One thing that always amazes me (for lack of a better word) is that people continually live in the past! Miki did this or Miki did that - therefore she should do well if she competes again. I think Yu Na Kim is the exception! When you've been out of competition for even a year it's very difficult to come back. And the last year she competed she didn't do all that well. I agree with people early on in this thread that she should just walk away from it and rest on her many laurels. The Japanese team is pretty deep. I don't see Miki medalling at Sochi. I don't see her taking a significant place in the JSF this year. The fact that she couldn't get a coach last year tells me they've moved on and aren't interested in her anymore.
Miyahara has a dreadful UR problem, and it will probably get worse once she develops hips. Here was her JW FS:
3ze+3t<, 3f<, 3lo<, 2a, 2a+3t<, 3ze<, 3s<+2t+2t
She landed exactly ONE triple jump, and that was a flutz.
I could also see the JSF sending Miyahara if she has a good season and good Nationals. She is flawed, but since the 3rd Japanese lady is not going to be a medal hopeful anyway (sorry Miki fans, if even peak Miki would only be 4th or 5th in the current field in a well skated event, an old Miki who has been retired 3 years would be lucky to make top 10; and sorry Suzuki fans, London was likely to end of any faint medal hopes for Sochi she had) they probably figure might a well send someone who could be a big part of the teams future for the experience. It could still be Suzuki though, and they probably wouldnt mind her going as she has been their reliable worth horse over the whole quad, the one constant with Mikis semi retirement and Asadas prolonged slump, and she would probably like a fit little solider be willing to go to the post Olympic Worlds and help ensure Japan keeping 3 spots if Mao doesnt go or Murakami has a bad event at the post Olympic Worlds. I really dont think it will be Ando either way.
Asada also two-foot landed two 3A, flutzed the only 3Lz and URed two out of three 3F at Worlds.
IMO, it makes no sense to send Miyahara.
Suzuki had a terrible Worlds and Japanese nationals, but two silver medals on the GP (which to many should have been golds), and a silver at 4CC (where she was 9 points over Murakami), and 3rd at the GPF isn't too shabby a season.
Miyahara on the other hand has a PB 28 points lower than Suzuki. Her JW was terrible with all the URs, and she has no senior experience. I would be very surprised if she medaled on the Grand Prix next season, whereas I could picture Suzuki getting a medal or two -- Suzuki's certainly more of a favourite to medal at the Olympics than Miyahara at this point, and Miyahara will quite possibly have her chance in 2018.
As for the next star after Sochi, I could picture quite a bit of the JSF's stock being in Murakami, who's been dealing with UR issues, but at Worlds she's been steadily improving, and certainly her PCS has gotten better.
It's really tricky to question how Miki fits into all of this. I could picture her taking the spot from Suzuki if she has a stellar GP season and Suzuki skates poorly. But this is all negligible because I haven't seen Ando in practice or seen the calibre of her skating/jumps now so I can't assume or not assume anything. It would suck for Suzuki to miss out though given how hard she's worked this past quadrennial and Miki hasn't been around since her Worlds win.
I wonder if she like Evan are really coming back?
Sweet lady, but extremely forgettable competitive programs so whether she comes back or not, she won't be missed by me. The 2010-2011 SP was the only really lovely program by her.
If she does come back, she would have to win Japanese Nationals, I think, for the JSF to get really behind her (i.e. Mao would have to be struggling and she would have to beat her.)
If not, then even if she makes it onto the Olympic team for Sochi, Mao and Carolina would have to make major errors compared to a clean Miki for Miki to beat them for a podium spot. YuNa is likely to get on that podium in some way, regardless.
I don't usually go with ulterior motives/conspiracy theory-type stories, but here goes anyway because it's just honestly the way I see it.
The reason is because the Olympics are "special", and they seem to prefer to "spread the wealth" when it comes to the podium placements and the diversity of the athletes' nationalities when they are at similar levels. For instance, when two US ladies were on the podiums in 1998 and 2002, the reason was because they clearly did have the best abilities/performances/reputations compared to the other contenders.
Otherwise, the judges really seem to like to make clear demarcations when there is a frontrunner from, say, a strong team like Team Japan with multiple contenders. In 2006, Fumie Suguri was the National Champ but the judges put Arakawa way ahead and the scores in the SP were very closely clustered for Arakawa, Slutskaya, and Cohen with a clear gap separating them from the others. As I recall, Fumie Suguri skated well through the SP+LP but the gap was very large which made me at the time. I quite enjoyed her SP. So, personally, to me, it seemed like they wanted 1 Japan, 1 US (a hyped favourite for an Olympic medal) and 1 Russia (the other hyped favourite for an Olympic medal). They didn't seem to want 2 medium-rep Japanese ladies close to getting 2 podium spots.
In 2010, despite Ando being a former World Champ, and maybe she didn't have a great SP either, but she didn't make too many visible errors and aside from one < call on her combination she did alright. Well, look again - the separation from the top 3 vs. the rest of the field is LARGE: 78.50 (Kim), 73.78 (Asada) [no surprises here], 71.36 (Rochette) then... Ando sitting at 64.76 and the rest is fairly evenly spread out. 4th-11th the difference is 64.76 to 61.02 (Suzuki).
Mirai had to have the skate of her life in the LP and a very loooong deliberation from the judges to land in 4th place. To me, it's a sign that the judges wanted it YuNa-Mao-Joannie (KOR JPN CAN). If Joannie bombed, they might have been forced to do YuNa-Mao-Mirai (KOR JPN USA).
Oh, and let's not forget Laura Lepisto with 5 triples in the LP beat out Miki Ando with 6 triple LP. The same kind of Ando LP that in 2011 got miraculously high PC scores for ridiculous non-choreography by Morozov. In short, I feel that they suppressed Miki Ando at the Olympics when her chances weren't suppressed before or after the Olympic Games. Because when you're not a clear whopping co-favourite with another fellow country(wo)man, they're going to want diversity of nationalities on the podium. And Mao is the bigger star, better skater from Japan. If Mao's doing decently well, and YuNa and Carolina aren't bombing, Miki Ando, Kanako Murakami, or Akiko Suzuki are not going to be anywhere close to the Sochi podium.
Yep, that's my take on my observations.
^ I wish to add something else. Basically, if Mao somehow falters so badly that she's off the podium, it's conceivable that they'd allow some other strong Japanese skater to take a spot on the Sochi podium. But if it's Carolina Kostner who falters badly and drops off the podium, it's more likely that we're going to see Zijun Li, Kaetlyn Osmond, or one of the Americans or young Russian skaters take that spot instead of there being 2 Japanese skaters on the Sochi podium.
I say this because I was/am still annoyed at what I see are deliberate designs by the judges for diversity rather than awarding individual skaters based on what they do on the ice. I mean, I get it, the Olympics are an international event and the more nationalities that win a medal, the more "happiness" is spread and all, but, yeah. It's unfair to the skaters.
Zijun Li is pleasant to watch and she has high technical content, but she's a bit slow and her presentation needs work. She's one to watch for the future, but she needs a lot more amplitude in her skating.
I agree about Li... but I think, like Ten, it's wayyy to early to consider her a Sochi medal threat after one senior season, and one stellar major competition. Her PB in the short is shy of 60 points which puts her in the middle of the pack, and with a perfect skate she got 127 points (one would assume a few seasons from now, such a skate would easily clear 130).