Hey sports fans!! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am a self admitted “rink rat” so a lot of this blog will be about figure skating and hockey, however as an ex-figure skater, ex-varsity athlete and a sports fan in general, I usually have thoughts and opinions about alot of different sports I follow, so visit often!
While my blog has been primarily about the mens event in figure skating, I would be amiss if I didn’t spend some time looking at what is coming up this season in the womens event. Last year, in the post Olympic season, we saw couple of interesting things. First, with some major players absent last season (retirements, injuries etc), many new female skaters emerged at the top of the field, and then we also saw a significant step forward in the technical aspect of the womens event. The current women’s field in figure skating is definitely a Team Russia versus Team Japan/Team USA competition, with maybe a few drop ins of Canadian skaters in there once in awhile. Here is a link to the ISU World Rankings for female skaters. Here are my casual thoughts about the upcoming women’s event this season.
First and foremost, my favourite female skater is Mao Asada. She has been my favorite since 2008. I got to see her live at the women’s long program in Vancouver 2010 which was simply amazing. I was so sad that she didn’t beat Yuna Kim for the Olympic Gold. After the Olympics, the time she spent re-learning her jumps to fix the technical issues she had were so heart breaking to watch. Through it all, she kept her head held high, and never complained. She emerged stronger than ever, and if it wasn’t for that miss in the short program in Sochi, the gold would have been hers with no controversy! Mao was sorely missed last year, but I think the season off was a good thing for her. She is coming back this year, healthy and re-energized for competition. The break from the competitive atmosphere reminded her how much she loves to skate and compete. Without a doubt, we already see her love of skating in all of her programs. When she skates, there is a pure joy in her face, and nothing stands out more to me than her emotions after the long program at the Sochi Olympics. In case you missed it, here is the link:
I think Mao’s return to competitive skating this season is a game changer. Her maturity and experience coupled with her ability to challenge competitors with the highest level of technical content against the new crop of young up and coming skaters will be exciting to watch.
While Mao was not the first women to ever land a triple axel in competition, she certainly paved the way forward to last season where we saw evidence that other women are now trying to catch up to the technical content that is becoming a new standard in women’s skating. Here is a link to Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s short program at 2015 Worlds where she lands her super clean triple axel and eventually won the World title.
Fans tend to forget that Elizaveta is only 18! She was a rising star in the Russian women’s event until she was hit with some injuries, and had a couple of poor seasons. She certainly came back last season with a bang, and has earned my respect as I was lucky enough to see her skate live last year at Skate America. Now, with so many super talented Russian skaters, her triple axel is what will make her stand out on that crowded Russian team. She really does make it look effortless.
While Adelina Sotnikova may have won the gold medal in the women’s event at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, she was away last season due to a leg injury, and now I’m hearing that she has a back injury. Adelina is quickly losing ground on her fellow competitors. I’m not a huge Adelina fan, but I feel bad for her, as I think that with her extended absence, and so many Russian women contenders, that she is quickly being lost in shuffle.
Other Russian skaters that I am watching are Elena Radionova, whom I also saw and met at Skate America. She is as sweet in person as she is on the ice. She would be my second favourite skater, after Mao. She has the same joy and passion when she is on the ice that Mao does. One thing struck me immediately at Skate America was when Elena took to the ice for a practice session or even the 6 minute warm up. She went all out at full speed and it was like the other skaters had to look out for her. I think this is youthful exuberance and it’s mesmerizing. You cannot help but sit up and take notice of her. While she is technically gifted, the one thing I hope that they fix over time, is her posture, and her lines. She has a bend her in legs and is never fully extended. So, I am going to say that she is lacking beautiful lines. I think this will come with maturity and as she grows stronger and more body aware. At this point, she is all arms and legs, with amazing technical ability. She has indicated that she is not working on a triple axel yet this season, which I think is a good move for her. She is young and has a lot of time to work on her other elements first, but I hope she will challenge herself in the future. She may not have a choice with the direction that the women’s event is going.
Ok, we cannot forget Julia Lipnitskaya either, the darling of Sochi. She definitely had an up and down season last year and I think her sudden jump into fame after the Sochi Olympics affected her negatively. During last seasons’ Grand Prix Series she looked unprepared and inconsistent. She had a poor Nationals, and in the strong contingent of Russian women’s skaters, failed to qualify for the 2015 World team. While she caught my eye during the Sochi Olympics, watching her last season during the Grand Prix Series left me wondering if she has the ability to rise above her Russian teammates. I am curious to see how she will do this season, I think it’s going to be a make or break season for her. The depth of the Russian women’s team is incredible, they are all young, and I haven’t even mentioned some of the Russian juniors that are knocking on the door.
So, back to the new technical content standard that seems to be catching on now in the women’s event. Do the women need a triple axel to be competitive? I believe so. I suspect that the top 6 or 7 women in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics will all be attempting triple axels, maybe even more of them. We will see evidence of this very soon, as early as this season coming up!! Skaters like Gracie Gold, Gabbie Dalemen, Courtney Hicks are all practising triple axels and have them planned in their long programs. So, this season, we already have 5 women who will be attempting triple axels!
When it comes to my favourite skaters, I have already mentioned my top 2 favorites: Mao and Elena. Another women’s skater that I do enjoy watching is Rika Hongo whom I first saw last season at Skate Canada. Because I had not heard about her prior to last season, her practice sessions at Skate Canada were surprising and fun for me. She immediately became a skater I wanted to follow. Once thing that drives me crazy though about Rika, is her shoulders. They are always so high when she skates, and I’m not sure how much she has to compensate for this in her jumps!! She had all her triples by the age of 13!! She gets great height on her jumps and they look very natural for her, not forced.
I enjoy Rika’s skating much more than say, her teammate, Kanako Murakami. Rika’s technique seems much more sound and dependable, and I find that Rika relates to her music better and has better expression than Kanako does. Kanako has a bad habit of doing a funny kicking motion on toe jumps, with her free leg kicking up excessively on toe jumps instead of just reaching back to pick into the ice, and that just about drives me crazy!!! It is a bad habit that I think contributes to her lack of consistency. Kanako was rumoured to be thinking of retirement after last season, but has stuck with it for this year. The Japan Nationals will not only be the HOT ticket in the mens event, but the women’s event will also make for great skating!! It must be nice to have a log jam at the top of your podium at Nationals in a skating event.
Satoko Miyahara deserves an honorable mention as she had a great season last year, however, she doesn’t have a presence on the ice yet. I am curious to see how she does this season but I think it’s going to be hard for her to stay on the World podium.
As for American and Canadian female skaters, well, I’m just not sure what to say as I don’t follow those skaters that closely. Of the American women, I believe Gracie Gold has the most potential. She has strong technical content, and is an elegant skater, however I haven’t seen her put two good programs together at the same competition. If she develops some mental toughness she can move up in the standings, and fight for a spot on the podium. On the Canadian side of things, we will see the return of former Canadian Champion, Kaetlyn Osmond who missed last season with a leg injury. It will be a battle between her and Gabbie Daleman for the Canadian women’s title, but I don’t think either of them is strong enough to make the podium at Worlds. I would be pleasantly surprised if either of them did win a medal at Worlds though – go Canada go!!
My super early prediction (or rather my wish list) for the World podium in the women’s event (barring any injuries):
1. Mao Asada
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
3. Elena Radionova
That’s it for the women’s event in my view. I think it’s going to be an exciting year for womens’ skating this season, and can’t wait until October for it to start!! Feel free to comment and tell me who your favourite female skaters are!!
Until then, as always, Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki doki!!