In my eyes, it’s a very clear battle for gold in the ladies’ event at Grand Prix of Helsinki this week. Alina Zagitova comes into her first Grand Prix as Olympic champion, and her biggest competition will come from Kaori Sakamoto, who grabbed the silver a couple of weeks ago at Skate America. The next intrigue will be the fight for bronze, and that’s the medal that is probably going to be least predictable of the three. Coincidentally, six of the skaters in this field was at Finlandia Trophy in early October - it will be a rematch of sorts.
Grand Prix of Helsinki preview
Official hashtag: #GPHelsinki
GOLD Alina Zagitova RUS - She really didn’t look like she missed a beat after that blip at Worlds to end her brilliant season. Zagitova’s performances at Nebelhorn and Japan Open were as good as any that we’ve seen this season, and she will need to make a few mistakes for the rest of the field to catch up to her here.
SILVER Kaori Sakamoto JPN - With a silver at Skate America, another silver here will set her up well for a berth to the Grand Prix Final. Sakamoto has shaken off some of the cobwebs that took her off the podium at Lombardia Trophy. Her effortless skating and floating jumps will keep her in the conversation for gold - she’s the only one with any real shot at competing with Zagitova this week if she’s on.
BRONZE Loena Hendrickx BEL - It wasn’t the Grand Prix debut that she imagined it would be. The flu stopped her from even finishing her Skate America two weeks ago. But Hendrickx is back this week to right the ship. I had high hopes for her debut two weeks ago, and I have high hopes for her this week as well. She’s proven that she has the potential to score big and compete with the best in the world. That short program will certainly be a signal for her readiness in Helsinki this week.
4. Viveca Lindfors FIN - Who’s my dark horse this week? Long thought to be the next Finnish star, Lindfors has been plagued by her inconsistent jumps in competition. But the last time she skated in Finland less than a month ago, she delivered the free skate of her career to take the bronze in a competitive field. Home field advantage - might she be able to repeat her feat again?
5. Stanislava Konstantinova RUS - After a disastrous Worlds where she finished 19th last season, Konstantinova has started her season on a better foot. Her free skate has been more of a struggle, so she will need to get into her comfort zone in the short to put herself in any position to medal in Helsinki.
6. Angela Wang USA - It’s been three seasons since Wang was on the Grand Prix, and she’s here on the heels of some career-best skating last season. She was eighth at Finlandia to start her season, and she’s got a shot at the podium if she can get her jumps in order. Her programs have matured greatly over the past couple of years, and done well, she’ll be well-rewarded by this international panel.
7. Emmi Peltonen FIN - The two-time Finnish champ is one of the select few in the club of booming triple toe-triple toes (count Gabriella Daleman and Megan Wessenberg in that club, of course). Like Lindfors, she’s got a lot of potential and tremendously basics. But also like Lindfors, she has a history of falling apart in free skates in competition. Two clean skates and she could very well be up there fighting for a medal.
8. Yuna Shiraiwa JPN - In her second season on the Grand Prix, Shiraiwa is looking to get on an upswing as she looks toward the Japan Championships. She has had a tough time stringing two consistent skates together in competition in senior competition. She was fifth at US Classic earlier this season.
9. Daria Panenkova RUS - Panenkova was ninth at Skate Canada last week and will carry that experience to this week in Helsinki. Her jumps didn’t look to have quite the ease that they did last season, and that will hamper her here.
10. Hanul Kim KOR - Tenth at Finlandia, Kim had a tough time with underrotations there. She will need to be a lot cleaner in her jumps to break into the top half.
11. Rika Hongo JPN - Her first competition of the season was a real struggle. Hongo was 16th at Finlandia Trophy. We’ve seen greatness from her in the past, but I’m not quite sure where her skating is right now.