Just two weeks after the Grand Prix Final, Russia's top skaters returned to the Iceberg Palace in Sochi for Russian nationals.
Plushenko Claims 10th Title
Evgeni Plushenko did it one more time. Coming off an injury, the 30-year-old veteran pulled himself together to produce two solid programs to earn his 10th national title.
His short program to a modern arrangement of “Four Seasons” included a quad toe-double toe combination, a big triple Axel and triple Lutz. “We thought we are going for the Sheffield version of my program, meaning no quad but triple Lutz-triple toe,” Plushenko said. “But when I started to do the quad in practice I decided to go for it. I didn't do any quads in practice before coming here (to Sochi).”
Hi free skate to “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso,” “The Swan” and “Danse Macabre” featured a somewhat shaky quad toe, two triple Axels (one in combination with a double toe-double loop) as well as four more triples and a double Axel-double Axel sequence. The triple Lutz-double toe combination was not clean and the spins were a little slow, but overall it was a decent performance.
As usual at national competitions, the marks were a little generous with 174.26 points for the free skate and 265.94 overall. “I showed the maximum of what I can do at this point. I was considering withdrawing from nationals before coming here. I was fighting for triples in practice, as funny as this might sound,” Plushenko explained. “It was tough for me to skate physically and mentally.
“Today I showed the easier version of my program. I plan to do two quads and have more jumps in the second half,” the seven-time European champion added.
Despite all this, there was a notable improvement in many areas of his skating compared to last season. For one, the jump layout was less front-loaded. Plushenko had four jumping passes in the second half (last year at Europeans he had three – he is aiming to have 70 percent of his jumping passes past the halfway point later in the season). Secondly, the program itself contains less posing, something the Russian was criticized for in the past.
Plushenko left the day after the men’s event and returned home to be with his wife Jana who will deliver their son in the upcoming days. He also plans to go to St. Petersburg for further treatment and is hoping to be able to prepare well for Europeans.
Last November Plushenko underwent a thermo-treatment in Germany for herniated discs in his back.
On a final note, he did not exclude the possibility of competing at Worlds in London, Canada if he is in top shape.
The other men obviously were in the shadow of this super star. Sergei Voronov confirmed his positive trend this season with two solid performances. He laid down two clean programs, hitting a quad-triple toe combination in the short and a quad toe and seven triples in the long to “Romeo and Juliet.” He finished second with 254.06 points.
Konstantin Menshov, bothered by pain in his left foot, made errors on all three jumps in the short, stepping out of the triple Axel, turning out of the quad-triple toe and falling on the triple Lutz. But the 29-year-old rallied back and nailed a quad toe and five triples in his long. He only stepped out of the first quad. Menshov pulled up from sixth to place third with 228.88 points.
Artur Gachinski on the other hand is still chasing his form from the 2012 Europeans. At least he didn't fall in the free skate. He landed a quad toe but stepped out of it (4th).
Maxim Kovtun was third in the short despite a stumble on the quad toe and a fall on the Lutz. In the long, the Junior Grand Prix Final champion went for three quads, but tripled the first two before finally landing the quad toe. The remaining five triples and his spins were fine, but right now the 18-year-old is still mainly a jumper. He was selected for Europeans over Menshov, as apparently the Federation sees more potential in him than Menshov.
There are some other talented men that could come out in the future: Mikhail Koliada from St. Petersburg has big jumps including a triple Axel and good skating skills (7th), Alexander Samarin from Moscow is very elegant and nice to watch. He didn't go for a triple Axel, but put out clean programs. In practice he is getting close to the triple Axel (8th). Alexander Petrov, a student from Alexei Mishin's school, already has a triple Axel (10th).
Crowning Moment for Tuktamysheva
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva claimed her first national title over Elena Radionova and three-time national champion Adelina Sotnikova – but it did not come easy.
Tuktamysheva, 16, led after a strong short but drama unfolded before the long program. She missed the morning practice and her coach Alexei Mishin told the media that she would not be able to skate as she fell sick. However, by competition time, Tuktamysheva felt strong enough to compete and Mishin decided to let her skate.
Although Tuktamysheva said she felt terrible, she pulled off a triple Lutz-triple toe, another triple Lutz, a double Axel-triple toe and a triple loop-double toe. She popped the flip and stumbled on the triple Salchow. The spins were a level three. The 2012 Youth Olympic Champion scored 127.07 points and a final tally of 196.57. “It wasn't my best, but I felt terrible, dizzy, so considering my condition it was good. I woke up at five in the morning and my nose was clogged. I was shivering. I put on warm clothes and went back to bed but in the morning I realized that something was wrong,” Tuktamysheva explained.
Radionova finished third in the short program where she went clean with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. The 13-year-old turned in a strong free skate as well, reeling off a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip-single loop-triple Salchow as well as two more triples, two double Axels and two level-four spins. The Junior Grand Prix Final champion ranked second in the free with 126.68 points and moved up to second with 191.26. “I did not expect this result, but today I did the maximum and I did all my jumps,” the Muscovite said.
Radionova is not upset about being too young for Europeans and Worlds. “Everything is still to come. Plus, I haven't won Junior Worlds yet which I really want to do,” she said.
Sotnikova was second in the short landing a triple toe-triple toe and a triple flip, but her spins were a little messy. In the long, the 2011 World Junior champion went down on her triple Lutz-triple toe but recovered to land four clean triples including a double Axel-triple toe, but she stepped out of a triple flip and double Axel. “I am pleased with my performance, but not completely. But it was the best performance of the season and a step forward,” the 16-year-old acknowledged. Sotnikova slipped to third with 190.75 points.
Twelve-year-old Serafima Sakhanovich from St. Petersburg made her debut at nationals and sent out a statement with her free skating performance. She stood in ninth place after the short where she stepped out of a triple Lutz, but recovered very well by adding a triple toe to her triple flip. In the long, Sakhanovich not only pulled off a triple Lutz-triple toe and a triple flip-single loop-triple Salchow combination as well as three more triples, she had beautiful spins and also showed great musicality and strong skating skills. She moved up to fourth with 177.37 points, earning the highest technical score, thanks to having four jumping passes in the second half.
Anna Pogorilaya gave two solid performances to finish fifth in her debut at nationals. The 14-year-old Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist only stumbled on her triple Lutz-triple toe in the free skate.
Nikol Gosviani, a student of Alexei Urmanov, is 16 years old and only got to nationals as a substitute when other skaters withdrew. She started well with a clean short that included a triple toe-triple toe combination and followed up with a long program that featured seven triples including a triple flip-triple toe.
Gosviani was selected to compete at the European Championships as she was the third age-eligible skater after Tuktamysheva and Sotnikova. Gosviani still has to earn the required minimum score and is scheduled to compete at an event in Poland in January.
Alena Leonova continued her season with faulty performances. She made numerous errors in both programs and faded to seventh. It is back to the drawing board for the World silver medalist who already changed her free program from “Poeta” to “Concierto de Aranjuez.”
Ksenia Makarova messed up the short program, usually her strong point. She fought back in the free, giving her best performance of the season, but the technical content wasn't competitive enough with a downgraded triple flip and an under-rotated triple toe-triple toe. The 2010 national champion finished eighth and, like Leonova, was left off the team for Europeans.
Volosozhar and Trankov Unbeatable
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov wanted to make up for their disappointing free program at the Grand Prix Final just two weeks ago and finally the two-time World silver medalists delivered two strong performances.
Their short to “The Godfather” was highlighted by a huge triple twist and solid side-by-side triple Salchows. In the long program, the reigning European Champions moved the triple toe jump into the first half of the program and the change paid off. The only glitches in an otherwise clean program to “Violin Muse” came when Volosozhar two-footed the throw triple loop and the Salchow.
The judges were generous. The team scored 150.23 points for their free and 228.92 overall. “There were little errors on my part, but we are happy with the program and we did everything we had planned for this competition,” Volosozhar said.
“We showed a new version of our program that we skated only once in practice as there was not much time after the Grand Prix Final and we still don't feel this program. We are still thinking through it and were focused on the elements,” Trankov explained.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov didn't have the best memories from the Grand Prix Final either but skated much better at nationals with no major errors. The triple toe in the short and the triple toe-triple toe sequence in the long might have been a little shaky, but overall the impression was very good. The 2010 European champions took silver with 207.37 points. “We are pleased, we did all our elements. Yuko skated great today. I was very focused on the elements but I think Yuko skated emotionally, especially in the second half of the program,” Smirnov told the press.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov finished third with 195.46 points. The 2012 European bronze medalists had a clean short program. Their side-by-side triple toe is the fifth element in the program, something that is rarely seen. The couple opened their long to “Addams Family” with a triple twist and triple toe-double toe-double toe combination. The only error came when Stolbova fell on the throw triple flip but they ended on a high note with a beautiful throw triple Salchow.
The triple twist still remains their weakest element, but it is still fairly new for them. “It is a shame that we were not able to give a completely clean performance in the long program, we really wanted to skate clean. The error affected our mood,” Klimov said.
Julia Antipova and Nodari Maisuradze started to skate together only in May this year. She had no pairs experience, but they have progressed really fast and finished fourth with 178.80 points. In the short program, they were nervous, especially Antipova, who just turned 15 a few days ago. She fell on the triple toe and stepped out of the death spiral, but their triple twist was huge. In the long program, the students of Natalia Pavlova and Artur Dmitriev appeared more relaxed. They landed the triple twist, triple toe-triple toe and two triple throws, but Antipova missed the side-by-side triple Salchow. Still, it was an excellent debut for this team. Antipova will be age-eligible for senior championship events next season.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (not related to Tatiana Tarasova or any of the Morozovs) are a junior team, coached by Stanislav Morozov. They didn't do too well during the Junior Grand Prix Series but delivered an excellent long program that even included a triple toe-double Axel sequence. They placed fifth.
Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov are one of the most beautiful and “real” pair teams out there, but jump issues held them back. Martiusheva stepped out of the triple Salchow in the short program and doubled it in the long. Although they made no other major errors – she only touched down on the throw triple loop – it was only good enough for sixth place in this competitive field.
Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalists Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat and Junior Final champions Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin placed seventh and eighth, respectively. Both teams appeared a little tired and made some errors.
Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov pulled out of nationals as he was breaking in new skates. One skating boot broke at the exhibition practice at the Grand Prix Final and the team didn't feel ready to compete. Nevertheless, they were included in the team for Europeans.
Hat Trick for Bobrova and Soloviev
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev secured their third consecutive national title and like last year, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov finished second ahead of Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko.
Bobrova and Soloviev danced to a lead of almost two points in the short dance, although she wobbled on the twizzles that were a level three. In their free dance to “Man with a Harmonica” and “Tosca,” the European silver medalists made no errors but could have skated with more emotion.
The international technical panel with controller Katalin Alpern (ISR) and specialists Sylvia Nowak (POL) and Sergei Baranov (UKR) was very generous with levels, awarding them a level four for all eight elements. Bobrova and Soloviev scored 106.67 points for their free dance and accumulated 174.72 overall. “We are very pleased with our performance and it is nice to end the year in this way,” Soloviev said.
“We've trained hard because we wanted to show better performances than two weeks ago,” Bobrova added.
Ilinykh and Katsalapov were held back by a level two for the Polka in their quest for their first national title. Their annoying free dance to “The Ghost” went smoothly and the European bronze medalists earned a level four for all elements but the footwork sequences that were a level three. They picked up 105.53 points and scored 171.87 points. “Not everything worked out at the Grand Prix Final so we worked hard in the time in between the Final and now. We were well prepared and the ice helps us. We felt different than two weeks ago,” Katsalapov said. “At the European Championships we'll fight for a medal.”
Riazanova and Tkachenko surprisingly stood only in fifth place after the short dance, mainly because their Polka garnered just a level one. The levels were much better in the free dance to “The Godfather” – again all a level four. Their GOEs were also mostly plus two, and the duo earned the highest technical score. “We were nervous today, but we were able to deal with it and did everything as we had trained it,” Riazanova said.
Tkachenko celebrated his 26th birthday the day of the free dance.
Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin ranked third with a solid short dance but dropped to fourth in the free dance. They made no mistakes and had good levels, but their Flamenco is a little boring and their component score was lower than the score of their rivals.
World Junior champions Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin placed fifth in their debut at senior nationals. They, too, turned in two strong performances.
Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro lost a few points for a wobbly curve lift in the free dance but otherwise skated well and finished sixth in this deep field.