It’s the Russians battling the Americans on home ice in the ladies’ event at the 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America this week. As with the men’s event, the ladies’ competition has its share of veterans and newcomers, and it’s sure to be a battle, especially for the top spot between three big jumpers.
Related: Men’s preview
Related: Skate America entrants
GOLD Elena Radionova RUS – If that Japan Open free skate was any indication, Radionova is about to take Skate America, where she took the bronze last year, by storm. While she may not have the seasoned maturity that Gold and Tuktamysheva do, she’s got the technical content and the consistency to grab that title.
SILVER Gracie Gold USA – It happened. All the hype leading into last season, and Gold made a super splash, winning Nationals and then taking fourth at the Olympics. She found a new maturity with her coaching switch last season and enters this season more complete of a skater than ever. We’ll see if she’s gotten a better handle on her jumps since her third-place finish at Nebelhorn a few weeks back.
BRONZE Elizaveta Tuktamysheva RUS – Hard to believe that it’s been three seasons since her breakthrough Grand Prix debut, when she jumped her way to two gold medals. Since then, though, Tuktamysheva has not quite lived up to that banging start, as she missed the Olympic team by quite the margin last season. But she’s gone three-for-three already this season, winning Finlandia, Nebelhorn, and Coupe de Nice. Let’s hope she’s not burning herself out too early in the season.
4. Samantha Cesario USA – Cesario took the silver behind Tuktamysheva at Finlandia last month, and she showed off some new tricks, including a triple loop-half loop-triple salchow. She’s been training the triple flip-triple loop for the short, so she’s certainly out to up her technical repertoire this season. She could be the dark horse this week in Chicago.
5. Mae Berenice Meite FRA – A solid tenth at the Olympics was Meite’s first top 10 finish at a major international competition that isn’t Europeans. She’s never finished higher than fifth at a Grand Prix, but she’s certainly got a chance to do that this week.
6. Mirai Nagasu USA – Fifth at U.S. Classic to start the season, Nagasu is trying to shake the memory of not being chosen for the Olympic team. Her programs this year, though, are already more complete than they were last season. And with a new coach, signs are pointing up for the former U.S. champ – let’s see if she can get her jumps fully rotated.
7. Haruka Imai JPN – Imai ended last season on a very strong note, taking fourth at Four Continents and then the silver at Challenge Cup. But a fifth place at Ondrej Nepela a few weeks back wasn’t quite the season debut she was hoping for.
8. So Youn Park KOR – With Yuna Kim retired, Park is looking to be her successor, particularly after a surprise ninth at Worlds last season. But a third-place finish at the Asian Trophy in August in a relatively weak field left some heads to be scratched.
9. Elene Gedevanishvili GEO – Gedevanishvili is entering her tenth season on the senior circuit. She is a fiery skater, but perennial issues with the loop and flip don’t help her chances.
10. Brooklee Han AUS – I can’t say I remember the last time an Australian skater was in a Grand Prix event. Han has been a bit of a trailblazer the past couple of seasons.
11. Natalia Popova UKR – Normally a consistent skater, Popova was a disappointing 28th in the short at the Olympics, which kept her from qualifying for the free skate.