Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Olympic preview: Ladies (and thoughts on ongoing components scores...)

In the ladies event in Sochi, the competition will be incredibly unpredictable.
Three former world champions will fight for a medal: Yuna Kim, Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner.
Before going into details about each of these skaters, I would like to spend some words on the Russian skaters and how the “home advantage” is working for them. There have been a lot of criticism about the scores given to the Russians which seem to have been “raising to the occasion” to assure as many medals as possible to the host country. I have to say that I have never been keen on thinking that figure skating was all about politics and corruption and I am sure that this is not what is happening in Sochi right now, but some of the scores given in this week show at least a tendency to be quite generous towards those Russian athletes who might approach to the podium. That is what happened to Stolbova/Klimov, who got a components score of 71 against a 62 given just a year ago to the same program, or to Ilinykh/Katsalapov who bettered their free dance score of over 7 points in a week, a unprecedented improvement in ice dance. That has to be said that both these teams probably skated the programs of their lives and haven’t earned a medal undeservingly, yet their scores were so high that it would have been impossible for anyone else to challenge them.
Considering all these aspects, it would be foolish not to expect the young Russian girls to receive incredible scores. Both Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova have great results in their records and both of them might represent a gold medal threat. The two are very different one from the other: Lipnitskaya is less experienced and mature, yet very consistent on any technical element, Sotnikova has a more refined skating, brilliant transitions and skating skills, but she is more emotional and less solid on jumps. In my opinion, which is not guided by personal taste but by what ISU has always researched and declared to want from a skater, these two skaters’ components shouldn’t be ANY close to Kim’s or Asada’s. As much as the Russians have improved during this year, there shouldn’t be any doubt that both Kim and Asada are incomparable in terms of skating skills, interpretation, phrasing of the music, projection of the program and complexity of the choreography.
However, Lipnitskaya, who usually has a lower pcs than Sotnikova, received in the team event a pcs very similar to Asada’s in the short (Asada fell in that program, though) and was scored a 69 in that department in the free skate, just a couple of points less than the Worlds 2013 free skate performance by Yuna Kim.
To sum up, considering that Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova, Kim and Asada have more or less the same potential on the technical score, medals will come down to who performs the best, regardless of the artistry of the skater. If they all perform at their best, which might be difficult for Asada due to her extremely risky technical content, Kim and Asada should be in the top two. It has been reported that Mao is consistently landing her triple axel in practice, but any little mistake will be very costly and therefore out of the four named before, she is the most likely to finish off the podium. The same could be said by Sotnikova, who is not known for being incredibly consistent. She has an enormous potential though, and if she nails the short program she will receive way more than 70 points.
There are so many others who could fight for a medal, but none of them is as competitive as these four. Carolina Kostner equals or tops the others for maturity and artistry, but she doesn’t have all the technical difficulties; others like Gracie Gold, Kanako Murakami, Akiko Suzuki miss something to be on the podium as well.

Gold: Yuna Kim
Silver: Julia Lipnitskaya
Bronze: Adelina Sotnikova

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