Kristi Yamaguchi is a tiny little thing, and she had huge problems with the 3S, so it can't just be height.
Some like edge jumps, some like toe jumps.
There is always one of the jump entrances that gives skaters problems. In history, we see it all the time.
Yamaguchi: Born with club feet and did pair throw salcows. This made them hard for her as a singles skater.
Orser: Had a hard time with loop and flip.
Browning: Lutz intimidated him always.
Hamilton: never did a correct flip...always a lip.
YuNa: Had hip pain from loops, so she avoids them as a solo jump.
Sato: Had GREAT edge jumps, but faltered on toe loop, flip and lutz (always struggled with them).
Salcows require a lot of non-dominant side leg strength and also a good salcow is timimg. Rush a salcow and you will never get the height you need for a triple, or your axis will be tilted, etc. leading to step-outs, two-footed landings and falls.
I get the impression that strength and timing are issues when a skater can not master a particular entrance.
I'd like to see Alissa do well at nationals but I don't want her on the world team, nor do I think the federation is dumb enough to put her on the team after last year. She'll need to earn her way back in by proving she can skate well.
Right now all of the other top competitors are showing more consistency and reliability than Alissa, who comes into this year's nationals as a big question mark b/c no one knows how she'll do.
It's not worth the risk. Ashley will be on the team and that second spot will go to either Gracie, Mirai or Christina...maybe Agnes, though I think her chances are a little lower given her results this season.
Gracie's programs are nothing great in terms of choreography though she does have a number of decent transitions and big jumps...when she completes them which she hasn't really done all season. She had one strong SP and two mediocre LPs so far.
IMO, TR is the only area Gracie beats Mirai in terms of PCS. Mirai is either slightly ahead or they are even on everything else in that category. Gracie has the better jumps, Mirai has the better spins and overall polish. Both of their SPs are decent but both LPs are rather meh. To me, Gracie and Mirai are on equal footing heading into nationals. Mirai had better finishes on the GP, but their overall total scores were very close (Mirai 176.68, Gracie 175.03). Both of them have not completed more than 4 triples in an LP this season. Mirai is prone to URs and edge calls on her lutz, while Gracie is prone to popping/doubling jumps and edge calls on her flip. Like I said, they're pretty much on equal footing.
I think the second spot will go to the person who has the best performance at nationals.
I'm always disappointed and saddened when I read that the judges will not let something happen no matter how the skater performs. How honorable is that?
Not always fair but that's just the way it is. If a newer skater (like Angela Wang or Hannah Miller) came out and had the performance of their life complete with great jumps, spins and that spark, you can bet they would place no higher than 3rd this year. Why? B/c those top two spots need to go to the two skaters likely to place well at worlds and as of now that pool of ladies consists of Ashley, Mirai, Gracie, Christina and possibly Agnes b/c of their results on the GP this year. Placing well at worlds depends on how the skater skates on that given night but things like reputation and favor from the judges also factors in. Though both Angela and Hannah had good showings on the JGP this year, they are unknown on the senior level and therefore are not a smart pick to go to senior worlds. Regardless of how they skate those top 5 spots are pretty much locked up at this point and it would take a meltdown from a number of skaters plus some performance-of-a-lifetime performances from others in order to change that.
Talent is important in this sport. But especially in countries like the US and Japan, you need a bit of luck too in order to break out of the ranks. It can be done though. I love Ashley b/c she started off as a 2nd/3rd tier skater and by sheer will forced her way to the top by doing what she needed to do to stand out. That's proof that with enough hard work any of these younger skaters can break out.
Gracie is only one of the US's talented younger ladies (and IMO she's not even the most talented of the group). She's benefiting from the attention right now. The federation is backing her which means all she needs to do is show up and skate decently and she'll get the scores needed. For someone like Angela, Hannah, Samantha or the other lesser known US ladies, they will have to work twice as hard to get noticed b/c all of the attention is currently elsewhere. On occasion skaters do have breakout performances at nationals but I don't know the last time an unknown skater won nationals. The closest thing would be when Mirai won in 2008 but Mirai wasn't unknown. She'd won junior nationals and was 2nd at junior worlds the year before, and had won both of her JGP events and the JGPF that year. Besides, it was a transitional year with the previous year's top ladies nowhere in the mix.
It's tough but that's how it is. Opportunity, timing, talent, luck and some help from your federation...that's the recipe for success in this sport.
^ I think that is needlessly cynical. I believe that the judges at U.S. Nationals try conscientiously to do their jobs with both honesty and honor.
Of course judges are only human. Reputation always plays a role in an "emperor's new clothes" kind of way. Good skating by definition is what the good skaters do. Therefore, when the person that we all know is the best performs, well, that must be good skating.
On the other hand, speaking of 2008, the U.S. judges had no problem placing former world champion and reigning U.S. champion Kimmie Meissner behind Bebe Liang and Katrina Hacker, leaving it up to the international selection committee to decide whether to send Kimmie to worlds anyway, leap-frogging Hacker.