2015 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships - Ladies: Will Gold Win Gold?
The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships starts next week, and with that comes more previews. I didn’t do them for Europeans. Next up are the ladies! Reigning and three-time US Champion Ashley Wagner elected not to compete, giving compatriot Samantha Cesario a chance at Four Continents again. The field here is not quite as deep as the men, but there are still some talented ladies who could make a splash here – and one skater should rise above them all. I will look at any favorites, podium potentials, and skaters who should place in the top ten and could make a splash if mistakes are made by the top skaters here.
First up, let’s look at the favorite, and yes there is only one:
Gracie Gold – The 2014 US National Champion, she was fourth at the Olympics and fifth at Worlds last year. This year has not been her best. She was third at Skate America with a lackluster performance, but rallied to win the NHK Trophy. It wasn’t her best, but it was a step up for sure. However, she had to quickly withdraw from the Grand Prix Final with an injury. She wasn’t at her best at Nationals, and was outclasses by Ashley Wagner. However, while I am not a fan of her, she should outclass the field here. No one here is really capable of touching her. This gold is hers to win or lose.
Podium and Top Five Contenders
There are a few ladies who could make it onto the podium and place in the top five. Any one of them could do it:
Satoko Miyahara – She’s the reigning Japanese National Champion. She has not had the best season, placing third in both of her Grand Prix events and being only the second alternate to the Grand Prix Final. She has all the technical skills to compete with Gold, but she does not have her component scores. Nonetheless, there’s only one other skate who nears her personal best, so the podium should be relatively easier for her. A good performance here will set her up rather nicely for Worlds next month. (As a note, she is also the reigning Silver medalist here as well.)
Rika Hongo – Second of three Japanese ladies here, Hongo has a great season. Under the radar coming into this season, she surprised many this season. She placed a solid fifth at Skate Canada, and then was a surprise winner at Rostelecom Cup. After Gracie Gold’s withdraw from the Grand Prix Final, as the first alternate, she was called up. Despite placing last, which was only to be expected in that field, it served her well for Japanese Nationals. Leading after the short, she ended up winning the silver medal. The podium is definitely within reach for her here. She will need mistakes from other skaters in order to do that, but she’s been so solid lately, I think she’s definitely going to be solid here as well.
Polina Edmunds – She’s the 2014 US Silver Medalist, and placed ninth at the Olympics and eighth at Worlds. Many expected great things from her this season, and that has not happened this season. Typically consistent, she has been anything but placing fourth at the Cup of China and then eighth at NHK Trophy. She didn’t really enough at Nationals either, placing fourth behind Wagner, Gold and Karen Chen. She received her nominations to here and Worlds because Chen is too young. Her personal best is only slightly above Miyahara’s, though Miyahara has been more consistent. She is more than capable of being on the podium, but she’ll need to be better than she has been.
Zijun Li – She’s a four-time Chinese national champion, and has all the makings to make it onto the podium for the second-straight year. (She was third last year behind Kanako Murakami of Japan, who’s not here, and Miyahara.) She has had some bright spots over the past few years. For instance, she was seventh at the 2013 Worlds and of course, her bronze last year at Four Continents. However, she was a disastrous fourteenth at the Olympics and seventeenth at Worlds. This season has not been much better, with a sixth and seventh place finishes on the Grand Prix. She is more than capable of reaching the top five, though.
So Youn Park
Top Ten Contenders
These are the ladies who are top ten worthy, and might be surprises and break into the top five:
Samantha Cesario – She has all the makings of a skater who could be one of the best. However, she has never really lived up that internationally. She has had two straight top five finishes at Nationals, and has placed as high as fourth at Grand Prix events. She has all the makings to be a surprise here and get onto the podium, but she’ll need to get her under rotations under control, as well as her downgrades and edge calls. If she get no calls and proper rotations on her jumps, she could get on the podium. If she doesn’t, breaking the top five will be difficult for her and she might be looking at another eighth place finish.
So Youn Park – She’s the reigning South Korean National Champion. Last year, she competed in Sochi were she was a disastrous twenty-first, but she rallied and was ninth at Worlds. She has followed that up this year with two fifth place finishes on the Grand Prix circuit on way to winning her first National title. She is a bit under classed here, but she is skating in her home country. It could do great things for her, and if the other skaters above her make mistakes, the top five is not out of the question. That would do well to give her confidence going into Worlds for another top ten finish.
Yuka Nagai – The third of the Japanese ladies here, she was a surprise fourth at Japanese Nationals. She had two slivers on the Junior Grand Prix circuit on way to a fifth place finish at the Junior Grand Prix final. She’ll be competition at Junior Worlds at the beginning of next month, and a good performance here would give her confidence going in. This will be her senior international debut. She’s a beautiful skater, and if she can get her jumps clean, she could push for top five, but she should be top ten easily.
Alaine Chartrand – She had a great season so far. She was seventh at Skate Canada, but rallied for a third place finish at Rostelecom Cup. She was beaten at Nationals by Gabrielle Daleman, but she did get the silver medal and is headed to her first World Championships at the end of next month. The top five is a bit of a stretch here, but she might do top seven or eight. She’s a bit outclassed here, but if mistakes are made by the upper skaters, she could surprise, but I don’t see her placing any higher than seventh.
Gabrielle Daleman – The reigning Canadian National Champion, she has some great jumps. Unfortunately, that’s about all she’s got and she is not terribly consistent either. She was seventh at the Olympics and thirteen at worlds. She did have a decent sixth and fifth place finishes on the Grand Prix this season, though. If she wants to do better than tenth place here, she will need to land all of her jumps cleanly. If she doesn’t, then tenth is about the best that she can do and she might be pushed down a bit farther if she has too many mistakes.
Okay, here are my predictions:
GOLD – Gracie Gold – Yes, I’m predicting that Gold will win gold, and if she does even half of what she’s capable of, she should.
SILVER – Satoko Miyahara – She should be a solid silver medal here, and it’s basically hers to lose.
BRONZE – Rika Hongo – After a great debut senior season, I think that she might surprise here.
Fourth – Poilna Edmunds – Though she’s capable of placing as high as silver, I don’t have much faith after the season that she’s had so far.
Fifth – So Youn Park – As I said, competing at home as done great things for some skaters, so I think she could have proper motivation to do well here.
That’s it for now! Below, I have included a poll of who you think will win and a video I found on YouTube of Gracie Gold's Free Program from last year's Nationals. Next up, I will be dissecting the Pairs and Ice Dance competition which the best in the world – and favorites for the podium at Worlds – will be competing.