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Sochi Figure Skating preview (ladies): Handicapping the ladies (Part 2)

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Early groups done - and they included defending champ Yuna Kim - and now we will have a look at the entirety of the second to last group, Group 4, of tomorrow's short programs. It's a group of potential outsiders, a few veterans, and a few rising stars.

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Ladies' short: Skate order and start times

Viktoria Helgesson SWE (Group 4) - There was definitely a season or two there where you thought Helgesson was possibly going to make some waves soon. She's a fantastic skater, and she was starting to get a hold of all the triples. But the inconsistency is back, and her results this season have been pretty underwhelming. Great to watch, but don't hold your breath for much more than top 15, unfortunately.

Kanako Murakami JPN (Group 4) - One of the few high-profile Olympians to make an appearance at Four Continents last month, Murakami skated one of the best competitions of her senior career and won that competition handily. She's been known for her short programs, but when she gets to the free skate, the mistakes and, in the past, underrotations, start to creep in. But Four Continents could be a sign of good things to come - she's got an outsider's shot at bronze.

Valentina Marchei ITA (Group 4) - Olympics! Finally! Marchei's first World Championships was in 2004, and it took another ten years for her to finally make the Olympics. And she's doing it at the peak of her technical prowess - triple-triple in the short program and what looks to be a much-improved triple flip. Musically, she's one of the best in the field, and a top ten finish would do her very proud.

Gracie Gold USA (Group 4) - Gold, gold, gold. NBC is all over it. Except, as much as a lot of American reports like to think that Gold is somehow one of the contenders for the Olympic title, that's simply not true. And it's not because of her - anyone who has read me in the past few seasons knows that I am a huge advocate of Gold - it's because of what we saw in the Team Event. She came in with one of the most difficult free skates, goes fairly clean, and doesn't break 130. It was a bit mind-boggling, to be sure. But more importantly, when you need to be in the mid-130s in the free skate, at least, to have a shot at the podium, it's really tough to see her vying for gold.

That said, Gold is coming in peaking at the right time - looking confident, skating clean programs, and looking more and more musical - maybe the judges might actually take notice, especially if she is in the final group after the short program.

Zijun Li CHN (Group 4) - It's been a tough season for Li, who looked like she was on her way to a breakthrough Olympic season after a seventh-place finish at Worlds last year. She's been battling a growth spurt, which has made her jumps that much tougher to complete. But a bronze at Four Continents was a potentially good sign.

Akiko Suzuki JPN (Group 4) - The sentimental favorite and the veteran, Suzuki is one of the oldest competitors in the ladies' event. Her free skate in the Team Event was shaky - lots of underrotated jumps and just looking a bit unsteady throughout. But perhaps the extra week has helped her regain her focus. When she's on, she's magic. Top five is a possibility, but she has to be rotating all of her jumps fully.

PREVIOUS: Handicapping the ladies (Part 1)
NEXT: Handicapping the ladies (Part 3)

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