Asada faces Russian teen challenge
The article by The Yomiuri Shimbun
Four of the five competitors who will seek to keep Japan’s Mao Asada from repeating as women’s champion at the ISU Grand Prix Final share several things in common.
They are all Russian. And they are all teenagers.
And Julia Lipnitskaia, Adelina Sotnikova, Anna Pogorilaya and Elena Radionova will all be making their debuts in the final meet of the season, which brings together the top six skaters and pairs based on the standings in the Grand Prix series.
American Ashley Wagner completes the field.
The heavy Russian presence in the competition, which gets under way tonight at Marine Messe Fukuoka, reflects a drive to build a strong team as host country of the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Standing out among the group is Lipnitskaia, who finished second in the Grand Prix standings to Asada.
Lipnitskaia captured her first Grand Prix title when she finished ahead of Japan’s Akiko Suzuki at Skate Canada, where she also scored a career-best 198.23 points. She later added the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, topping world silver medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.
Lipnitskaia, who had to withdraw from last year’s Grand Prix Final due to injury, said she is ready for the challenge on Asada’s home ice.
“It will be difficult to beat Mao in Japan, but I’ll go all out,” she said.
Sotnikova has been marked for greatness since winning the Russian championship at 12. Now 17, she has been a bit erratic in her jumps the past two seasons, but put it together enough to chalk up second-place finishes at both the Cup of China and the Trophee Bombard in Paris.
Pogorilaya, 15, skating in her first year on the senior circuit, topped the field in Beijing for her first career title.
With the Fukuoka meet serving as a national team qualifier and only two spots available for Russia, the intensity level will be sky high for the three.
At 14, Radionova, who finished ahead of Lipnitskaia and Pogorilaya to win the world junior title last March, is ineligible to compete at the Sochi Olympics.
It is the same situation that Asada found herself prior to the 2006 Turin Games, when she won the Grand Prix Final crown for the first time but was too young for the Olympics.
“It’s just like me in the past,” said Asada, making the competition between the two another aspect worth watching.
I hadn't heard this before. So the Olympic team will be decided here?
Originally Posted by koatcue
I believe it is one of the selection competitions, but not the only one. They also use the results from nationals and Europeans.
Originally Posted by drivingmissdaisy
Oh ok, that makes sense then. The three eligible ladies here are almost certain to be the group that two are chosen from.
Originally Posted by MalloryArcher
They've done this before. They used this strategy in 1997-98. Maria Butyrskaya was a shoe in but the showdown was between Irina Slutskaya (who was 4th at Russian Nationals) and Elena Sokolova who was third at Russian Nationals, so was already going. Irina had to beat Elena to secure her spot on the Olympic team. There were three spots available. If Elena beat Irina, then Julia Soldatova would, who was second would go. Irina beat Elena and secured her spot. They did it again at the 1999 GPF, Irina was again fourth at nationals, Elena was fifth. This time, the Russians chose to send the other two medalists, Julia Soldatova and Viktoria Volchkova, over Irina and Elena.