Just looking at the upcoming ladies field this week at 2017 Skate Canada International makes me want to run and hide. It's tough to put down a set of predictions when you have a field that is this good ... and this potentially unpredictable. At least six of the women here have a real shot at the title, and there is potential for some really exciting skating this week.
Skate Canada International predictions
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GOLD Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - Might this be Osmond's season to capitalize on the success that she had late last season? So far so good - her debut at Autumn Classic, except for the fluke fall mid-free skate, was right where she left off when she took silver at Worlds. There's a sense of assuredness from Osmond that we haven't seen before, and she didn't even let that fall at Autumn Classic take her eyes off the prize. Two solid programs here could put her on track to fight for a spot on the Olympic podium.
SILVER Ashley Wagner USA - Skate Canada two years ago was where Wagner first delivered - and successfully so - the short-free combo that we are seeing again this season. She had a low-key season debut at a club competition in California in late September, and she looked strong there already. After the rollercoaster ride that we have already been on via her American teammates this season, it is Wagner's chance to establish herself once again as the American to watch as she officially starts this Olympic season.
BRONZE Maria Sotskova RUS - With a win at Finlandia Trophy a few weeks ago, Sotskova gave skating observers improved presence and a stronger commitment to choreography. It doesn't hurt that she's got the trademark Russian consistency either. Among this group of unpredictable skaters, it could very well be her steadiness that brings her onto the podium this week.
4. Marin Honda JPN - Her win at U.S. Classic in September was solid but not the impressive showing that we saw from fellow senior rookie Alina Zagitova. Honda will debut a new short program here in Regina, but skating observers will have their eyes on her component scores. She shows off buttery smooth skating but her program composition, particularly in her free skate, leaves some thinking that she really would benefit from stronger material. And it may very well be the difference between being on the Olympic team or just missing it. Either way, a podium finish in her senior Grand Prix debut is well within her reach this week.
5. Karen Chen USA - The reigning U.S. champion comes to Skate Canada armed with a brand new free skate. After a bronze at U.S. Classic and a sixth place at Japan Open, Chen felt the need to change things up a bit. And though her performances have been decent, they don't come close to the kinds of skating we saw from her at her best last season. If there's any place to make a statement for Chen, it's here at Skate Canada to jumpstart her season and get her in the right state of mind to defend her U.S. title in January.
6. Anna Pogorilaya RUS - The 2016 World bronze medalist is competing internationally for the first time since her free skate meltdown at Worlds earlier in the year. You have to wonder where her competitive mindset is, but she looked strong in the short program at the recent Russian test skate. That said, she's had to deal with injury already this season, and had to withdraw after the short program at that Russian test skate as a precaution for mild back pain.
7. Courtney Hicks USA - Hicks has had a decent early season of competitions, most recently with a fourth place finish at Autumn Classic. Her programs this season are the strongest of her career, and some big clean jumps could really help her case for one of the American Olympic spots. She has an outside shot at the podium here.
8. Rika Hongo JPN - Last season was a bit of a nightmare for Hongo, a skater who had been top ten in the world for two seasons. Her faith in her jumps dissolved as the season progressed, but she salvaged it somewhat with a late invite to Worlds and a 16th-place finish. Her debut this season at Nepela Trophy, where she took silver, was promising. Can she rediscover the form that she has a couple seasons ago?
9. Alaine Chartrand CAN - You never know which Chartrand is going to show up at competitions. The 2016 Canadian champion has had strong results on the Grand Prix, most notably a bronze at Rostelecom Cup three years ago. She's more than capable of fighting for a spot in the top half here, but she will need to be more consistent than she was in her fifth-place debut at Autumn Classic earlier this season.
10. Kailani Craine AUS - Craine is coming off the strongest competition of her career. And what a place to throw it down and win her first senior international event - her win at Nebelhorn Trophy secured Australia a spot for the ladies for the Olympics. She will look to continue her momentum this week in her senior Grand Prix debut.
11. Laurine Lecavelier FRA - After a breakthrough season last year, where she was fifth at Europeans, Lecavelier started off this season with a disappointing tenth at Lombardia. This competition is less about placement for her and more about putting down two programs that will keep her on the same level as teammate Mae Berenice Meite, with whom she is battling for the sole French Olympic spot this season.
12. Larkyn Austman CAN - A career-high fourth at Canadians last season, Austman has been working her way into the names to watch from the Canadian team. She was 12th at Nepela Trophy to start, and this competition will serve as a learning experience for her.