and her performances thus far have not been much better. If she can finally do what many think she can - and what got her fifth at Nationals for four years in a row - she might put herself in the conversation.
Amber Glenn - A junior-level skater, Glenn is the reigning US Junior Champion. Unless you follow skating closely, you probably haven't heard of her. She has won a couple of bronze medals on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, but has not put together the programs internationally that won her junior title last year. If she can repeat what she did last year, she might put herself in the conversation.
Karen Chen - Another junior-level skater, she was the only lady to medal in both her Junior Grand Prix events this season, and won a JGP event last season. She did not put that together in a good performance at Junior Worlds, but she a good performance at sectionals, and might put herself in conversation for the top five if she can do that again.
Mariah Bell - Not a name I thought I'd be saying right now. She has the least amount of competitive experience of all the ladies I'm mentioning, and I think she's the biggest longshot because of that. She was the 13th last year at Nationals. However, she had the highest score of any of the Senior Ladies coming out of Sectionals, and if she can repeat that, she might surprise you.
There are some big names, so not-so-big names, and some names you've never heard. One thing is for sure - there's a lot of talent competing next week. It'll be a good fight no matter what happens. There's always a surprise or two at Nationals. Below I have included a poll of a few of the names competing here. Pick who you think will win! I have also included a video that I found on YouTube of Ashley Wagner's free skate at the Grand Prix Final.
Here are my predictions:
Gold - Ashley Wagner: I think she's going to win her third title here. I think she's got the momentum and the confidence after her third straight medal at the Grand Prix Final.
Silver - Gracie Gold: Easily second here, and it'll be close between her and Wagner, but I think Wagner is going to edge her out.
Bronze - Mirai Nagasu: She's a decent season, and now has a full-time coach, which she didn't have last year. I think after last year, she'll want another podium finish to get a trip to Worlds.
Pewter - Courtney Hicks: She could place third if the other ladies make mistakes, but she lacks the component scores. She has huge jumps, though, and that could keep her up there.
5th - Samantha Cesario: She had a good performance at Skate America, and while I don't think she'll get on the podium, she looks good for another top five finish.
Below I have included a poll of a few of the names competing here. Pick who you think will win! I have also included a video that I found on YouTube of Ashley Wagner's free skate at the Grand Prix Final.
I look forward to Nationals and Pairs and Ice Dance articles are coming.