"As for the women, I expect to see either Cohen or Kwan - or perhaps both - win medals, but I do not expect either of them to win the gold medal. Irina Slutskaya is the favorite, not just because she's the defending World champion, but the judges love her. She skated a sub-par, slopped long program at SLC and nearly won the gold medal Cohen might take herself out of medal contention with mistakes, and Kwan might not have the technical content to challenge for a medal. "
I'm perplexed by the continued perception that Irina is unbeatable and other posters (not necessarily you, SkateFan4Life) continually giving skaters such as Shiz, Fumie, Miki, Carolina, Joannie Rochette, even Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes, the benefit of the doubt that they could pull off some huge upset, but not giving MK and Sasha the same benefit of the doubt that they could win. It's always, "Sasha's not going to be able to pull off a clean program." "MK doesn't have the technical prowess to compete." At some point, Sasha will skate cleanly (or clean enough to win). And if anyone can up her technical content enough to be competitive, it will be MK. I firmly believe she is one of the smartest competitors around and will have a competitive program next season.
As for Irina, I'm sorry, but I can't yet jump on the bandwagon that she is going to be the same skater this year that she was last year. Yes, she won everything she entered last year, but she did not always skate particularly well. She was certainly beatable at Europeans, but her main competition doesn't come from Europe. A reasonably clean program by MK, Sasha, Shiz or Fumie would very likely have beaten her there.
The competitions when Irina skated her best (i.e., reasonably clean with completed 3/3's) happened to occur in Moscow (COR and Worlds). No one knows how much she benefitted by not having to travel at either competition. She was not only in her home country, but actually in her home city. Certainly she was able to train under her usual schedule right up until the last minute. She didn't have to deal with jet lag, unfamiliar food, strange hotel beds or noises in the night, etc. For all we know, she could have been sleeping in her own bed at night and not even staying in a hotel. Not having to travel, (especially with her medical condition) could have been a huge advantage for her. We saw how travel and skating at altitude affected her at Europeans in Tornio. Who's to say whether the altitude will not affect her again at the Olympics?
She also had the home crowd in her corner at Worlds. In addition to proving (to herself or others) that she could compete even with her illness, the excitement of having the first Worlds in Moscow in over 100 years was certainly motivation for her, as was the possible sweep of gold medals by Russia.
I'm not denying that she skated a spectacular long program at Worlds and won fair and square. But no one other than Irina really knows how much of a toll last season took on her and if she is going to be able to reach that same level of motivation this year. She hit a real high last season -- she proved that she could compete. She won Worlds at home (which I'm sure means more than anything to her). Is it reasonable to assume she will be able to reach that same high next season without the same motivational factors pushing her? I think we need to reserve judgment until we see her compete through the GP to see what kind of condition she really is in.