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Ladies Figure Skating Preview

While the women's event won't be quite as hotly contested as the men's event was last week, skating fans who tune into the women's short program on Tuesday and long program on Thursday should be in for some fantastic skating.

Simply put, South Korean phenom Kim Yu-Na will need to have a total meltdown in order not to win gold. And when I say 'total meltdown' I'm not talking about a 2-footed landing, a popped triple or even a lone fall necessarily. Kim's scores are high enough where she can get away with a small error or two and still win. In order to lose her gold, Kim will have to crash and burn. Why? Because she is without a doubt one of the greatest skating talents of our generation.

The rest of the field has their work cut out for them.

Kim Yu-Na has just about everything going for her that a skater could hope for, namely her breathtaking artistry and her superior jumping technique that vaulted her into first place in all 3 international competitions that she entered this season including the Grand Prix final. She has not earned less than a silver since 2008 and less than a bronze since she began competing on the senior level in 2006. Her competitors, however, did receive a glimmer of Olympic hope when the almost superhuman Kim made uncharacteristic technical errors in 2 of her gold medal performances this season. Rachael Flatt of the U.S. actually beat Kim in the long program at Skate America back in November, and Miki Ando of Japan scored higher in the short program at the Grand Prix final. It would not shock me if another skater scored higher in either program in Vancouver, but the odds against anyone's combined score topping Kim's are strong.

The rest of the field is wide open in my opinion, not for lack of talent but for lack of consistency this season among the other top contendors. One exception, Miki Ando of Japan, is one of 2 former world champions in the mix (2007) and has performed well this season with wins in 2 grand prix events and a narrow silver to Kim Yu-Na at the grand prix final. Having finished a disappointing 15th in Torino you can expect a solid effort from Ando in Vancouver. Another Japanese phenom, Mao Asada, won the world championship in 2008 and has by far the most difficult technical programs planned with a mind-blowing 3 triple axels (1 in the short, 2 in the long). This season, however, Asada struggled with her consistency to such a degree that onlookers began to wonder if she would even make her country's Olympic team in what was a highly competitive race. A win at Japanese nationals with a convincing performance, one that she'll need to repeat to contend for a medal in Vancouver, earned her the trip.

Don't count out American's Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu for the podium; both are young and lack the years of international competition that many of their competitors bring to the table, but Flatt has demonstrated technical consistency and Nagasu artistic prowess beyond their years.

Hometown favorite Joannie Rochette of Canada, 5th in Torino, enters her 2nd Olympic games with the weight of the tragic passing of her mother several days ago on her shoulders. A supreme talent, Rochette has struggled this season with poor showings at all of her grand prix events (I include in this statement a gold medal at Skate Canada in which she made multiple errors in her long program and competed against a weak field).

Italy's Carolina Kostner is Europe's most likely medal contender. Kostner won the 2010 European championship against an abnormally weak field with a combined score that, though respectable, will have to be improved upon if she hopes to medal.

-Dan Majerle