Most articles about the senior ladies event at this year’s Nationals are painting it as a showdown between defending champion Gracie Gold and former champion Ashley Wagner. The NBC preview commercials (which I unfortunately can’t find a video of online—definitely worth flipping to NBC to try and catch it, because it involves Johnny in a bow tie made of crystals) are playing up the rivalry between these two ladies. You’re not going to find anything different here on this little blog. It is clear that Gracie and Ashley are the class of the field and one of them will wear the gold medal at the end of this week. Here’s how I think it will shake out:
- Ashley Wagner
- Gracie Gold
- Polina Edmunds
- Samantha Cesario
Wagner is carrying the momentum from her stellar free skate at the Grand Prix Final, where she vaulted from 6th place to the bronze medal, propelled by her best triple flip-triple toe combination in years. Wagner is also a fighter who loves being the underdog—she thrives on having something to prove. She had great performances in Sochi because she wanted to prove that she belonged on the team (though two-footing and downgrades kept her from being in the medal mix). I think the same will apply at Nationals. She wants to silence all the naysayers who wonder why she is still competing by reclaiming her title.
Gold is coming off a stress fracture in her foot, which forced her out of the Grand Prix Final. She won gold at NHK Trophy, but it was definitely a subpar performance by her usual standards. She earned 123 points, well off her personal best of 136.90. Gold has looked a little nervous all season, so it will be interesting to see how she handles the pressure of defending her title.
Edmunds has also looked a bit nervous and unsteady on the Grand Prix this season, but she has some of the strongest technical content in the field. Even with some mistakes, I think she could still end up on the podium. Without mistakes, I still don’t think her presentation is strong enough to beat Gold or Wagner. She still needs to work on her connection with the audience.
There are a number of contenders for the pewter medal, but I think Cesario’s consistency will lift her above the rest of the field. After a 5th place finish last year, she is eager to take her skating to the next level with a medal and a spot on the world team.
I’ve also got a dark horse in this event: Ashley Cain. She was fantastic in the short program at Nationals last season, but succumbed to nerves in the long. She had a rough Grand Prix season, but I really like her style and think she could challenge for a medal if she skates two clean performances. She is a former pairs skater who is ready to prove herself on the singles circuit.
Last but not least will be the men’s predictions…I know I promised them next in my last post, but I am still overanalyzing my guesses. The start of the senior events is upon us in just a few days, so I’ve got to make my decisions asap!