Its the Olympics!
Its the Olympics!
They’re here! And they’re happening! Granted, they’re happening in a bubble and there won’t be spectators and that’s weird but its the Olympics!!!!!
Dreaming of competing on this elite stage is what motivated me day in and day out as a competitive figure skater and the fantasy and thrill of it all still gives me shivers.
While I am intimately involved in figure skating and I am personally invested in some of the top coaches right now, I love watching all of the Olympic sports. Skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, luge… I don’t care. Its all freaking awesome.
I find myself curious about the individual athletes at this high level of sport. I think most elite athletes are somehow attracted to one another because we get what it takes to work so hard for most of your life to be at the top of your game and we respect athleticism.
But we’ll stick with figure skating and I’ll toss some names out there as who I think might kick some Olympic ass starting next weekend!
There isn’t anyone around who would be surprised if Russia takes all three medals in the women’s event this time around. That country has a knack for pumping out talented wunderkids each and every year. Granted, they win that Olympic gold and then you never hear from them again (at least not outside of Russia, until they ((maybe)) make it as a coach for that country) but its still an incredible machine how they produce these skaters.
Sometimes they are artistic but right now they are mostly athletic. With the IJS points-system instead of the old-school 6.0 system, if you bang out a bunch of fully-rotated quads and triples and you put your hands up above your head while you’re in the air, then you can rack up the points and be the winner. Even if you are as artistic as a rock.
Or you flop your hand over at the wrist, which just drives me nuts.
Kamila Valieva is the Russian to beat right now. She’s got quads and a triple axel and both of those are rarely seen in the North American or Asian skaters. Again- its all about the points.
You can’t rule out her country mates, Alexandra Trusova (she does a quad Lutz and quad flip) but Anna Scherbakova might pull it off, too. These two are 17 years old compared to Valieva, who is 15. Not sure where any of them are on the puberty bus but Russians can get the jumps out of these tiny bodies.
Yes, these ladies have to skate well and ice is slippery so you never know. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi and Kaori Sakamoto might make waves. I don’t think Americans Karen Chen, Miriah Bell or Alysa Liu have the same chances but Liu does whip out her own triple axel from time to time. She’s changed coaches twice already this season and gone through a huge growth spurt but I like her tenacity – maybe she could threaten the podium. I also really like little-known Loena Hedrickx from Belgium (coached by her brother… I think that’s cool.)
Onto the men…
This should truly be a contest between Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Nathan Chen of the US. I love them both. Yuzuru moves like melted butter across the ice. His mastery of his blades is rivalled by none. He’s quirky and ballsy, too, and he’s gunning for a third Olympic gold medal. That, alone, demands my respect.
Hanyu is playing with a quadruple axel (unheard of!) and he tried several at his national championships in Japan. He is short on rotation by about a quarter of a turn but he often stays standing, albeit on two feet, which should still garner some points.
Nathan is a quad king, himself and I love his musicality. He has gone back to his 2020 long program set to a bunch of Elton John tunes and if he’s on his game the best part is when Benny and the Jets kicks in… by that point all of the jumps are done (and hopefully landed) and he really shows us who Nathan Chen is. Its one of my all-time favorite programs and I was tickled to see it when he won his most recent national title.
The men’s event isn’t as much of a lock as the ladies’, though. Others to pay attention to: Boyang Jin (China), Shoma Uno (Japan), Keegan Messing (Canada), Vincent Zhou (US), Yuma Kagiyama (Japan) and maybe-maybe-maybe Mikhail Kolyada (Russia).
China’s tiny Wenjing Sui and Cong Han are definitely favorites for the gold. They narrowly lost the gold 4 years ago and they are hungry seasoned veterans. The world has watched these two grow up and mature into a pretty cool couple who have a mutual love and respect for each other. I want them to be a couple in real life but I honestly don’t know if they are.
Pairs and ice dance are funny that way. Part of the magic is imagining if they are as “in love” as their routine depicts. I think every couple falls in love with each other at one point or another, even if its just for a week or even if its unrequited at the time. You’re training intensely, you’re wearing spandex, and you have your hands all over each other. It just happens.
While Russian teams of Anastasia Mishina & Aleksander Galliamov and Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitri Kozlovskii are probably the favorites based on their mad skills and speed (and their results on the Grand Prix this past fall), my sentimental favorites from Russia are Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov. I love their look and the fact they’re still kicking out great routines. They are very classical in how they skate and they have the skills and experience to challenge (although side by side jumps tend to haunt them.)
Canada’s new team of Eric Radford (he’s on the bronze podium finish with Meghan Duhamel in that earlier picture from 2018) and Vanessa James (formerly of France) are kind of fascinating in that they’ve made the Olympics and I am rooting for them but Japan’s Rika Miura & Ryuichi Kihara, who train in Canada could be a global surprise as well.
Finally, on to the ice dance competition. This is where the United States really shines and we have two teams absolutely in contention with Madison Chock & Evan Bates and Madisson Hubbell & Zach Donohue. While Chock & Bates have grown on me over the years I still think she is way too over-the-top with her expressions. Yeah, I know its ice dance and isn’t that the whole point, you’re asking, but you can have too much of a good thing.
Canada brings Piper Gilles & Paul Poirer, who are the reigning World bronze medalists from 2021 and I have enjoyed watching these two become amazing artists and performers over the years.
I mention these couples but, come on, the gold belongs to France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. There might be media buzz about them because Guillaume came out this past year and some judge made some stupid comment about it. The only buzz about them should be that they are supremely talented athletes who deserve to stand on the top of the podium (if they skate well, of course!)
Russia has ice dancers, (of course they do!), as well, including Victoria Sinitsina & Nickolai Katsalapov. It would shock nobody to see these lovelies on the podium as well.
So that’s my scoop for this year’s Olympic predictions!
I have my favorites and my national allegiances and I have my back ground stories for some of the skaters that affect my judgement- (Bates dumped his previous partner, Emily Samuelson, years ago after she patiently stuck around for him to heal after knee surgery for months… clearly I’m still not over it!)
I hope all of the athletes have the performances of their dreams and make Olympic memories that will last for years. I hope they know so many of us will be watching on TV because nobody can be there in person and I hope the ice isn’t slippery in a bad way!
Here’s to Olympic Glory!