Week 2 of the 2014 Grand Prix Series features Skate Canada International, wrapping up the North American leg of the series with Skate America taking place last week. The ladies’ event is an interesting one, for sure. And, likely many of the competitions in a post-Olympic year, it’s a battle between the veterans and the up-and-comers. Who’s got the goods to succeed?
Related: Skate Canada entrants
GOLD Ashley Wagner USA – Last season was quite the eventful one for Wagner. She proved critics wrong after that disastrous Nationals that led to her controversial selection to the Olympic team. And you’d think that after all of the emotions and energy spent, she might have let last season be her final, or at least taken this season off to recharge. But she’s back, because if there is anything that describes Wagner, it’s resilience. At her best, she’s the class of this field, but she didn’t start off all that strongly at the Japan Open, where she has historically performed solidly. In fact, she had five of seven triples called underrotated there and barely broke 100 points. Three weeks after that season debut, will she regain the form that we’ve see from her in the past two seasons?
SILVER Satoko Miyahara JPN – In the past few seasons, I have more than once cautioned folks who thought that Miyahara’s future was bright solely due to her abundance of technical ability (namely, the triple-triples). Two things could have happened, she could have grown and lost her ability to rotate as quickly or she could have figured out how to jump and made up for it with power. And well, well, well, the second scenario happened. It’s been really great to see her progression early this season. Not only is she more powerful now by miles, but she is also technically better with her jumps, gaining full rotation much more often than she has been during the past few seasons. If Wagner isn’t on her game, Miyahara could leap right to the top this week.
BRONZE Anna Pogorilaya RUS – Pogorilaya was certainly the unheralded Russian from last season. No Olympics for her, but she managed a Grand Prix win AND a fourth-place finish at Worlds. What she has is consistency – you can pretty much always count on her to hit, and it helps tremendously that she’s got tough technical content to boot. She lacks the excitement and the polish of the other top ladies here, but slow and steady could win the race again.
4. Alena Leonova RUS – After narrowly missing the Olympic team last year, Leonova is back stronger than ever. Nebelhorn Trophy, where she took silver a few weeks ago, saw her win the short program and up her technical content in the free skate, attempting a triple flip-triple toe. Like Wagner, Leonova has proven to be quite the resilient skater, and she can make some waves here this week as well.
5. Courtney Hicks USA – Hicks had a strong debut this season, taking second at U.S. Classic in September with a six-triple free skate effort. She will want to bring her technical firepower again this week if she wants to have any chance at putting herself in the podium conversation.
6. Alaine Chartrand CAN – Coming off a fifth-place finish at Junior Worlds last season and a fourth-place finish at U.S. Classic to start off, Chartrand is making her Grand Prix debut with lots of technical content. Consistency will certainly be key to her success at her home Grand Prix.
7. Rika Hongo JPN – I won’t lie – I didn’t think Rika Hongo was really going to make it out of the junior circuit. Her junior results never really sky-rocketed after initial Junior Grand Prix success, and it looked like she wasn’t going to get kickstart to her senior career. But her bronze at Finlandia last month may be a good sign that she’s just getting started.
8. Julianne Seguin CAN – Seguin is pulling double duty again this season, skating singles and pairs. She’s already had a terrific season on the Junior Grand Prix in the pairs event with Charlie Bilodeau, and she’s looking to establish some singles credibility this week in her Grand Prix debut.
9. Brooklee Han AUS – Tenth last week at Skate America, Han is looking to repeat her clean free skate effort, which gave her a career-first 100+ free skate in international competition.
10. Viktoria Helgesson SWE – At one point a couple of seasons ago, Helgesson was looking like she was ready to ascend to the top tier of ladies. But last season was a huge disappointment, and she has not regained the kind of consistency that got her to fifth at Europeans two years in a row. Her two competitions so far this season didn’t point in the right direction.
11. Veronik Mallet CAN – Fourth at Canadians last season, Mallet started off this season with a seventh-place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy.
12. Hae Jin Kim KOR – Kim was 16th in Sochi last season, but her fifth at the Asian Trophy in August and ninth at Nepela a few weeks ago don’t bode well for her Grand Prix debut.