2018 Olympics preview (ladies): How a season can change things

For the past few seasons, it's been about how much of a potential cruise it was going to be for Evgenia Medvedeva to win that Olympic title. She's been so dominant since the fall of 2015. And even when training mate Alina Zagitova appeared on the scene this season, you thought that Medvedeva still had the edge. But an injury changed all of that a few months ago, and now the momentum has shifted to the side of Zagitova. What's going to happen this week? And then, oh boy, what's going to happen with that bronze? 

This is going to be like blindly throwing darts at the dartboard. But here we go.

Olympics predictions
Official hashtag: #PyeongChang2018

GOLD Alina Zagitova OAR - She moves across the ice with stunning ease, and her jumps have some of the best spring of anyone in the competition. Whatever your feelings are about backloading, the way that Zagitova's programs are laid out plus the fact that she has the second most difficult content of anyone here give her great cushion over many of the other skaters. She knows she will have to have the sparkle that she did at Europeans to grab that gold medal, and if the Team Event was any indication, she's ready for it. Getting through that short program without errors will be key, any mistakes and her chances to spoil Medvedeva's party go down dramatically.

SILVER Evgenia Medvedeva OAR - I really didn't think I would be doing this. But Medvedeva has looked more and more this season like the weight of the Olympics has hit her. The injury in November didn't help matters, and it showed at Europeans, where she just didn't have the freedom in her skating that we've come to expect from her. Technically, she's at a disadvantage to Zagitova, so she will need to milk every bit of execution out of her jumps. The lutz in the free skate will be a liability, as it was at Europeans - if she can get through it without an edge call, her chances for the title get immensely better.

BRONZE Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - Her jumps are the most quality of any of the women here in PyeongChang. And though her consistency in practice is always top notch, there tends to be a mental block with her in competition. But this may be a prime example of the Team Event being a great testing ground for a skater. She has now had a feel of competing at these Olympics, and it may just be what she needed to get her jumps in check. A clean short program and she may even get into the conversation for gold. 

4. Kaori Sakamoto JPN - The new Four Continents champion seems to have been at the Olympics for months now, after being one of the very first skaters in practice here. She looked unstoppable to start, but she had a dip in the Team Event. If she's worked out the kinks from her Team free skate, she's got a fighting chance at the podium. To think, she wasn't really on anyone's radar at the beginning of the season, and now she's an Olympic medal contender.

5. Mirai Nagasu USA - Who would've thought that we would be talking about Nagasu as a medal threat here? But her determination, work ethic, road back from disappointment, and a consistent triple axel has made that a real, real possibility. For it to happen, though, things have to really align, and that means a clean short program that gets her a 75+ score to get her into the final group, and then harnessing the energy from the crowd to really give the performance of her life to get those components up. For a skater who hasn't believed in herself enough for the past decade, Nagasu comes here with more belief than ever. A medal here would be utterly spectacular.

6. Satoko Miyahara JPN - For Miyahara to even be at the Olympics after everything she's been through with her injuries is pretty incredible. She is still on the road back, and you saw that in the Team Event, where her underrotations crept back into her programs and her power was just not as great as it used to be. But as she showed at Skate America in November, she does have the goods to get on that podium. More than anything, her confidence is what is most important for her this week - and it wasn't there at Four Continents a few weeks ago.

7. Carolina Kostner ITA - At one point, Kostner looked like she could even be challenging for gold, especially given that she does have some of the best skating of any of the women here. But her free skates have been underwhelming this season. Whether it's nerves or conditioning or just plain inconsistency, she will be looking to get into medal position after the short program, her strength. And if she can figure it out in the free skate, a medal is hers.

8. Bradie Tennell USA - The U.S. champ has the privilege (?) of skating first in the short program tomorrow, which could work to her advantage. After all, had she skated after a few low scores, she may not get the kind of marks that she is hoping for. Skating first allows her to set the tone for the event, and if she goes clean, expect her to be in the lead for three groups. She's looking to do what she does best - skate cleanly - and show that the work she's putting into her components is paying off.

9. Gabrielle Daleman CAN - Team gold in hand, Daleman comes in as the World bronze medalist but with some question marks, especially after the scores she got in the Team free skate. Her scoring potential is not quite as high as that of her competitors here, but she has the goods to recreate that magic from Worlds and make a run for the top five.

10. Maria Sotskova OAR - Fourth at Europeans, Sotskova is a solid skater who is sometimes prone to underrotations and mistakes in competitions. She is, after all, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, so she's very much got medal potential here. But can she keep it together for two programs here again?

11. Karen Chen USA - Fourth at Worlds last year, Chen battled her way onto the Olympic team with the best skating of her season at the U.S. Championships. If she can rekindle the magic that put her in that final group last year at Worlds, she could be a surprise here in PyeongChang.

12. Dabin Choi KOR - The Korean silver medalist comes in after two strong skates at Four Continents and a chance to wow the home crowd here at the Team Event. She will be looking to harness the energy from the crowd to try to sneak into that top 10.

13. Loena Hendrickx BEL - It was an iffy start to her season, but Hendrickx has pulled it together over the past couple of months, and potentially brings a triple-triple to the table here at the Olympics. She's improved a lot as a performer, and that will make her a dark horse for the top 10.

14. Nicole Rajicova SVK - Sixth at Europeans for the second consecutive year, Rajicova comes in with upgraded content over the past season. Her jumps have never looked better, and she is poised to greatly improve on her 24th place finish four years ago in Sochi.

15. Hanul Kim KOR - Sixth at Four Continents, Kim brings a set of strong jumps with her to her Olympic debut. It's her freshman senior season, and skating at home in front of a roaring crowd, you wonder how she will deal with that pressure.

16. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - A hip injury has kept her from being in form to fight for a top 10 finish. But luckily for her, her sal-toe is consistent and that will get her through the short program. It'll all be about whether she can grit it out for the free skate.

17. Mae Berenice Meite FRA - Meite fought her way onto her second Olympic team. She's had equipment issues during the Olympics so far, but she's got top 15 potential if she can figure out her jumps again like she had in practices when she first arrived.

18. Larkyn Austman CAN - After a rough start to her season, Austman pulled it together to grab the bronze at Canadians and a spot on the Olympic team. She's got great technique on her jumps, it's just a matter of putting it together - and at the biggest competition of her career by far.

19. Alexia Paganini SUI - A strong seventh in her debut at Europeans last month, Paganini has great potential and solid jumps. She's laying the foundation to become a contender over the next four years on the European scene.

20. Diana Nikitina LAT - Somehow, Nikitina was completely out of sorts at Europeans when she failed to even get close to qualifying for the free skate there. But she's got an arsenal of jumps that should get her in the free here unless she implodes again.

21. Nicole Schott GER - Schott's got a lot of potential, but she hasn't had the consistency in competitions to make her a threat for the top 15. Case in point - she had a perfect morning practice and warmup for her Team Event short and didn't skate clean there.

22. Xiangning Li CHN - A solid tenth at Four Continents a few weeks ago, Li will be skating in the individual event having had the experience of the Team Event under her belt.

23. Kailani Craine AUS - After winning Nebelhorn Trophy to qualify this spot for Australia, Craine hasn't had the success that she was hoping for. But she comes in looking confident, ready to deliver in the short at her first Olympics.

24. Isadora Williams BRA - Four years ago, Williams was last in the short program in her first Olympics, but since then, she has made strides in her skating and in her consistency. Might this be her time to get into the top 24 for the free skate?