WHAT WILL THE 2011/2012 SEASON BRING US IN LADIES?

The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming
All bets are off. The Russian baby brigade is entering phase one of their plan to dominate the world, and that is early entry into the GP season (well, not early by any rules, but early because they won’t be age eligible to compete at Worlds). At first, I would’ve said that Leonova and Makarova are in a holding pattern until that group comes of age, and then they’re outta here. Now, we can see that they earned three spots for Russia next season, both buying themselves some time and a lot of good will. If one of them transforms that into a successful GP season, they may see themselves in a good position going into the seasons thereafter and ultimately Sochi.

Mao Asada did the SGP in the 2006 Olympic season and that obviously set her up well for the next quad. I rather look forward to Sotnikova attempting the same thing (only this time, Olympic Gold in Sochi).

Writing people off? I don’t think so....
This season was all about those people who had previously been written off c oming back and coming back strong. Alissa Czisny? GPF and National Champion, top five at Worlds. Sarah Meier? Battling injuries that wrecked a couple seasons, winning Europeans at home (and seriously, if you don’t cheer a little at her reaction to winning, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am). Carolina Kostner, after two seasons of truly disasterous skates at Worlds/Olympics, comes through during the GP season as well as at Worlds. Hell, even someone like Miki Ando, who seems to be written off every three seasons or so.

American ladies... a reason for optimism?
The single most gratifying thing about this season was seeing the steady rise of Alissa Czisny. What really stands out about how Yuka and Jason coached her was that they improved a few things incrementally. Her jumps are a little stronger. She skates a little faster. Her confidence has improved. Meanwhile, both Mirai Nagasu and Agnes Zawadzki ended their seasons with their best skates of the season (@ 4CC and World Juniors respectively). Christina Gao is now Brian Orser’s top skater. While these things individually probably don’t mean a whole heck of a lot, together.... they’ve given me some hope for the rebirth of American ladies figure skating. Toss on Courtney Hicks garnering sixth in her international debut, and you’ve got a pretty formidable quintet. It’ll be interesting to see which of the group medals at Worlds first. My money’s on Czisny.

Japanese ladies... a reason for caution?
We’re so used to the Japanese ladies dominating – three skaters in the top ten for five years running at least. And I don’t want to sound like I’m writing anyone off after point out the successful performances of those written off. But at the same time, I’m wondering if the Japanese spring is slowly coming to a close. I’m not entirely convinced that Mao Asada’s project to rework her jumps is going to result in a greater skater/jumper. I doubt that Akiko Suzuki will make another worlds team (though hope spring eternal). I’m not all that enthusiastic about Murakami. Miki Ando is closer to the end of her competitive career, not the beginning. And the junior ladies weren’t all that successful this season (though Shoji lost the JGPF bronze on a tie breaker and placed a respectable fifth at WJs). I’ll be curious to see if any of the younger skaters have a breakthrough