The ladies' field at this week's 2016 Grand Prix Final is a treasure trove of talent. And like the men's event, this has the potential to be a pretty spectacular set of programs. But what's most interesting is whether or not anyone can hand Evgenia Medvedeva a defeat. After all, she has lost all of once, going eight out of nine in senior international competition since her debut last season. And her most immediate competition will come from her teammates, one of whom has definitely been on an upward trajectory this season so far.
2016 Grand Prix Final Predictions
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GOLD Anna Pogorilaya RUS - Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge that this is still a long shot, but I'm feeling ambitious. This season, Pogorilaya has emerged as the skater with a legitimate threat to Medvedeva, and she's had to prove herself in the past two seasons and shed the image, first, of the skater who couldn't cut it in components, and then, of the skater who couldn't go through a competition without falling (hard) multiple times. And so it was a revelation when she put down clean performances at Worlds in March, and yet again as she has followed up with mature, consistent programs this year. Is this her time to pull even with her more decorated teammate? Perhaps.
SILVER Evgenia Medvedeva RUS - But that said, for Medvedeva to get her second loss ever in senior competition, it will take both absolutely clean skates from a competitor and a mistake or two from her. We did see a rare fall from her at Trophee de France a few weeks ago. And that could very well have been a fluke and nothing more, so maybe I should've taken that with a grain of salt. But let's just say that what it does do is remind us that she is human after all. I will say that Medvedeva still comes in as a strong favorite, but you better believe that Pogorilaya is ready to pounce at any opportunity to build on her momentum.
BRONZE Elena Radionova RUS - It's all about grit these days for Radionova, whose jumps used to be much more reliable when she was just moving up from juniors. But it's precisely her tenacity that has kept her in the conversation, and it will be her tenacity that will make a case for a Russian sweep this week. Radionova is a heart-on-her-sleeve kind of skater, and you never expect her to not give it her all in each performance. If there's anyone who is going to will her way to the podium, it's going to be her.
4. Satoko Miyahara JPN - After a brilliant start at Japan Open and US Classic, Miyahara has taken some steps back and proven to be vulnerable again in the full rotation of her jumps. It was especially apparent at NHK Trophy a couple weeks back, where the integrity of her landings were not quite there. And for a skater like Miyahara, where just a smidgen of jump height will take her from fully-rotated to underrotated, it's really a game of precision. At her best, she's certainly a podium contender. But if we see some more underrotations this week, it will be a completely different story.
5. Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - Making her Grand Prix Final debut, Osmond has been looking for this kind of start since she took eighth at Worlds in 2013 in her debut on the senior level. But injuries and the subsequent recovery from injuries have taken her out of the conversation - until this fall. Her explosive jumps are back, and so is about 75% of her confidence. Where we've seen Osmond shine is in the short program. Where she will need to improve is in the second half of her free skates, where she's been brought back to earth a bit. Two clean programs can and will land her on the podium, so watch out.
6. Maria Sotskova RUS - Not too shabby for your first full senior season, eh? Sotskova, last year's World junior silver medalist, has been very strong so far this year, bringing her consistency to the senior ranks and grabbing a silver and bronze in her two Grand Prix competitions. Of the six ladies, though, she is the least components-refined, and will be the longest shot for the podium. That said, her technical repertoire is there, and so she can very well be the spoiler if others make mistakes.