This is the first part of my Skate America previews. I decided against a Cup of China recap, and will rather write a best of and worst of the season (so far) following this event. The men, pairs, and dance previews will come tomorrow AM.
The same thing holds true for the competitor list at Skate America as it has in the previous three stops in the series: a bunch of decent names, but many of them can't exactly be described as consistent. The entire podium from NHK (Carolina Kostner, Rachael Flatt, Kanako Murakami) is back to face off once again, as are Skate Canada surprise bronze medalist Amelie Lacoste and a handful of other skaters looking to redeem themselves after disappointing first outings.
Carolina won the NHK Trophy without even attempting a triple flip or triple Lutz in the competition. It isn't that she's lost the jumps, she is just injured and decided against trying them three weeks ago-- it worked well. As far as I know, she will attempt the same watered-down content in Portland and hope to qualify herself a spot into the Grand Prix Final. With 15 points in the series already, a fourth place or better here should pretty much assure her ticket to Beijing. I personally feel that both of Carolina's programs this season are two of her strongest in years, but her consistency has been a big question mark throughout her career. She also had trouble fully rotating some of the triples in her free skate in Japan (even though just one received an under-rotation call), and many of the jumps had no flow coming out of them. One factor working to her advantage is that a decent skate should give her the highest components scores in the field.
Looking to make a comeback
Caroline Zhang showed up to the NHK Trophy with big improvements to her technique, but she also went through a huge growth spurt over the summer that seems to have sacrificed a lot of the highlights of her skating. The jumps weren't there in Japan, and her spins were just average-- she really used to stand out in that department. It seemed to me that Caroline was really understanding of the slow start, and I don't expect to see drastic changes in the performance level just yet. Definitely a work in progress, though.
Alexe Gilles experienced nothing short of a disaster at Skate Canada, finishing in last place. Her personal best score is some 25 points more than what she earned in Kingston, and I'm sure she is looking to rebound in a big way this week. Alexe is another skater who is capable of the triple toe/triple toe, as she has it planned for her short program jump combination.
Elene Gedevanishvili is about as wildly inconsistent as they come (25th at the European Championships yet 10th at the World Championships in the same season!). While her third-place NHK Trophy free skate placing looks great on paper, it was almost by default as everyone else around her fell and popped many of their triples. I'm sure she'd love nothing more than to skate two solid programs here. Is it likely, though? Probably not.
Sisters go head-to-head
Sweden's Viktoria and Joshi Helgesson will both compete at Skate America. The two faced off against each other earlier this season at the Nebelhorn Trophy, with older sister Viktoria winning the silver medal, while Joshi finished just off the podium. Viktoria finished her season last year with a surprise top-ten finish at the World Championships.