Analyst and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir succinctly summed up the ladies’ short program scores during the Primetime broadcast on NBC:
“What we’re looking for in the ladies short program as far as the benchmark scores are concerned, 65 to 74 is good, 74 to 80 is great and 80-plus is Russian. Russia is going to be a major talking point through this entire event.”
He was right on the mark. Each skater in the top five after the short program set a personal best score and tallied between 73 and 82 points. Only Olympic Athletes from Russia Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva cracked the 80-point barrier. They are separated by a slim 1.31 points.
The next five skaters – all with a realistic shot at the bronze, barring any surprises from Zagitova and Medvedeva – are only separated by 5.72 points. So who are they, and what do they have to do to land on the podium?
Third place (78.87 points): Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond
Osmond won a gold medal with the Canadian squad in the team event earlier in PyeongChang. The 2017 world championships silver medalist skates her long program to music from “Black Swan.”
“I barely remember my last Olympic experience it was such a whirlwind,” Osmond said of Sochi, where she won a team event silver medal. “Here, I feel so much more mature, so much more in control and to be able to put a program like that is always much better than it was four years ago.
“My goal for the long is to do the same thing I have been doing in training.”
Fourth place (75.94 points): Japan’s Satoko Miyahara:
Miyahara arrives at her first Winter Olympics as the four-time Japanese national champion.
“I wanted to be more expressive and more open,” Miyahara said of her short program performance. “And I hope I can do that in the free program.
“I thought I would be more nervous. It was not so bad for me. It was very special and on this dynamic stage and I am happy to skate here. I am looking forward to the long program.”
Fifth place (73.18 points): Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto
17-year-old Sakamoto looked like a longshot to make the Olympic team for Japan until she won a silver medal at the Skate America Grand Prix and a silver medal at the national championships. She said she was “electrified” by Japanese teammates Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno’s medal-winning performances in the men’s event.
Sixth place (73.15): Italy’s Carolina Kostner
Kostner is the only holdover from the 2014 ladies’ podium, where she claimed a bronze. The 31-year-old is twice Zagitova’s age and is competing in her fourth Winter Olympics.
“I felt so comfortable and I feel so happy and joyful, to be able to represent myself and represent my country,” she said after her short program. “It’s so special. It was not my best skate today, unfortunately. Sometimes it’s like that. The competition is not over and everything that comes is fine.”
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Ninth place (66.93 points): Mirai Nagasu
Nagasu won a bronze medal already in PyeongChang as part of the team event, where contributed her free skate and became the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel on Olympic ice. She attempted the jump again during the short program but fell.
“You win some and you lose some, and today isn’t my day but I delivered when it counted for the team event and I am still going to live on that.”
Nagasu hit the reset button for the remainder of her program, hitting her triple-triple combination and her solo jump, to score 66.93. She’s the top-ranked U.S. woman headed into the free skate.
10th place (65.90 points): Karen Chen
Chen made her Olympic debut in the short program, making a mistake on the opening jump but recovering for the rest of the program. The 2017 U.S. national champion scored 65.90 to place 10th overall.
“I’m [pretty proud] of myself that I was able to keep it together and didn’t let that silly mistake bother me mentally or physically,” Chen said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I just made sure I held my spin, stayed focused on my footwork and made sure I added that double toe after the triple loop.”
11th place (64.01 points): Bradie Tennell
Tennell, the 2018 U.S. national champion, skated first to open up the ladies’ short program event. She uncharacteristically fell on her opening triple-triple combination, which left her with 64.01 points. Normally unflappable Tennell said it “got away from” her and she “just kind of sat down” on the jump. She won a bronze medal already in PyeongChang as part of the team event.
“It’s always a challenge to be the first one out there, but you know, I just think about it like any other program and get out there and do our job.
“It wasn’t my best, but I am glad that I was the first one out there. It was a special sort of challenge for me and I’m excited for [the free skate].”
The free skate is Thursday, February 22 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.