The three medalists from last year are back, and it's altogether possible that they will be the three back on the podium once again this year. Evgenia Medvedeva comes in as the heavy favorite, having lost only once in her senior career and on a eight-competition winning streak. A few of the big names from last year aren't here - Satoko Miyahara withdrew with an injury, and neither Mao Asada nor Gracie Gold fared well enough this season to make it out of their national championships. But the competition is still going to be intense, especially with Carolina Kostner back in the mix.
2017 World Championships predictions
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GOLD Evgenia Medvedeva RUS - There is no doubt who the favorite is here. It's all about consistency for Medvedeva, and that's what has and will continue to set her apart from the rest of the field here. What's curious about her this season is an almost a bit of a boredom that she's had because of her dominance. It's led her to do things like add invalid jumps to her programs ... just cuz. And she did that at both Russian Nationals and Europeans It will be important for her to keep her eye on the prize, though. It may very well be a bygone conclusion, but she may not be able to afford a mistake with the competition nipping at her heels.
SILVER Anna Pogorilaya RUS - This season has been yet another one of revelation for the reigning bronze medalist. She has proven herself to be not only a mature performer but also an athlete with incredible mental toughness. For someone who was known for her disastrous falls only 15 months ago, Pogorilaya has made such a radical transformation. Even when she was hurt at Russian Nationals, she gritted through to prove herself there and make it back to the World Championships. Perhaps this will finally be the competition where the quality of her skating finally gets rewarded properly.
BRONZE Ashley Wagner USA - Last year's Worlds for Wagner was thrilling. Looking back, her short program was one of the greatest in recent memory, and frankly underscored. But an emotional free skate vaulted her to the silver, a first for an American woman in ten years. Her season has been tougher than most would've imagined, and she once again comes into Worlds in an underdog role. And you know what? That's probably perfectly fine for her. It's when Wagner knows she has work to do that she makes the most out of the sheer determination that she has. Plus, we'll see two completely revamped programs from her coming in to Helsinki - watch out.
4. Carolina Kostner ITA - Disrupt that's what Kostner is hoping to do this week in Helsinki. She won her first World medal 12 years ago in Moscow, and the last time Worlds was in the Nordics, she took silver (2008 in Goteborg). In a lot of ways, this return to Worlds is only a set up for Kostner as she looks toward the Olympics next year. She doesn't have all of her technical content back yet (no lutz yet and she has not rotated the flip-toe yet this season), and she's in no hurry to. She knows that given two clean skates, she is podium material. I expect her to put that flip-toe back in her short in Helsinki, but the extra risk may be what keeps her from being at her best.
5. Gabrielle Daleman CAN - As much as the silver at Four Continents was her best showing ever in a high-stakes international event, it was also a bit of a disappointment for Daleman, who was so well positioned to grab that title. She's shown a great deal of brilliance this season, and it may be that time where she finally puts two clean skates together and really live up to the dark horse role that she currently holds.
6. Mariah Bell USA - Speaking of dark horses, the U.S. bronze medalist has shown a great deal of promise this season as well. Now that she's gotten one big competition out of the way, it's time for her to face her biggest test yet. Bell has been one to learn from competition missteps - after all, she turned a disappointing showing at Tallinn Trophy to fuel for her Nationals performance. But it will most certainly be that elusive clean short program that she's looking for to set her up for success, and provide the Americans with a shot at those three spots for the Olympics.
7. Mai Mihara JPN - All of a sudden, Mihara has become Japan's best hope at Worlds. She has been the one flying under the radar all season, especially with Miyahara and Higuchi faring better on the Grand Prix. Her consistency will make her dangerous for top six, but her components are at a disadvantage to those of the top women. But hey, she won that Four Continents title for a reason, and she may very well be the one to sneak in and have an outside shot at the podium.
8. Maria Sotskova RUS - Sotskova has been surprisingly on and off this season. After a brilliant Grand Prix, she made major errors at both the Grand Prix Final and Europeans. Is it a matter of inconsistency, or nerves, or both? If she can find her jumps again, she can definitely figure into the top group.
9. Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - At her best, Osmond is one of the skaters here who really could give Medvedeva a run for the title. But her self confidence seems to be taking a hit once again after a few rough free skates with multiple falls. Four Continents was perhaps most jarring, because she hit the tough elements but fell (and fell hard) on the easier ones. The last time something like this happened to her was at Skate Canada in 2015, after which it took her months to really figure her skating out again. Could she medal here? Absolutely. It's all going to depend on where her mindset is in Helsinki.
10. Zijun Li CHN - Li has had an unexpectedly drama-filled road to Helsinki. The Chinese Federation didn't make up its mind on which two women to send until just today, and so Li (in addition to Xiangning Li, who made it, and Ziquan Zhao, who got dropped) was on the edge of her seat waiting for clarification. There was even a point in the week when it looked like she wouldn't even be chosen for the team, which would've been a complete wrong move given how much higher her scoring potential is compared to her teammates. Her jumps have been revamped since working with Alexei Mishin, and she's got real dark horse potential here. But you have to think that the crazy week leading into Worlds will effect her in some way.
Others to watch:
Karen Chen USA - How exactly is this going to work out? The US champ was 12th at Four Continents, once again with boot issues that plagued her last season. And right when her boot issues seemed to have been resolved, she got into a collision during practice in the lead-up to Helsinki. The Chen we saw at US Championships have top 8 potential - but that was one brilliant competition out of the six that she had this season. There's a lot to like about her skating, and her top 10 potential this week may very well be determined by how she looks in her short program.
Dabin Choi KOR - 14th last year in her debut, Choi grabbed the Worlds berth after teammate Nahyun Kim withdrew with an injury. And she comes in hot off the Asian Winter Games win, where she had a breakthrough performance. Her change of short program, in particular, has been a catalyst for her late-season surge. Top 10 is definitely within reach.
Loena Hendrickx BEL - The younger sister of Jorik Hendrickx has really come on strong in her debut season, taking seventh at Europeans just two months back. Though she doesn't quite have the maturity yet to hit top 10 here, she's one to watch.
Rika Hongo JPN - Hongo's trajectory has been downward this season. And while she was eighth last year at Worlds, her performances in her last three competitions do not bode well for a third consecutive top 10 finish. But if she gets her jumps together somehow, she certainly knows how to make it up there.
Wakaba Higuchi JPN - The Japanese silver medalist had a fantastic first half of the season, but she looked lost at Four Continents, particularly during practice. Like Hongo and Chen, the potential is there, but the inconsistency makes her placement tough to predict.
Laurine Lecavelier FRA - Fifth at Europeans in January, Lecavelier has put down some very solid performances this season so far. But she is coming off a not-so-hot Cup of Tyrol a month ago, and she's been hot or cold all season, so you wonder which Lecavelier is going to show up.