Most of the rest of the world has already crowned its skating royalty for the 2016-17 seasons. Only the North American powerhouses, the United States and Canada, save their National Championships for the middle of January. More than ever, internet live streams and social media have made it possible for the world to watch, leaving even many dedicated fans wondering, “Who the hell are these people?”
From now until the start of the higher-level competition (junior and senior) at U. S. Nationals, I’ll be presenting guides to the athletes. I’ll give equal space to everyone, providing video of a recent performance, summaries of their 2016-17 results and past achievements, and a brief description of what they have to offer. I’ll also be dividing them into four categories, based on how I think they’ll perform:
- Front Runners. These are the skaters you’ve probably heard of already, especially at the senior level. In some fields, there’s only one front runner; in some, it’s a legitimate five-way fight. Front runners aren’t guaranteed to earn a medal, but they’re the safest bets.
- Dark Horses. A skater can become a dark horse in a number of ways. Some are newcomers who have shot into the spotlight with impressive results earlier in the season. Others are mid-list veterans who have taken big steps forward this year, or former front runners who are recovering from injuries or other types of disappointment. Dark horses often make the podium and sometimes even win.
- On the Rise. A lot of the skaters at Nationals don’t have the technical difficulty to contend for a medal, but a solid finish can bring big opportunities like financial support and international competitive assignments. For senior-level singles skaters, it might also mean a moment in the NBC broadcast limelight.
- Just Happy to Be Here. For many skaters, the goal is just to get to Nationals. There are always a few athletes in the field for whom scores and placement are less meaningful than the experience. Even though they’re likely to finish toward the bottom of the rankings, many are terrific performers or have great backstories.
When I’m writing about junior-level skaters, I’m well aware that some are very young. One of the top contenders is younger than my cats. Generally, I tone down the sarcasm when discussing athletes this age, but I do sometimes write about aspects of their skating that could be improved. I always intend it as constructive criticism – it’s the teacher in me, always thinking about how someone great could be even better.
With no further ado, here’s the lowdown on the twelve young athletes competing in junior ladies in 2017. It’s a relatively wide-open field this year, headlined by relative unknowns who debuted formidable jumps at club competitions and qualifying meets. With the American ladies struggling internationally at the junior level, there’s huge pressure for the Next Big Thing to spread her wings here. It will be an exciting and unpredictable event, with the top competitors planning jump content as difficult as the top senior ladies’. I updated this post on 1/11/17 to reflect a change in the roster: Ashley Kim has withdrawn, and Madalyn Moree has been added.