The Japanese women have swept the Four Continents podium three times before - the most recent was last year, when Kaori Sakamoto, Mai Mihara, and Satoko Miyahara grabbed the top three spots in Taipei. The ladies this week is shaping up to potentially be the deepest discipline the four. But it’s home turf for the Americans this season, and they are coming off the high of the US Championships, with all three US entries having something to prove after being close to but not quite at their very best. Could one or more of them break through and spoil the potential Japanese sweep?
Four Continents predictions
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GOLD Rika Kihira JPN - It was a come-from-behind kind of Japan Nationals for Kihira, but she managed to keep her head together and salvage a Worlds spot after an errant short program. For her, it’s been a matter of keeping her head together for both programs when in competition. She’s spent a bit of time in the US working on quads after Japan Nationals, but this event will be about skating within her comfort zone (a comfort zone with triple axels). All else equal, there is no equal here in this event.
SILVER Kaori Sakamoto JPN - The defending champion just added another title to her resume - 2018-19 Japanese champion. And she earned it by defeating Kihira, Mihara, and Satoko Miyahara in the process - no small feat considering how incredibly competitive that field was. She entered Four Continents last year as somewhat of an outsider with a shot to win; she comes into this year’s Four Continents as one of the favorites.
BRONZE Mariah Bell USA - A triple lutz away from her first US title two weeks ago, Bell has had a season of close calls so far. There were a couple of things she would’ve liked to have cleaned up in Detroit, that lutz in the free and her combo in the short. You can sense that she’s really just that close to having that true breakthrough competition. She trains a quick drive away from Anaheim, and so it will be home turf for her this week. And, much like Kihira, it will be all about trying to put together two clean programs back-to-back, which could really set her up for some momentum toward Worlds.
4. Mai Mihara JPN - The champion here two years ago, Mihara has all the goods to challenge for her second title. After finishing fourth at Japan Nationals and off the World team, Four Continents is somewhat of a consolation event for her. She’s been a bit prone to underrotation calls internationally this season, and she will have to make sure her rotations are cleaner for her to be back on the podium again for a third year in a row.
5. Bradie Tennell USA - Like Bell, Tennell was a triple lutz away from the US title, but ended up coming away with the silver after a slip in the free skate kept her from the top. Nevertheless, US Championships was the most solid she’s looked since the beginning of the season, and she’s got the technical firepower to push for a podium finish here. Question for Tennell will be whether or not she can avoid the errors that have snuck into her competitions this season.
6. Eunsoo Lim KOR - It’s already been a pretty strong senior debut season for Lim - particularly with a bronze at Rostelecom Cup. Anaheim this week will be her Four Continents debut, and the first time she’s been at a senior ISU championship. She’s grown a lot artistically in the past season; she’s also had to adjust to some changes from her new coach, Rafael Arutyunyan. There is a lot to love about her skating, and this week could be a breakout week for her.
7. Ting Cui USA - Speaking of breakouts, Cui has been making some statements this season. She announced her arrival in the fall with a silver at Tallinn Trophy, and though she had a rough short program at the US Championships, she climbed all the way from 12th to 5th with a flawless free skate that brought the house down. Two strong performances this week and she could find herself among the top.
8. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - This season has been a challenge for Tursynbaeva after returning to Eteri Tutberidze as her coach. She’s had some middling skates and results on the Grand Prix, and it will be tough for her to break into the top unless she has rediscovered her flip and lutz over the past couple of months.
9. Alaine Chartrand CAN - From disappointment last season to a second Canadian title this season, Chartrand has had her share of ups and downs in the past year. She will have to watch out for underrotations this week. She was eighth last year at Four Continents.
10. Yi Christy Leung HKG - Leung makes her debut at Four Continents this week after a solid senior international debut season so far. She’s already established herself as the best female skater to ever represent Hong Kong.