Unlike the men's event, where injuries took out two of the favorites, the ladies' competition at this week's 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships is going to be absolutely jam-packed. Japan, Russia, and the U.S. are bringing stellar teams for the ladies. And even though there are at least ten skaters who could get on the podium, it's Polina Tsurskaya who comes in as the strong favorite for the title.
Rocker Predictions: 2016 Junior Worlds
GOLD Polina Tsurskaya RUS - Tsurskaya's triple lutz-triple toe is one of the best that skating has ever seen, and she's been using it to her full advantage all season long, most recently in her come-from-behind victory at the Youth Olympics. She had mistakes in short program there though, and you wonder how much of that was a fluke. But my guess is that she's going to cruise to the victory here to cap off her undefeated junior season. Crazily enough, though, she still won't be age-eligible for senior Worlds next season.
SILVER Wakaba Higuchi JPN - It's not at all easy to medal at Japan Nationals, but Higuchi has already done it twice. And this season, she won the silver by beating Mao Asada and Rika Hongo, both of whom will be at Worlds in a couple of weeks. She's got all the technical goods to compete with the best in the world, and her components have been catching up this season as well. Higuchi had a slow start to her season, as she was still recovering from an off-season injury, but she's back in full form now, as we saw at Japan Nationals. She's likely got the best shot at pulling off the upset over Tsurskaya, but she will definitely need to watch out for that flip edge.
BRONZE Maria Sotskova RUS - Silver at the Youth Olympics behind Tsurskaya, Sotskova was fifth at Junior Worlds last year. Like Tsurskaya, she had a rough short program at that competition as well, only to roar back with a strong free skate for a medal.
4. Yuna Shiraiwa JPN - After grabbing the lead at the Youth Olympics last month, Shiraiwa struggled in the free skate and dropped off the podium. Still, this has been a breakthrough season for the Japanese junior silver medalist, and she's got another chance this week to get on the podium with the best of the juniors.
5. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - We are likely up to double digits now for international events for Tursynbaeva, who has been competing up a storm this season on both the junior and senior ranks. We saw her hit a triple salchow-triple loop in training the other day, but you still wonder how much fatigue she has at this point in the season.
6. Marin Honda JPN - Bronze at the Junior Grand Prix Final, Honda has been solid, though not spectacular, this season. Her technical repertoire is not as strong as that of the other top skaters here, and that will be a hurdle that she will have to get over if she is to get on the podium here this week.
7. Bradie Tennell USA - Many thought that Tennell, the U.S. junior champion last year, should have been on the Junior World team last year. So this will actually be her Junior Worlds debut, after finishing sixth at Nationals on the senior level. Like Higuchi, she started this season off surprisingly out of it, with an 11th at her sole Junior Grand Prix event. But she was back and stronger than ever at Nationals. She could be the wild card in Debrecen this week.
8. Angelina Kuchvalska LAT - Kuchvalska was the surprise fourth-place finisher at Europeans in January, though the competition overall here in Debrecen, believe it or not, is going to be much deeper than the one she faced at Europeans.
9. Alisa Fedichkina RUS - The Russian junior bronze medalist had a rough time at the senior Russian Nationals in December. But we should not forget that she had a solid junior international season, which included a fourth-place finish at the JGP Final.
10. Tyler Pierce USA - A surprise fifth at the U.S. Championships propelled Pierce back into the conversation among the U.S. ladies. This will be her third Junior Worlds, and she will be looking to break the top 10 for the first time in her career. Like Tennell, she is a bit of a wild card here.