I’ll admit right off the bat - there is some boldness happening with these predictions. There are so many factors at play right now - triple axels, confidence, home crowds. The ladies’ event at the World Championships this week should be quite a treat, with different skaters who bring very different things to the table. Unlike the last few seasons in the ladies’ event, there really isn’t a clear-cut favorite. And you can see any one of potentially nine skaters who could make it onto the podium. It’s a competition really worth looking forward to.
World Championships predictions
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GOLD Rika Kihira JPN - Can Rika Kihira put together a clean competition? She’s had to play the comeback role multiple times this season - and she’s done it well; she hasn’t lost in international competition yet. But this is a whole different ballgame. It’s the best in the world at their peak, and for her to win her first World title, she will need to have a strong short program with triple axel. Her X factor compared to everyone else here is that axel - no one can beat her if she’s clean.
SILVER Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - If you want a surprise medalist, here she is. Tursynbaeva became the first Kazakhstani woman to win an ISU Championship medal at Four Continents. She did it with a fire, a will, and a consistency that we haven’t seen from her. And she comes into Saitama looking to become the first woman to land a quad jump in senior international competition - and if she does, a medal is there for her to take.
BRONZE Evgenia Medvedeva RUS - Momentum is on her side. Ever since the Olympics last year, she’s been chasing confidence and self-belief. And you saw glimpses of it come through during her free skate at Russian Nationals, and you really saw the pieces of the puzzle come back together at the Russian Cup Final. She’s ready to make a statement.
4. Satoko Miyahara JPN - For Miyahara, it’s been a season where it seemed like everything was falling into place at times, and then started going awry, especially at the Grand Prix Final. A third-place finish at Japan Nationals left her off the team for Four Continents, so this will be the first time she’s back in a big international event since GPF. Her programs have only gotten stronger artistically as the season has progressed - if she puts clean jumps together along with them, she can get back on the podium for a third time.
5. Alina Zagitova RUS - If the reigning Olympic champ can put together two solid skates, she is absolutely on the podium. But she returns to the competition where she had a free skate meltdown last year, and on the heels of two competitions where she had similarly off-kilter free skates. Just like Medvedeva, Zagitova is chasing confidence, but she seems to have been going the other way. It could be a career-redefining event for her.
6. Kaori Sakamoto JPN - An errant axel cost her a podium position a couple months ago at Four Continents. The Japanese champ comes into her first Worlds after a season where she’s both skated brilliantly and had some collapses. She’s still very much a podium contender here, and skating at home might be a great thing for her.
7. Sofia Samodurova RUS - The surprise European champion has had an incredible season, coming into her debut on the senior international ranks with less fanfare than others but really making the most of each competition she’s skated in. Consistency has been the absolute key to her success this season, and if others make mistakes, she could use her consistency once again to her advantage and sneak in there.
8. Bradie Tennell USA - After a slew of under rotation calls kept her from the podium at Four Continents, Tennell is sure to be coming into Saitama with the mindset of making sure those rotations are clean. She was sixth here last season, and she could very well find herself in the top six again. The key to a good event for her will be the combos and the rotations.
9. Mariah Bell USA - It’s all there for Bell this season - the programs, the consistency in practice, the self-belief that she belongs up there. The big problem has been her ability to string together two clean programs in one competition - and, of course, that is very much an issue that will keep her from being competitive with the best of them. Can she finally put it together this week?
10. Eunsoo Lim KOR - Two spots for South Korea very much on the line - Lim has all the goods to pull that off, but her inconsistency this season has kept her from really hitting the high notes that she’s wanted to.