There are six skaters who have the goods to walk away with the title this week at Skate America, and that's *after* the withdrawal of Anna Pogorilaya just a few days ago as she is still recovering from her back injury. With just one spot left in the Grand Prix Final (though possibly two if you factor in the repercussions of Evgenia Medvedeva's foot injury) and two skaters in this field, there's a lot that can happen in Lake Place this week.
Skate America predictions
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GOLD Polina Tsurskaya RUS - What an absolutely stunning debut from Tsurskaya at NHK Trophy. Though third overall, she stole the show in the free skate with her sky-high jumps. She, like Wagner, will qualify for the Grand Prix Final with a win here, and it's a result that would really help her as she looks to capitalize on her outsider status for the Russian team for PyeongChang.
SILVER Ashley Wagner USA - Her bronze at Skate Canada was not without its obstacles. Wagner did not put together the kind of skate that we expected from her in either program, but it was her sheer determination that got her up on the podium, especially with others making mistakes there. With a few weeks left to Nationals and a spot in the Grand Prix Final on the line, it's fair to believe that the veteran that she has become will emerge this week in an event she has won twice in her career. And whether or not she gets to the Final, this week is so much about the setup for the U.S. Championships - eyes on the prize.
BRONZE Kaori Sakamoto JPN - Fifth at Rostelecom Cup, Sakamoto showed off a confidence that we had not seen from her yet on the senior level. She could really be anywhere from a podium finish to sixth or seventh in the standings, but the solid jumping that she showed in Moscow is what makes her the dark horse for me this week at Skate America. And a good showing here will do a lot for her going into Japan Nationals as she looks to break into that very top group of skaters in her home country.
4. Karen Chen USA - The reigning U.S. champion has been looking to recapture the magic that took her to that title and to her fourth-place at Worlds last season. So far, she's shown signs of it but she has yet to really put it together in competition, most recently with a seventh at Skate Canada. With just over a month left before the U.S. Championships, this is as good of a time as any to take her season up another gear.
5. Gabrielle Daleman CAN - Sixth at Cup of China was not what Daleman had hoped for, especially as she is trying to build on her World bronze medal from last season. She hasn't shown the spark or the confidence in her jumps in competition that we saw late last season. She does have good memories of this competition last year, when she was fourth, so perhaps this week will mark a turning point in her season.
6. Satoko Miyahara JPN - Fifth at NHK Trophy, the three-time Japanese champion is doing her best to return to the form that took her to the Grand Prix Final the past two seasons. But as we saw at NHK, her jumps aren't quite back yet, and perhaps her competition form is still trying to kick into gear. It's been two weeks since that last competition, and you wonder how much more prepared she is coming into this week. And with the Grand Prix Final out of sight, she is looking ahead to the all-important Japan Nationals, so this will be a chance for her to continue to get more competition time under her belt.
7. Bradie Tennell USA - Making her first appearance on the Grand Prix and in the biggest senior international competition of her career so far, Tennell has impressed early this season with consistent skating both domestically and internationally. She was fourth at Lombardia Trophy a few months ago in a field that included Zagitova, Higuchi, and Kostner. Two more consistent skates here at Skate America and she could find herself within earshot of the podium and making a big impression as a dark horse for the Olympic team.
8. Alena Leonova RUS - Most wouldn't believe that Leonova would still be on the Grand Prix in her tenth year on the senior ranks, but she's stuck around through the good and the bad times with the grit that we know from her. She had a career best performance two weeks ago at NHK Trophy and is looking for a repeat of that here in Lake Placid.
9. Serafima Sakhanovich RUS - A very late entry to Skate America after Pogorilaya withdrew, Sakhanovich will be in only Grand Prix of the season. She is coming off a win at Warsaw Cup last week and was seventh at this competition last season.
10. Xiangning Li CHN - Li was eighth at Cup of China to start her Grand Prix series. It will be tough for her to get up in the standings here this week, but a couple of clean skates could help her do that.
11. Nicole Rajicova SVK - Tenth at NHK Trophy two weeks ago, Rajicova will be looking to improve on that finish this week. She has been as high as seventh in the Grand Prix in recent seasons.