Like the men's event, the ladies' competition at this week's 2015 Skate America is going to be intense. The firepower is evident, and at least four skaters have a good shot at gold, with two or three more with a good shot at the podium. 2014 U.S. champion Gracie Gold will lead the way for the Americans, but winning her second Grand Prix event won't be an easy task.
2015 Skate America: Rocker Predictions
GOLD Satoko Miyahara JPN - With a World silver medal under her belt, Satoko Miyahara has established herself with the international panel. Her jumps are just a tad bit bigger than they used to be, which gives her more security on full rotation, and that's made all the difference in her ascent to the top of the world stage. If her performance at Japan Open a couple weeks ago was any indication, Miyahara might just win the first Grand Prix title of her career in Milwaukee this week.
SILVER Gracie Gold USA - Unlike Miyahara, Gracie Gold didn't have a great Japan Open - but her new Firebird free skate is a huge step in the right direction for her choreographically, and we all know she's got the jumps to complement it. The key for her is to get off to a strong start with the short, which she is more known for, and make sure her concentration doesn't lapse in the free. Gold was third at this competition last season.
BRONZE Evgenia Medvedeva RUS - It's always nice to win your first senior international, which is precisely what Evgenia Medvedeva did at Ondrej Nepela a few weeks back. After going undefeated on the junior circuit last season, she's stepping up to the senior level and definitely ready to battle the best of the best. There's a history of Russian junior ladies making seamless transitions to the senior level, and I expect nothing less from Medvedeva this week.
4. Julia Lipnitskaia RUS - Call this a rebuilding season for the 2014 World silver medalist. Last season was a wash - amid overbearing pressure and growing pains, Julia Lipnitskaia was just running out of steam starting in the middle of the season. And a ninth-place at Russian Nationals sealed the deal. Her silver at Finlandia a few weeks ago was not without red flags - the confidence in her technique isn't quite there, and she's even been experimenting with a different set of jumping passes in her free skate (which, at least at Finlandia, didn't include a triple loop). I don't see her on the podium this week simply because of the jump issues. But if she can have any semblance of a clean competition, she certainly has as good of a chance as anyone to win it.
5. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - The up-and-coming Kazakh has been all over the pre-GP competitions - and you hope she's not over-competing at this point. But her trajectory has been strong, with triple-triples left and right and two programs that are certainly more than solid for her tenure. Skate America will be her first foray into the Grand Prix, and look for her to be the dark horse this week if others falter.
6. Haruka Imai JPN - Silver at Autumn Classic recently, Haruka Imai looks to be having a resurgent season after a downer last year (11th at Japan Nationals). She seems to have done one of the more improbable things in skating - fixing her lutz edge - so definitely lots of kudos there. The reappearance of the triple lutz in her free skate will certainly make her more competitive than she's been the past couple of seasons.
7. So Youn Park KOR - I often pull my hair out with So Youn Park, because there is just so much fantastic potential there with her, especially when her jumps are on. But she just has a tough time putting together two clean programs in one competition, and before she is able to do that consistently, she's not going to be able to get the respect she deserves from the international judges.
8. Karen Chen USA - The surprise U.S. bronze medalist last season is making her Grand Prix debut at home. The way she skated at Nationals last season makes you think she can be a complete contender, but not unlike Park, Chen struggles with putting those clean competitions together. She's definitely got top 5 potential here this week, and it is of utmost importance for her to skate a clean short in order to put herself in a good position to get those high PCS in the free skate. The perils of being in your first senior Grand Prix event ....
9. Alaine Chartrand CAN - The Canadian silver medalist is one of those skaters who can just surprise you with a lights-out performance. She's got all the jumps to do it, but once again, the inconsistency sneaks in.
10. Miyu Nakashio JPN - One of the up-and-coming Japanese ladies, Miyu Nakashio hasn't translated a strong early season last year into much more success since. But then again, it hasn't been that many competitions. She's got big jumps to go with her solid skating, and could be up in the top half if she skates well.
11. Nicole Rajicova SVK - The two-time Slovak champ had a bit of a breakthrough last season - finishing in the top 15 at Worlds. And that success has translated into a first appearance on the Grand Prix. She was 9th at Ondrej Nepela a few weeks ago.
12. Mariah Bell USA - Ondrej Nepela was not a confidence-builder for Bell, who was looking to bring some momentum from her sixth-place finish at U.S. Nationals earlier this year to this season. Skate America is her Grand Prix debut.