One of the most-watched events of the Winter Olympic games is the women’s figure skating. For the upcoming Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, the ladies short program begins on Sunday, Feb. 11. When it was unknown if any Russian figure skaters would be competing, it seemed the United States would have an advantage. However, three Russian women are competing under the Olympic flag as “Olympic athletes from Russia,” rather than competing as Russian athletes. Either way, they’ll be strong competition for the United States.
The biggest controversy surrounding the United States women's figure skating team was the absence of Ashley Wagner, who competed in the Sochi Games in 2014. She placed fourth in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and unlike last time, she was not chosen as one of the three skaters. Wagner has been vocal about her displeasure over the decision, but the U.S.' medal chances in PyeongChang lie with Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen.
U.S. Women's Figure Skating Team
The 19-year-old wasn’t truly on the Olympic radar until the end of 2017. She placed third in the 2017 Skate America competition and then won the 2018 U.S. National title, giving her a spot on the Olympic team. Tennell has dealt with stress fractures in her back (in 2015 and '16). However, she’s performed well recently. Keep an eye on her jumping ability. While she is still young, her jumps have been impressive.
While Tennell’s jumping has drawn quite a bit of attention so far this year, it is Nagasu who has the potential to wow the judges with a triple axel. That is the jump with the most difficulty, and she’s one of the few who has been able to include it in her routines. While she’s struggled to perfect it, the Olympics would be the perfect time to master it. Nagasu is 24 years old and competed in the 2010 Olympic games (she finished fourth). She missed in 2014, as Ashley Wagner took the third spot over her, even though Nagasu finished third in the 2014 U.S. Championships.
The third member of the United States team is Chen, who at only 18, is making her Olympic debut. She finished first at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The expectation for Chen isn’t that she’ll find the podium at the Olympics, but rather she’s the hope for the future. She’s performed well in some tough competitions, and having low expectations may help her at the Olympic games.
Other Top Competitors
Evgenia Medvedeva (Olympic athlete from Russia)
Medvedeva is a favorite to end up on the Olympic podium, perhaps even with the gold medal. She’s only 18, and this is her first Olympic games. She missed some competitions in 2017 with a broken bone in her foot, but she should be healed and ready to perform at the Olympics. With plenty of records already in her name, she is a front-runner heading into PyeongChang.
Alina Zagitova (Olympic athlete from Russia)
Zagitova actually finished ahead of Medvedeva at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championship. She’s young (only 15), but holds many records for the junior competitions. She is still relatively inexperienced when it comes to international competition; however, she is favored to earn a medal.
Carolina Kostner (Italy)
At 30 years old, Kostner was winning championships before some of her competition was even born. However, she has Olympic experience, as this will be the fourth games she’s competing in. She won the bronze medal in 2014, but did not place in '10 or '06.
Satoko Miyahara (Japan)
Miyahara won gold at 2017 Skate America, which puts her on the radar for the Olympic games. She is 19 years old and has not competed in the Olympics. She has plenty of experience and has placed in many of the senior-level competitions.
With eight first-place finishes in international competitions over the past two skating seasons, Evgenia Medvedeva is a front-runner. Her recent success puts her in line to finish first in PyeongChang. Satoko Miyahara, although young, is kind of a dark horse. Her free skate program is what has won her championships in the past (including the 2017 Japan Figure Skating Championships) and it should boost her score at the Olympics. For the Americans, Mirai Nagasu has the best opportunity to find the podium. If she can successfully execute and land her triple Axel, she may be able to reach the medal stand.
Gold Medal: Evgenia Medvedeva
Silver Medal: Satoko Miyahara
Bronze Medal: Mirai Nagasu