The annual Russian test skates are always a much-anticipated event by fans around the globe. This year there were some exceptional performances and many members of the Russian team have the potential to do well on the international circuit.
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Alexandra Trusova hitting three quads, Lisa Tuktamysheva reeling off triple Axels with ease, a full arena, a live broadcast, journalists crowding the mixed zone — it felt like a Grand Prix. But this was the scene at the 2019 Russian test skates in Moscow last weekend.
What a way to start the season. The test skates for senior-level skaters are a much-anticipated event with all the national team members required to participate unless they are unable to do so for medical reasons.
Obviously, the main focus was on the ladies, currently the most competitive and most popular discipline in the country. Likely, it is only in Russia that you can enjoy watching an Olympic champion (Alina Zagitova), a two-time World champion (Evgenia Medvedeva), a World champion (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva), and a European champion (Sofia Samodurova) in the same warm-up group at a national event. And don’t forget Stanislava Konstantinova, another top-level skater.
Then, there was the young “triple A” squad that cannot wait to debut at the international senior level this season: Alexandra Trusova, Anna Shcherbakova and Alena Kostornaia.
Sure enough, Trusova made headlines with her quad toe-triple toe combination, and her quad toe and Lutz jumps in her new long program to “Game of Thrones.” None of the Russian men even tried three quads. The fierce competitor was unhappy to have missed the triple loop in combination with the triple Lutz, but pleased overall with her outing.
“I feel ready for the season. I fell on the triple loop and I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I’ll try to skate my program with three quads in competition and to skate clean,“ the 15-year-old said. Trusova, the two-time World Junior Champion, is eager to make her debut at the international senior level next week at Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. “I have waited for this season for a long time, ever since my first junior year.”
Her training mates, Shcherbakova and Kostornaia, also put down excellent performances. Shcherbakova, the reigning senior national champion missed her quad Lutz but landed all her triples in her program to “Firebird” — one that involves a costume change, with the opening blue costume turning red.
Kostornaia does not have a quad or triple Axel at this point, but her skating and performance skills are extraordinary.
As Olympic, World and European champion, Alina Zagitova is the most decorated Russian female skater. She put out two clean programs showing also how she has grown as a performer. The short program is in Flamenco style, set to the Spanish song “Me Voy” by Jasmine Levy. In the free skate, Zagitova takes on the role of Cleopatra in her program set to music by Peter Gabriel and Maurice Jarre. “The test skates are like a competition for me. To me it was important to show clean performances,” the 17-year-old said.
Coaches Eteri Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov and Daniil Gleikhengauz have their hands full with these four top ladies, but they managed to give each one an individual program that suits them very well and highlights their strengths — the dynamic Trusova, the very lady-like Zagitova, the fairy-like Shcherbakova and the exquisite Kostornaia.
Tuktamysheva changed her short program around a few times over the summer and finally decided to skate to “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla maintaining the choreography Shae-Lynn Bourne gave her for the original program. The 2015 World champion enjoyed the experience of working with the accomplished Canadian choreographer and 2003 World ice dance champion.
Tuktamysheva has upgraded her short program with a triple flip-triple toe combination. Though she popped the flip at the test skates it looked consistent in practice. “The test skates are a good kick to get started,” she said. For the free, Tuktamysheva chose “Caravan” and “Bei mir bist du schoen.”
For the first time, she landed two triple Axels in one program, the first one in combination with a double toe. “This was the first official performance with two triple Axels,” the 22-year-old said. “The task was to do them and I’m pleased with myself. I see in the eyes of Alexei (Mishin) that he is happy with me. When I’m in top shape, the mistakes on the triple Axel are reduced to the minimum in practice.”
Evgenia Medvedeva came from Canada to attend the test skates. The Olympic silver medalist looked solid in practice, but missed two jumps in her performances. She fell on the triple toe in her combination with the triple flip in the short and, in the long, fell on a double Axel and popped the second one. Nevertheless, her programs to “Exogenesis Symphony Part 3” by Muse and “Memoirs of a Geisha” by John Williams left a very good impression.
“I promise that next time my program will look better. I know what I need to work on — I need to do more run throughs of the program. I am not that kind of person that is looking for excuses for errors. Thank God I know where it comes from and how to fix it,” Medvedeva said.
Sofia Samodurova is not yet her consistent self and fell in the short program and also in the long on the triple flip. “It took me a long time to get into the season, but now I’m getting into shape,” she explained. Her new programs are to “Bamboleo” by the Gypsy Kings and “Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge.” Stanislava Konstantinova has also chosen music from “Moulin Rouge” for her free skate, but uses the famous Tango only for the last part. The short program to “February” by Leonid Levashkevich is especially beautiful. The composer, who like the skater lives in St. Petersburg, came to the rink to watch the program in practice. Konstantinova doubled a Lutz in both programs and knows she cannot afford to do that if she wants to stay competitive inside Russia.
Most of the men made mistakes, but Sergei Voronov stood out. The 31-year-old skating veteran put out two clean performances that featured a quad toe loop in both. In the morning practice, Voronov didn’t even try a quad toe, but then he nailed a quad toe-triple toe combination in his program to “Someone to Love” by Queen. “I didn’t like the ice in the morning, but now it was better and I thought it’s easy to do the quad,” the two time national champion said with a grin. He got the crowd going with his long program to “I Belong to You” by Muse.
Makar Ignatov from St. Petersburg, who had missed most of last season due to injury, landed two quads — toe and Salchow — in both programs and left a good impression. However, he is still rather slow and needs to improve his spins and transitions.
Mikhail Kolyada had switched to a new short program just a few days before the test skates and presented a brand new Swing routine to “Diga Diga Doo” that suits him perfectly. The Charlie Chaplin long program is a great vehicle for the 2018 World bronze medalist as well, but again, Kolyada had problems with some jumps. He fell on the quad Salchow and toe in the long program and also popped an Axel that he at least repeated later in the program as a triple.
“I landed the jumps in practice and in the warm up, but obviously I need to do them in front of the audience in the program. We’ll analyze, try harder and hope for the best. In the Charlie Chaplin program I’m trying to be myself and not be like others. I’m presenting my vision and what I feel,” he explained
Following a tough season, Dmitri Aliev is freshly motivated. He and his coaching team selected two very suitable programs for him — the emotional “Je dors sur les roses” from the Mozart Rock Opera for the short and the powerful “Sound of Silence” by Disturbed for the free. The 2018 European silver medalist did not skate without mistakes, but landed two quad toes in the long program. “Overall I think there are more positives than negatives,” Aliev said.
Alexander Samarin had not revealed his music to the public before the test skates. He went for a quad Lutz and flip in the short to “Blues for Klook” and while the Lutz was good, he stepped out of the flip and the triple Axel. For the free, the 2019 European silver medalist chose an unusual piece by Apashe called “Good News,” which is based on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (though you will probably have a hard time recognizing it). Samarin missed the quad Lutz and popped an Axel. The program overall looked a bit raw. Andrei Lazukin and Roman Savosin had rather rough skates.
Russian Pairs always have been strong and right now there are many good and very young teams as well as the more experienced ones. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov who moved to train with Marina Zoueva last spring looked good. The touch of the accomplished ice dance coach is visible in their new programs to “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel for the short and a new version of “Te Amo.” “We went to Marina to work with her on what we were lacking,” Morozov said.
The 2019 World silver medalists put out two solid programs. “Physically, we’re ready. There are still some details, but we are ready and you can see that,” Tarasova said. The team will compete at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City later this week.
Everyone was waiting to see Ksenia Stolbova and Andrei Novoselov, who have been skating together for a year now but were unable to compete as he waited to be released by France. The Russian-born Novoselov had skated for France in the past.
In the short program to “I’ll Take Care Of You” Stolbova popped the toe loop. In the free, set to a modern arrangement of “Moonlight Sonata,” she landed the toe and except for her double Salchow they made no major mistakes.
“We are overwhelmed by emotions,” Stolbova said. “We’ve waited a long time for this comeback. We’re coming back with renewed bodies, renewed mindset, renewed emotions.”
It will be exciting to watch this team and to see if they will repeat the success of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot.
The three young pairs teams looked promising as well. European bronze medalists Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii shone in the short to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. Their James Bond free skate was not as clean, but also has potential. Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, the 2018 World Junior champions, went for a side-by-side triple flip in both programs, but she struggled. Their long program to the “Tron” soundtrack was interesting.
Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov, the 2019 World Junior champions, impressed with high throws in both programs and also landed their side-by-side triple jumps. They have a new short to “Je suis malade” performed by Lara Fabian. They have kept their “Master and Margarita” long program, but have revamped it.
Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert, the 2019 World bronze medalists, did not take part as he was suffering from undisclosed health problems.
World ice dance silver medalists Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov looked excellent at the test skates. They look light and quick on the ice in their Rhythm Dance to “Singin’ in the Rain” and it is a pleasure to watch. The team stuck to the more romantic classical style that they had success with last year for the free dance — “Songs My Mother Taught Me” by Antonín Dvořák.
This program left a strong impression as well. “Bach (“Air” — last season’s free dance) and Dvořák both have calm and explosive moments, but they are absolutely different from each other. We found our style. It is hard to put it into words how to call it, but we can show it to you on the ice,” said Katsalapov.
Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro built their free dance to “Survivor” — the Tomb Raider trailer cover by 2 Wei — with Christopher Dean and set themselves apart with a more aggressive and dynamic music. “Chris came up with the idea. I think it was such a bold choice for us in ice dancing because generally, at the moment, most of the programs are more lyrical and abstract. I think this is another step for us, to do something different that we’ve never done before,” Guerreiro said of the free dance.
Betina Popova and Sergey Mozgov came up with a fun rhythm dance to “Cabaret” that suits them perfectly. Some judges did not appreciate the fact that Mozgov’s costume reveals his colorful tattoos. “Finally I am able to show them, I like them and why not show them? They are going with the character of the program,” Mozgov pointed out. For the free dance, the students of Anjelika Krylova are performing to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This is something different for them, but also works well.
Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigorii Smirnov looked especially good in their Rhythm Dance to “Grease.” Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko, who have just moved up from juniors, are portraying puppets in their free dance and look promising. Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin, the 2018 World Junior champions, had to withdraw before the free dance as he had been taken ill.
European silver medalists Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were forced to miss the test skates as she was ill.
The test skates have been open to the public for many years actually, but they were not the event they are now. For the skaters, it is a good opportunity to test themselves in front of an audience before they head to their first competitions. For the fans, it is a great opportunity to see their favorites performing in a competition-like environment after the off-season.
“We have been holding the test skates in this form since 2015. Tickets are sold and the members of the national team are required to attend and skate their complete short and long programs,” said Alexander Kogan, the director of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia.
“We want popularize figure skating and we want that skaters, coaches, officials and spectators remember an event not only for what happened on the ice, but for everything around it. Therefore, it is important to us to organize everything at the highest level.”