Ladies' figure skating will come to a close on Thursday, and Sochi has seen some brilliant performances over the course of the past several weeks.
The United States has several athletes within striking distance of the podium after the short program portion of the event. Gracie Gold (fourth place), Ashley Wagner (sixth place) and Polina Edmunds (seventh place) can all earn medals if they perform flawlessly in the free skate.
The best combined score will win the event, so all three could feasibly make up enough ground to medal given the right circumstances.
Here's the current top 10 following the ladies' short program, along with predictions as to where each of the three U.S. competitors will finish.
|Ladies' Figure Skating Standings|
|Athlete||Country||Short Program||Free Skating||Total|
|Yuna Kim||South Korea||74.92||-||74.92|
|Gracie Gold||United States||68.63||-||68.63|
|Ashley Wagner||United States||65.21||-||65.21|
|Polina Edmunds||United States||61.04||-||61.04|
At 18 years old, Gracie Gold is one of the youngest figure skaters in the 2014 Winter Olympics. She doesn't have a ton of experience at the international level, but she told John Powers of The Boston Globe that she won't let that discourage her:
It does seem like unreasonable expectations to have just one world championships under my belt and then expect to medal for the United States. I think I did my part last year getting the third [Olympic] spot and being able to send three ladies. I assisted in the team medal. I just have to go out and skate the best that I can for the US.
Gold is just on the outside of the podium, but she's certainly capable of putting together a performance strong enough to sneak into the top three. She has a little something extra going for her, though, as her coach, Frank Carroll, speaks highly of her charm (via Powers): “She’s a gorgeous girl. She looks like Grace Kelly. She has star quality.”
While she is about six points behind Yuna Kim of South Korea for the lead, Gold does have the best chance of the American competitors to win gold. Again, it will take a flawless performance.
I predict that Gold will sneak into third and take home the bronze medal, though silver is also a realistic scenario. I don't know if I can see her taking gold, however.
Ashley Wagner earned a bronze in the team event, and she still has a chance—albeit, a slim one—at earning an individual medal in her first Olympic Games as well.
Her routine in the short program was far from flawless, but it got the job done. Nancy Armour of USA Today broke down the routine's key component—a triple flip-triple toe:
Wagner's combination, a triple flip-triple toe, wasn't a thing of beauty, either. The triple toe was downgraded, and it took every ounce of strength for her not to turn or step out of it. But she didn't, and she landed her other two jumps cleanly as her career reclamation project continued.
Everything about Wagner's performance in the free skate needs to be a thing of beauty if she's going to jump three places onto the podium. Such a jump has been done before, but by skaters much more experienced than the first-time Olympian.
A safe prediction would be fifth place for Wagner, but I wouldn't be surprised if she finished fourth. I just don't see her putting together the performance necessary to medal.
Possessing those qualities is rare for a 15-year-old Olympian, but that's the kind of talent that Edmunds is. There's a legitimate reason why she's currently seventh in the overall standings, and she's ready to show the world that she has the talent to finish the individual event even higher.
Almond also points out how well Edmunds has been able to handle the pressure:
Edmunds, 15, proved quickly she isn't too fragile for her sport's grandest stage, scoring a personal best 61.04 points in the women's short program to place seventh on the first day of one of the Olympics' centerpiece events.
I think the pressures will inevitably get to her in the free skate, though. Without a ton of international experience, it will be hard for Edmunds to keep up with the pack. She could end up surprising, but I think she'll finish no higher than seventh overall.
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