Jumping has never been my strong point as a figure skater. I was always a spinner, and I was good with musical expression, so I always describe the sport to others as requiring a little bit of everything - especially now with the new judging system. But great spins don't make or break Olympic champions. Jumps do. Especially triples and triple combinations. Triple-triples add up to a lot of points. Now as much as the new International Skating Union judging system emphasizes all elements of skating, the question remains: is it really possible for a future ladies' world or Olympic champion to win without a triple-triple?
In recent Winter Olympics, the gold medalists in ladies' figure skating have each been able to land the triple-triple combination. Sarah Hughes had two in her program. She landed both and she won. Shizuka Arakawa had two planned, but she ended-up doing neither, uncharacteristically. The silver and bronze medalists both made mistakes to Arakawa's favor. and with 2006 as the only Olympics to date that followed the new judging system, it wasn't much of a test.
Weeks after the 2006 Olympics, Kimmie Meisner completed two triple-triples to win the Worlds in 2006. Miki Ando won in 2007. She has a solid triple-triple and even landed a quad in the past. Mao Asada is known for her triple axel and she is reportedly the first female skater to land a triple-triple-triple in competition at age twelve. Yu-Na Kim landed one triple-triple in each of the short and long programs to become World Champion earlier this year.
Looking at the skaters who won each of the six Grand Prix events - Yu-Na Kim, Miki Ando, and Joannie Rochette, along with the other top skaters like Mao Asada and Rachel Flatt, six or more of the top skaters contending for Olympic gold will most likely have a triple-triple planned in their Free Skate by February. Yu-Na Kim has a program loaded with points in all categories, so she could possibly get away with going without the triple-double if she skated a flawless program and others made mistakes. But that's not likely.
So at this point, my prediction is that this year's champion needs to land at least one triple-triple, on top of skating a clean program with strong elements in all areas. What's left to know is - who will make it there and who will land it? And who will skate cleanly? It's not just a test of athleticism and artistry; it's a test of nerves and confidence. Less than three months until we have a new Olympic champion.
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