At the 1994 Olympics, women’s figure skating became the focal point of the Games, thanks to Tonya Harding. It was at this Olympics, that a 16-year-old orphan from the Ukraine, Oksana Biaul, stunned the world and triumphed over a much more experienced field. Now in Sochi, a 15-year-old Russian sets sights on becoming the second-youngest female to ever win Olympic gold in the women’s event. But against a reigning world champion like South Korea's Yuna Kim, that will not be an easy task.
Gracie Gold (USA)
What's Hot
-2014 National Champion
-2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist (Team Event)
-2012 Junior World Silver Medalist
What’s Not Hot
-Maintaining focus is a problem for Gold, who has often bombed her short program
-Her spins sometimes lack the speed of the elite ladies
-Her Choreography is still maturing, and she lacks the transitions, which i think will come in time. I think by 2018, she will be America's hope for Olympic Gold.
Gold, 18, has been touted by many as being the person to challenge for the bronze medal. She’s still developing, and under her new coach Frank Carroll, Gold is constantly improving, but more importantly she has her confidence back. It looks like she loves skating again, which wasn’t there at the beginning of the season. Look for her first two opening jump passes in the long program. With a triple lutz/triple toe and a double axel/triple combination, Gold can rack up a lot of heavy points to challenge. I find with her however, that she tends to mess up her easily triple jumps like the salchow and loop jump. Over the next four years, Gold has the potential to reach heights and put the U.S. ladies back on top. That is, if Polina Edmonds doesn’t skate past her.
Ashley Wagner (USA)
What's Hot
-Two-time National Champion
-5th Place at the last years World Championships
-Grand Prix Final Bronze Medalist
What’s Not Hot
-A clean triple lutz is needed to compete with these ladies….On the correct edge please
-Cheating and two footing the landing on her Triple Flip/Triple Toe.
-Changing her long program three weeks before the games.
Wagner looked like she was well on her way to becoming one of the worlds best. After finishing in the Top 5 at the World Championships over the last two years, many thought Wagner would be the one challenging the podium. After her coach retired this season, Wagner took up with technical coach Rafael Arutyunan Wagner was often criticized for not always fully rotating her jumps, particularly in combination. She started adding a triple flip/triple toe and was getting full credit them. However, at the U.S. Nationals, Wagner looked scared, and was unable to defend her national championship, finishing in fourth. In a surprise move, the US Olympic Committee named her to the team based on her last two years of competitive results, leaving 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu off the team. Wagner then created more drama in the team competition when she showed a look of distaste in her marks and looked at her coached and swore. But lets give her points as being the one prominent U.S. skater to speak out on Russian anti-gay laws.
Polina Edmonds
What's Hot
-2014 U.S. Silver Medalist
-2013 U.S. Junior Champion
-Won both of her Junior Grande Prix Assignments
Whats Not Hot
-She has zero international experience at the senior level
Polina came to this year's National Championships as the reigning Junior U.S. Champion. Out of nowhere, she beat Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner in both segments. This kid has some severe technical content. The daughter of a Russian ice skater turned coach, think at this early stage in her career, that if she were to place in the top 12 at the Olympics, it would be an ideal goal. With no real international experience at this level, things could go badly. She has two triple/triple combinations planned in her long program, so she has the potential to make a name for herself in the future. She already has back in the United States. Edmonds has a very bright future.
Yuna Kim (Korea)
What's Hot
-2009 and Reigning World Champion
-2010 Olympic Champion
-World record holder for the most points given in the short and long program
What’s Not Hot
-Sat out the Grande Prix season due to injury. It's hard to peak when your training was cut short.
-Kim has actually lowered her technical content. She no longer does a double axel/triple toe combination which is a huge point getter. Also she no longer has a layback spin that gets a level 4.
-I have found her programs to be quite dull compared her 2010 programs. During the Olympic season you need to have programs that sizzle!
No woman has come back to defend her Olympic Title since Katerina Witt in 1988. It’s not easy to stay motivated, and for Kim, she’s hasn’t held the dominance to make people think she’s the lock for gold. After taking 2012 off, she returned to the world championships last year and dominated. But she has sat out the Grande Prix season, and lacks that competitive mileage you need to really feel secure in your programs. If "Queen Yuna" wants to defend her gold medal, she’s going to need to do it by collecting bonus points on transitions and speed out of her jumps. But make no mistake, at her national championships, she laid down two clean solid programs, and word on the skating blogs from Sochi is that she has not put a foot wrong in practice.
Carolina Koster (Italy)
What's Hot
-2012 World Champion
-2011 Grande Prix Final Champion
-Five-time European Champion
Whats Not Hot
-Hot or Cold. Carolina is the type of skater that is either in the Top 3, or sitting in 16th place. For years she has battled nerves, but with maturity she seems to have figured away to deal with it.
-Lack of technical content compared to the others. What she does, she does well, but in this field you need to go big or go home.
-She changed her short program for these games. Without the mileage of using it in competition, you can’t rely on your muscle memory in those pressure-filled moments.
This is Kostner’s third Olympics That's impressive. Whats not impressive, is her last two Olympics have gone horribly. Kostner had all the tricks and skills that are needed for international success. Over the last three years, Kostner has finally found a way to compete, even winning a World Championship. This season, Kostner has not looked in top form. I think she’s quietly been dealing with injury, but she managed to place third in the short program in the team event, without error. If she wants that missing Olympic medal, she’s going to need others to make the mistakes.
Mao Asada (Japan)
What's Hot
-Two-time World Champion
-Reigning Olympic Silver medalist
-Grande Prix Final Champion
Whats Not Hot
-If Asada misses her triple axel, it’s because she under rotates it and falls, leaving major points on the table.
-Often pops her triple lutz
-Lacks a solid triple/triple combination
Mao Asada’s resume is second to none, except for Yuna Kim – defending Olympic Silver Medalist, two-time World Champion, and the only women to have a triple axel in her arsenal. She has spent the last four years reworking her skating to be at these games to finally climb onto that top step of the Olympic Podium. But after watching her in the team competition at Sochi, I’m not sure she’s going to challenge for the podium, much less gold. She was handily defeated at her national championships. But if she pulls it together in the short program, she will challenge. Asada has served notice that these Olympics are her last amateur competition. She will be missed.
Yulia Lipnitskaya (Russia)
What's Hot
-2014 European Champion
-Grande Prix Final silver medalist
-2014 Olympic Gold Medalist (Team Event)
Whats Not Hot
-She occasionally gets an edge call on her lutz from the technical panel, which leaves those all important points on the table. When she stops growing, she’ll have that more secure edge that you need for the outside edge.
-Her lack of speed throughout her programs, and her foot work doesn’t always fill out the pattern on the ice.
-She lands the jumps, but doesn’t have the speed coming out of them to really give them that Hollywood factor.
This 15-year-old phenom has been serving notice that her future is now. She has finished first or second in every event she’s entered, and won both segments for Team Russia. Many think she could just be the big surprise at these Olympics. Last year, a growth spurt, almost made her quit the sport. She has many people talking, but she has not had to deal with Yuna Kim on the Olympic stage. She’s 15, and if she makes mistakes and loses Olympic gold, that’s OK; she’s got a long career ahead of her. Also, just look at her spins; watching them makes my hips ache.
Podium Prediction
Gold: Yuna Kim Yuna
Silver: Yulia Lipnitskaya
Bronze: Gracie Gold
4. Ashley Wagner
5. Mao Asada
6. Adelina Sodnikova
7. Kaetlyn Osmond
12. Paulina Edmonds (USA)
Chad Conley is a former elite Canadian skater, who writes about the sport for Outsports.You can read his coming out story here.