Nagano 1998: Tara Lipinski lands 7 triples in her LP to take the OGM
Salt Lake City 2002: Sarah Hughes lands 7 triples in her LP to take the OGM
Turin 2006: Shizuka Arakawa lands 5 triples to take home the OGM
So many people are hyping both Mao Asada and Yu-Na Kim as possibly the two most talented athletes Ladies figure skating has ever seen. With Mao's 3A, and Yu-Na's 3Lz+3T, both have the jumping ability and, as clearly seen in the past several seasons, the artistic ability to match it. Commentators are saying Yu-Na is unbeatable, with only two losing both the '08 Worlds and '09 GPF to Mao Asada and collecting a string of gold medals from every event she has entered since and including the 2009 World Championships? It sounds a lot more impressive than it is, and all of the talk about 3+3 jumps and 3A's make it seem like the top ladies going for the podium could have been going for the Mens Podium as well.
When you really look at it, the field is a bit more open (in my honest opinion) than most people think. In direct response to a comment about a comparison of GOE's with Mao and Yu-Na, Mao has topped the amount of GOEs earned by Yu-Na in both the SP and LP of their most recent showings... 4CC's for Mao and the GPF for Yu-Na. The obvious thing to see is that since capturing the World title with a 5-triple program, Yu-Na has won all of the international events she has entered (TEB, Skate America, and the GPF). That sounds like an instant OGM, but if you really look at it... Yu-Na's Free Skate scores cross a range of 23 points (the highest being her first competition at TEB containing 5 triples). That's a pretty crucial gap when one is a record, a record made with only 5 clean triples when many ladies are planning and, if they live up to the Olympic moment, could land 7. The other score has been beaten this season by Mao Asada, Miki Ando, Rachael Flatt, Akiko Suzuki, and Joannie Rochette during the Grand Prix as well.
Looking back at Yu-Na's 3 biggest (and only defeats since the beginning of 2007), we have the 2007 World Championships where Miki Ando took home gold with 7 clean triple jumps, positive GOEs, and improved artistry over years past, Mao Asada took home silver with 6 clean triple jumps including a 3A and a 3F+3Lo combo and top PCS marks, while Yu-Na Kim took home the bronze with 5 clean triples. 2008 Worlds put Mao at the top of the podium with 6 triples, 2 in combination, and Carolina Kostner in Silver with 6 triples as well, and Yu-Na in Bronze with 4 clean triples with the highest PCS scores of the night. Finally was the '08-'09 GPF, where Mao skated away with Yu-Na's gold for the last time by putting out a 5 triple short program, including two 3A's, while Yu-Na took Silver, despite a lead in the Short Program, with only 4 triples, but her 3-3 included for big points. Their PCS scores were only 1 point apart.
Those past competitions put out some pretty tough material, but fast forward to this year, and we have Yu-Na breaking a SP record with only 5 triples, then claiming her 2nd Gold at Skate America with only 3 clean triples, and skating away with the GPF Gold with only 4. Her 3Lz+3T combo has also been either missing or underrotated since the Skate America SP.
If looking at the past proves anything, it's that Kim's artistry should give her atleast a one jump buffer over other competitors. But with that being said, Mao Asada already put out 5 clean triples, including the 3A, at 4CC's compared to Yu-Na's last 4 triple, 3-3 combo-less program. History also seems to show that Yu-Na keeps up to par under CoP without the same amount of jumps and can win the OGM with 4 or 5 clean triple jumps. But could there be the Tara Lipinski or Sarah Hughes hiding somewhere to skate away with the medal that, according to what seems to be the entire world, is Yu-Na's to lose? And could this possibility be even more relevant considering the PCS scores of the Mens competition?
My gut feeling still says Yu-Na will end up on the top of the podium, and given all of her hard work, dedication, and talent, she is very deserving of the OGM. But somehow it still seems like the ladies event is shaping up more to be like Turin: a battle of rumors of "X has a quad salchow," "Y has a 3-3-3," "Z will have a 3Lz+3T", etc., but in the end the medal will probably be won without all that extra jazz, no matter how much this competition is being hyped up to be.