Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 Four Continents Championships: Ladies Preview

The 2011 Four Continents Championship kicks off next week from Chinese Taipei.. In the past the US has not sent its top flight to this event, but the ISU has been encouraging federations to send their World championship team in an effort to make this event an equivalent of the European Championships. The US will be sending their top 3 Ladies to the competition next week, though only two of them are preparing for Worlds. Japan is sending 3 of its top 4 ladies, though only 2 of them are headed home to Worlds in Tokyo. The top 3 Canadian ladies also have a shot at the podium as well.

Here are my predictions for the top 6:                     My USFSA Fantasy Skating Picks:
1) Miki Ando                                                          A) Miki Ando, JPN
2) Alissa Czisny                                                     B) Amelie Lacoste, CAN
3) Mao Asada                                                        C) Chaochih Liu, TPE
4) Akiko Suzuki
5) Rachael Flatt
6) Mirai Nagasu

Miki Ando has arguably been the most consistent skater of the season and because of that record, I think she'll take the Four Continents title next week. She has had a roller-coaster of a career, though even in her less successful seasons, she hasn't strayed far from the world podium. Her solid technique always goes over well with judges (you won't see many under-rotations or edge calls on her protocol sheets) and though I don't see her as much of a performer, she has been working to improve that aspect of her skating. I wouldn't say any lady has dominated the international scene this year, but Miki is definitely up there. She was the only lady to win both of her Grand Prix events, though she captured both Golds by coming from behind to win the free skate. She and coach Morozov scrapped her short in favor of a more lyrical program for the Grand Prix Final, but she struggled and couldn't overcome that fall. Even though she won the free skate, she finished a disappointing 5th overall. With two months of training for the new short and a win at Japanese nationals, Miki looks poised to take this title, and therefore, the momentum going into worlds.
I think its really a 6-way race for the podium at this event and US Champion Alissa Czisny would love to add another medal to her already impressive resume this season. She is the only lady to have beaten every one of the top contenders at this event and if she performs two clean programs, she could do that again. If she can keep the mental focus that she's had all season, this competition should be like another day at the office for her. She may not have the triple axels of Mao Asada or the triple-triple combinations of Miki Ando, but her levels and positive GOEs on her spins and spirals can help make up that difference, and her PCS scores will keep her in the race. The most important thing for Alissa is to avoid mistakes and that should put her on the podium and keep her confidence high for Worlds next month.
One the big stories this season in figure skating has been Mao Asada and her failure to medal on the Grand Prix circuit. After switching coaches again to Nobuo Sato, she has been relearning her jumping technique and things seemed to finally click at Japanese nationals where she made the podium and qualified for the World team. I like Mao and I'm happy to see her back in her usual form. I think she'll make a big impact in this competition, but I don't think she'll go without at least one major mistake so while I see her making the podium, I think it will be bronze, not gold. In an interesting little twist of fate, one of her biggest competitors this year at Worlds will be Alissa Czisny, who is coached (and was transformed) by Yuka Sato, the daughter of her coach Nobuo Sato.
Akiko Suzuki is actually my personal favorite of all the Japanese ladies, but she seems to be forever a bridesmaid and never a bride. She seems to always do well on the Grand Prix circuit, but fizzles out later in the season. Because of the depth of the Japaneses ladies field, she has only made one trip to senior Worlds, though she did finish 8th at the Vancouver Olympics last year. She won an impressive two silver medals on the Grand Prix and finished 4th at the final. With Asada relearning her technique, it seemed Suzuki would make the World team but Mao came back in time to finish strong at Japanese Nationals and Akiko will be left at home while her teammates compete in Tokyo next month. For some reason Kanako Murakami was not selected to the Four Continents team and Akiko was selected to compete here. She can redeem herself and possibly even medal here if she can churn out two clean performances.
Rachael Flatt is a perennial favorite of mine but this competition will be a true test for her. Minus Kanako Murakami, and two or three European ladies, all of skaters who will challenge her at Worlds will be competing here in Taipei. Her major struggle this Grand Prix season was in the short program and she has since changed that to a new program choreographed by Lori Nichol to East of Eden. It was amazingly successful at US Nationals this year and her performance blew me away completely. I am pulling for her in such a big way and I hope that she gets the scores that she deserves for this program next week, including the PCS that have always eluded her internationally. If she can stay close to the top three after the short, her free skate is the 7th highest of the season and her consistency could win out. Though a medal would be great, I think the most important thing for Rachael is to stay very close to the podium in terms of points so she has that positivity going into Worlds.
I'm afraid this just is not Mirai Nagasu's year. Its so sad because she did so well to finish fourth at the Olympics last season and now, due to an uninspired and flawed free skate at US Nationals, she won't be competing at Worlds. I get so frustrated when I watch her because she has such raw talent but does not have the motivation or self-discipline to commit herself to training in the way that the top ladies in the world do. I am hoping that missing the world team will be the kick that she needs to re-commit herself to training because at 17, she still has the time to turn her career around. She has one of the world's best coaches in Frank Carroll if she will just listen to him. In terms of this competition, I think that the rebellious teenager in her will phone it in with another so-so performance, but I hope she proves me wrong because if she puts her heart into it and focuses, she could win the whole competition.

Other skaters competing include:

Cheltzie Lee, AUS
Jaimee Nobbs, AUS
Amelie Lacoste, CAN
Cynthia Phaneuf, CAN
Myriane Samson, CAN
Bingwa Geng, CHN
Qiuying Zhu, CHN
Crystal Kian, TPE
Chaochih Liu, TPE
Melinda Wang, TPE
Tiffany Packard Yu, HKG
Reyna Hamui, MEX
Mary Ro Reyes, MEX
Mericien Venzon, PHI
Victoria Muniz, PUR
Chae-Hwa Kim, KOR
Min-Jeong Kwak, KOR
Yea-Ji Yun, KOR
Brittany Lau, SIN
Lejeanne Marais, RSA
Mimi Janasorn Chindasook, THA
Taryn Jurgensen, THA
Melanie Swang, THA


  1. Excuse you, how dare to you not include the reigning Olympic Champion, Queen Yuna. Queen Yuna will win the world title with a new world record.

  2. This post was about the Four Continents Championships. Yu-Na will not be competing there. I will certainly include her when I preview Worlds.

  3. I think Miki has a great shot at winning the 4c title. she just needs to skate a clean short program, and the rest is easy for her. I know mirai is so capable of making the podium, we will see how she does in the short program. If she places 2nd or 3rd in the short program, i think shes got a great chance of medaling. akiko is normally very solid, and alissa has been too this season.

  4. Oops, sorry barbie, I thought it was about World.