Saransk, the host city for the 2011 Russian nationals, bore witness to a mini-revolution.
A new and untested team caused an upset in the pairs discipline; a previously unheralded 27-year-old struck gold in the men’s event; and at the other end of the spectrum, a 14-year-old claimed the ladies crown.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov captured the pairs title (214.66) over Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, the 2010 European champions and two-time World bronze medalists (201.44). Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov skated into third with 195.77.
Volosozhar and Trankov joined forces in May 2010 following the dissolution of their respective pairs partnerships; she formerly represented the Ukraine with her husband, Stansilav Morozov, while Trankov and Maria Murkhurtova skated for Russia.
Under International Skating Union (ISU) rules, skaters who compete internationally for one nation are not permitted to represent another for one year. Thus, given their citizenship issues, Volosozhar and Trankov were ineligible to compete at Europeans.
They will be eligible for the World Championships if they meet the ISU’s minimum score requirement. The duo planned to attend events in Italy and The Hague prior to Worlds to earn the required points.
Kavaguti and Smirnov experienced technical issues in their free skate. Kavaguti explained that she was still tentative after undergoing shoulder surgery seven months earlier.
Moscow’s Adelina Sotnikova, 14, ran away with the ladies title with a score of 197.44, a margin of almost 10 points over her nearest rival. The 2010-11 Junior Grand Prix Final champion is on a golden run, having won every event she has contested this season.
Alena Leonova, third after the short, put down a captivating free skate to music from the “Witches of Eastwick,” which propelled her into second with 187.68 points. “I am thrilled that I skated well and to show everyone that this music is the right vehicle for me,” she told the Russian press.
The 2010 Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, came from seventh after the short to win the bronze with 180.71. It was the third time the 14-year-old had medaled at the senior level.
Twelve-year-old Julia Lipnitskaya placed fourth in her senior debut with a score of 176.27.
Ksenia Makarova, the 2010 Skate Canada silver medalist, won the short but fell to fifth overall with 173.91. Her coach Viktor Petrenko later told the press Makarova had suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury in a fall, which hampered her preparation for nationals.
As the first, third and fourth place finishers are age-ineligible to compete at senior Worlds, Leonova and Makarova will represent Russia at the global competition.
In the men’s event, 27-year-old Konstantin Menshov from Saint Petersburg had the skate of his life and claimed the first gold medal of his career (225.17).
A solid long program performance catapulted Artur Gachinski, 17, from ninth to second with 211.2. “It was a big surprise. It was quite a comeback,” he admitted.
Alexei Urmanov’s student, Zhan Bush, 17, captured the bronze with 204.98.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, claimed the top step of the podium (164.93).
Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko danced into second with 160.45 while Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, the 2010 World Junior champions who are coached by Alexander Zhulin, captured bronze with 149.72.
New kids on the block Jana Khokhlova and Fedor Andreev ranked third in the free dance but placed fourth overall with 145.74.
Originally published in April 2011