This women's event at 2017 Cup of China is nothing to sneeze at. There are World medalists and national champions all over the place, and the podium could take on all kinds of permutations this week. But perhaps even more intriguing are the internal country-specific battles for Japan and Russia, both sending three of their very best to Beijing. But the residual question from last week is whether the underrotations will continue into Beijing this week. How will this whole thing play out? I honestly have no idea.
Cup of China predictions
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GOLD Alina Zagitova RUS - This may be the least risky to call out of all of the placements. That said, Zagitova comes in as a senior Grand Prix rookie, so you never know what kind of new pressure she may be facing. She comes in as the skater to beat on the strength of her technical content. It helps to have a consistent lutz-loop and all your jumps in the bonus. And any disadvantage she faces in component scores are wiped away and then some because of her base value. Is she invincible? No. But she's as sure of a bet as I'll make here.
SILVER Mai Mihara JPN - Fifth in the world and with only two Japanese spots on the line this season, Mihara knew she had to push hard on her artistry over the summer, and that she did. She comes into this season with a stronger sense of style and greater attention to her music. That plus her silky smooth jumps are what will make her the biggest threat to Zagitova this week.
BRONZE Wakaba Higuchi JPN - Much like Mihara, Higuchi has taken huge strides in her skating and is proving that her late-season slump last year at Four Continents and Worlds was just a blip on the radar. She was third at Rostelecom Cup but will need to be a bit cleaner in the execution of her jumps to give her a chance at the gold here.
4. Elena Radionova RUS - Radionova gritted her way to a fourth-place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Based on her past couple of years, you're pretty certain that she will be willing herself all season to make that Olympic team. A strong finish here will be important for her, and she's definitely got a shot at the podium.
5. Marin Honda JPN - There were tinges of frustration from Honda last weekend at Skate Canada - between her mistakes in the short and her puzzling free skate score. And now add to the mix that she was dealing with left hip pain during the competition. She's still slated to compete this week, but you have to wonder how far from 100% she is right now.
6. Gabrielle Daleman CAN - Sixth at Finlandia Trophy a few weeks ago was not the kind of start that the World bronze medalist had in mind. But the season really kicks into full gear here at her first Grand Prix of the season, and she will be looking to bring the confidence that gave her a late surge last season.
7. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva RUS - It has been a frustrating few seasons for the 2015 World champion, who has had middling results since. She does come in after a bronze at Finlandia Trophy, but her consistency will be key here if she wants to have any shot at the podium.
8. Xiangning Li CHN - 14th at Worlds last season, Li comes in with a silver at Cup of NIce just a few weeks ago. And with Zijun Li out of the competition, Xiangning is looking at this competition as a way to continue making her case for the Olympic team.
9. Dabin Choi KOR - After a 4th at Nepela Trophy and a 9th at Finlandia, Choi comes into Cup of China trying to regain the spark that took her to a top 10 finish at Worlds last season.
10. Amber Glenn USA - A late entry to Cup of China in place of Gracie Gold, Glenn is making her senior Grand Prix debut here. She was 8th at Lombardia Trophy to start her season, but she has the technical goods to really make a splash here. The question is how will she handle the pressure of her first Grand Prix event on such short notice?
11. Ziquan Zhao CHN - A 16th at Finlandia was not the way that Zhao wanted to start the season, particularly as she's fighting for the one spot for China at the Olympics. She was 11th here the past two seasons.