As you probably know if you’ve read this blog, I love following juniors-maybe, at times, even moreso than seniors-so obviously, I am very excited for Junior Worlds! After following the full JGP season, I definitely have a better idea of who’s good, who I like, and how things should shake out. Thus, I feel like I can write a semi-realistic preview (emphasis on semi :p). So here it is: my Junior Worlds ladies recap!
Top Contenders: This year, the ladies event looks like it will be a battle between the Japanese and Russian ladies. Both teams’ frontrunners, Polina Tsurskaya and Wakaba Higuchi, are extremely talented jumpers and fairly consistent; I expect the title will go to Polina, but both are very strong skaters. Maria Sotskova of Russia is in the running for the title as well; Japan’s Marin Honda and Russia’s Alisa Fedichkina are both contenders for the bronze. However, I expect the medalists to be Polina, Wakaba and Maria.
Possible Surprise Medalists: Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva has something few other skaters here have: extensive senior experience. She competed at a plethora of senior Bs and two senior Grand Prix events this season, placing 4th at Skate America and 7th at Skate Canada. Yuna Shiraiwa of Japan is also a strong skater. Several skaters have a very small outside shot at a medal: Latvian Angelina Kuchvalska, another skater who has a lot of senior experience, who placed 4th at Europeans; American Tyler Pierce, a fairly consistent skater with a terrible JWC track record who medaled at two CS events earlier this year.
1. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia
Why I Placed Her Here: Polina has two major qualities that make her nearly-unstoppable at the junior level: huge, textbook-perfect jumps and consistency. Her spins are not the best in the field, and I cannot really analyze skating skills (she does skate fast, though), but her performance quality is good for someone so young (13!) and her jumps score so high that it doesn’t really matter. She has really only had one semi-bad skate this season (YOG SP), and even that wasn’t that bad. When she’s at her best, which she usually is, 90% of seniors couldn’t beat her. (Case in point: she was 4th at Russian senior nationals, beaten only by completely-clean performances from three of the top ladies in the world.)
2. Wakaba Higuchi, Japan
Why I Placed Her Here: Wakaba didn’t have a very good JGP-a 5th-place finish at her first event took her out of the running for the Final-but the rest of her season has been superb. She placed 2nd at Japanese senior nationals, beating the likes of Mao Asada(!), and won the Japan Junior Championships. She, like Polina, is an extremely talented jumper, with one of the hardest technical layouts being performed this season, and she’s learning to perform, too. She’s not exactly “artistic,” but her performance quality has improved exponentially since last season. In addition, her spins and speed are excellent. So if she can skate fairly clean, she will probably be 2nd, if not 1st.
3. Maria Sotskova, Russia
Why I placed Her Here: While Maria is not nearly as good a jumper as Wakaba or Polina, she has valuable qualities that they don’t: artistry, maturity, and experience. Her interpretation is far beyond most of the field-she’s been at the junior level for far longer, and it shows-and her spins are excellent as well. Of course, she’s not a bad jumper by any stretch of the imagination, but the field is crammed with great ones and hers are not quite at that level. She’s also a bit slow (much faster than last year, but still a little slow); however, she’s a consistent, experienced skater with good elements and arguably the most artistic junior right now.
4. Marin Honda
Why I Placed Her Here: Marin has quickly gone from being (in my own words) “overhyped” to being one of my favorite juniors. She’s not a fantastic jumper, but her spins, interpretation, and programs are A+ and she’s consistent as well. (She was 3rd at the JGPF, so she is definitely competitive.) She’s been compared to a young Mao Asada and I don’t dispute that: Marin is a beautiful skater, entertaining to watch, and has a lovely lyrical quality to her skating. This field is so deep that I didn’t know where best to place her, so 5th it is.
5. Yuna Shiraiwa
Why I Placed Her Here: Yuna has an unusual layout: two 3-3s, one of them a rare but very cool 3S-3Lo, and a 2A-3T. Great content, obviously. However, I find her interpretation rather bland. It will probably come with time, but she is not a particularly artistic skater. Combined with “meh” consistency, I don’t see her doing better than 5th.
6. Elizabet Tursynbaeva, Kazhakstan
Why I Placed Her Here: Elizabet has heaps of potential, with fine jumps and performance quality and fantastic spins, but she’s not the most consistent skater and, in a field where most skaters are trying multiple 3-3s, she would need someone to mess up if she were to medal. However, she is one of only two skaters (if I remember correctly) in this competition to have competed on the GP, so she has experience on her side.
7. Alisa Fedichkina, Russia
Why I Placed Her Here: it pains me to do this-I really do love this kid-but her semi-inconsistency means she probably won’t medal. However, she is one of the more artistic top juniors, a fabulous spinner, and has great programs; the potential is there, if she can improve her jumps a little (they’re pretty small) and become more consistency. Her free skate is a national treasure (okay, it’s not, but it should be. ;))
8. Tyler Pierce, USA
Why I Placed Her Here: Tyler has been pretty consistent this season and gotten good results-3rd at two CS events, 5th at Nationals-but she’s had awful showings at JW the last two years, so I wouldn’t count on it. You never do know, though.
9. Angelina Kuchvalska, Latvia
Hope you enjoyed this preview! I decided to be lazy and didn’t put in anybody else, so if you think I missed anyone, leave a comment telling me who and why. 🙂