For the first time since 2014, someone other than Evgenia Medvedeva will win the the ladies' event at the Grand Prix Final. With Medvedeva out recovering from a foot injury, There are plenty of contenders eager to fill that void left by her absence. But as with the men's event, the results here in Nagoya for the women may have repercussions on the Olympic team conversation at the national championships coming up in the next month.
Grand Prix Final predictions
Ufficial hashtag: #GPFinal
GOLD Wakaba Higuchi JPN - Is this a surprise pick? Oh yes it is. But of everyone in this field, Higuchi has been the one who has time and time again delivered clean or near-clean programs this season. That, combined with her much-improved presence and interpretation this season, could be the key to a real breakthrough this week. Also, don't underestimate the effect that the roars of a home crowd can have on the performance of their home skater. If she channels the energy from the Japanese crowd this week and hits the way she's been doing all season, the gold is very much within her reach.
SILVER Alina Zagitova RUS - Three full competitions this season, and three times, she's had to come from behind after a flawed short program to win them. Zagitova has not shown nerves of steel quite yet in her debut senior season, and she will absolutely need to be stronger this week to stay undefeated. That said, the fact that her base value is the highest in the field will not go unnoticed, and that makes up the difference between her and the more choreographically mature skaters in the field.
BRONZE Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - The free skate has been her issue this season so far - there's something about breaks between jumps that messes with Osmond's concentration (we've seen problems with her loop and second axel, both of which are placed after breaks from jumping, multiple times this season). She's got all the goods to win it this week, but it's a question of how consistent she will be here.
4. Carolina Kostner ITA - Is this the time for Kostner to make an upgrade to her programs? She knows that if she is to have a chance at the Olympic gold this season, she will need to bring back her more difficult elements. I'd bet on the flip-toe coming back before the lutz, and given that she has no Olympic qualification drama to deal with, this really is the perfect opportunity to get something out in international competition.
5. Satoko Miyahara JPN - Who would've thought that Miyahara would win Skate America and then set herself up for the Final after Medvedeva withdrew? She looked better and better as the week went on at Lake Placid, and you have to believe that that performance gave her the confidence that she really needed to, once again, make her competitive with the very best in the world. But it is her third competition in five weeks, how will she fare?
6. Maria Sotskova RUS - It's been a strong, and more mature, sophomore season for Sotskova. And she comes in as the third strongest Russian woman in competition. But she knows that the likes of Tsurskaya and Radionova are ready to jump through any opening. Another solid effort here this week will do a lot to bolstering her chances to get on that Olympic team - though she will need to be better than her showing at Shanghai Trophy, where she took some hits for underrotations. She was fifth here last year, and she is a medal threat again here.