The 2014 Sochi Winter Games are one year away, and it's fun for
me to think about the podium possibilities in figure skating that
haven't really been discussed yet. One thing's for sure: there are a number of skaters that weren't on the radar last time around, in 2010 in Vancouver.
I'm happy to admit to being a bit of an Olympic junkie. Summer or winter, I can usually be found glued to my TV or computer screen, watching the events and results as they unfold.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Games are one year away, and it's fun for me to think about the podium possibilities in figure skating that haven't really been discussed yet.
One thing's for sure: there are a number of skaters that weren't on the radar last time around, in 2010 in Vancouver.
As far as newcomers are concerned, the name that jumps to the front of my mind is Russia's 16-year-old national champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. She holds the highest free skate score of the season, which she accomplished at the European championships on her way to collecting a bronze medal. Her jumps are sublime. Her style has an imperious quality that screams "diva" and draws me in every time.
Russia has other contenders: Adelina Sotnikova (the European silver medallist and 2011 world junior champion) for one, and 2012 world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia for another. Newcomer Nikol Gosviani leapfrogged over the competition at the recent Europeans to go from 12th after the short program to sixth overall.
Russians finished with an impressive three of the top six spots in the women's event at this year's Europeans. Like so many delightful matrushka dolls, Russia's young female figure skating talent just keeps on coming, one after another.
There are another couple of new names on the horizon in women's figure skating that have me taking notice.
The first is Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who exploded onto the senior national stage this year with a win at the fall Nebelhorn event. Osmond followed it up with a gold medal at the ISU Skate Canada International Grand Prix event and then won the national title. I like her poise under pressure and am impressed by her technical prowess and competition readiness.
Here's another name: Gracie Gold. The American national silver medallist burst onto the scene a year ago when she took the U.S. junior title and followed it up with a silver medal in her debut at the junior world championships. I'm not going to lie: The U.S. championships were a nail-biter in which Gold had to make up for a ninth-place finish in the short program. She won the free and moved into second place overall.
At the 2012 world championships a young Japanese skater made his presence felt on the world stage in earnest for the first time. Yuzuru Hanyu won the men's bronze medal in his debut at worlds in a field littered with amazing talent. I wondered at the time if we were seeing the emergence of a new star when Hanyu was able to pull himself up from seventh after the short to win a medal.
It seems we were. This season, Hanyu has won a Grand Prix gold, a Grand Prix silver, and the silver at the Grand Prix Final. As if we needed any more confirmation of his star power, Hanyu went on to win the Japanese men's title ahead of five-time national champion, 2010 world champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medallist Daisuke Takahashi.
My next fresh faces to look for in 2014 have in fact been around for a while: Russian ice dancers Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviev. Although they competed at the Olympics in 2010, finishing in 15th place, I mention this team because I feel as if this is the first season where they have stood out in some time.
They were the world junior champions in 2007 and have been largely overlooked, in my opinion, since then. Since making the change to coaching genius Alexander Zhulin in the spring of 2012, things have started to change. Bobrova and Soloviev won silver in both their Grand Prix events this season, and they captured the European title.
In my mind, they are a team transformed. Bobrova and Soloviev have posted new best scores in the short, free and overall categories. What is significant to me is that their short score is the third highest ever and their free ranks seventh. Both performances are behind only those of Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Bobrova and Soloviev are on the move.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov -- two-time European and Russian pairs champions and two-time world silver medallists -- have both competed in the Olympic Games, but with other partners. Simply put: they are better together. Volosozhar and Trankov are in only their third season together and are already Russia's best hope to get back on top of the Olympic pairs podium.
In 2006, Canada's Joannie Rochette came seemingly out of nowhere to finish fifth at the Turin Olympic Games after a ninth-place finish in the short.
Rochette went on to win a silver at worlds in 2009, and a celebrated bronze at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver immediately following the death of her mother.
But I wanted to know: what was it like to be that fresh face on the scene at her first Olympics in 2006?
PJ KwongPJ is a self-proclaimed Word Broker who goes by the motto: I read them. I write them. I speak them. A degree from the University of Toronto studying Modern Languages has been put to good use as a bilingual PA announcer for, among other things, the last 5 Olympic Games, the FIFA U-20 2007 Men's World Cup and numerous international figure skating events since 1993.
Working as a figure skating coach for the last 25+ years led to commentating opportunities from CTV/TSN, ABC, Tokyo Broadcasting, CBC, Fuji TV, Seoul Broadcasting and CCTV among others. CBC has been home to Pj's skating voice, writing and commentary opinions since 2007. She would tell you that although working in skating is where her passion lies; she is the voice of lots of commercial projects, a blogger on her own site, a public speaker and with "Taking The Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating" a published author. You want opinions? She's got them. Follow her on Twitter to see.