Russian Domination at the Minsk Arena Cup
Russians win most of the medals at the Belarussian Junior Grand Prix; first locks for the Finale as two winners from earlier in the series repeat.
The Junior Grand Prix series resumed this week in Minsk, and while it’s typical for Russians to win most of the medals on the circuit, they really cleaned up at this one. They took nine of the twelve medals, including three of the golds, and swept the pairs podium. More of them also skated well than not, and this, in fact, was probably the best-skated event the series has seen so far. The men’s event, however, was still a mess.
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There was one man who actually skated pretty well. That was Alexey Erokhov. His short was clean, with the triple axel jump, and while he couldn’t hope to step out of the shadow of Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot while using their music from last year, he still did pretty well with it. His free, too, had moments of true beauty. It also had a clean quadruple salchow jump, and two quadruple toe loops with minor stumbling. He tried the triple axel only with a triple toe, which went similarly to the quads. He might have been getting a little tired at the end, but he kept his energy up far better than anyone else. He won by twenty points.
Erokhov couldn’t hope to be the most artistic or expressive skater on the ice either. That was always going to be American Andrew Torgashev. But Torgashev didn’t land a triple axel the entire event, doubling it. His other jumps in the short were glitchy. In the free, he landed the quad toe, but popped a couple more jumps. He was, perhaps, lucky that it was such a bad event, so pulling off enough of his jumps, combined with some breathtaking expression, was enough for silver by a margin almost as big as Erokhov’s.Embed from Getty Images
Erokhov’s fellow Russian, Igor Efimchuk, was initially ahead of Torgashev, and less than a point and half off the lead. Efimchuk too skated cleanly with a triple axel, and there wasn’t much to split the two Russians artistically either. Their free programs might have even been an interesting contrast of skating skill versus memorable character-if Efimchuk had done his long program justice. But instead he fell on his quad, stumbled on his axels-include the double one, singled and doubled his lutzes, and didn’t even do his other two combinations. He was the luckiest of the medalists, taking fourth in the free and bronze only because none of the three men below him proved at all able to take his medal from him.
Third in the free was Jiri Belohradsky, whose skating throughout the event was relatively clean. But he wasn’t trying the triple axel, and in his long he also doubled two other jumps. A short that had alternated between loveliness and shakiness had left him in sixth, and he failed to move up, coming in a point behind Irakli Maysuradze and Tatsuya Tsuboi, who finished less than a tenth of a point apart. Georgian Maysuradze showmanned well in his short and landed all three of his triple axels, but struggled with the rest of his free. Tsuboi, a Japanese boy very much still in development, tried the axel only once, fell, and saw it fully downgraded. Through both programs, he mostly skated and jumped prettily, but doesn’t yet have much to offer technically or artistically.
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Alexandra Trusova’s quadruple salchow attempt actually went worse here than in Brisbane; this time she had a nasty fall on a fully downgraded jump. But she glided her way through the rest of her programs, pulling off tight triple lutz-triple loop combinations in both programs, raising her arms for a triple flip-triple toe in the free, and proceeding that by getting out a three-jump with a triple flip. Her winning margin for her second gold of the series was only slightly smaller than the one by which she won her first.
There were no Russian phenoms making their debut here, but there was a new face from Japan. Nana Araki showed herself to be steady, technically strong, and lovely to watch on the ice, though her expression is still developing. It was stronger in her cheery short than in her dramatic free. She also a landed a different difficult triple-triple in each program and a three-jump with a triple lutz in the free. Though third in the free, she held on to win silver over Stanislava Konstaninova. The second Russian had fallen on a fully downgraded toe in a still mostly fun short, which cost her silver. But her free skate was close to clean, including her triple lutz-triple toe and triple flip-loop-triple salchow. And with a maturity and character Trusova doesn’t quite have yet, it was arguably the most enjoyable long to watch:
Three more skaters vying for medals suffered disappointment. It was perhaps too strong a field for Korean Ye Lim Kim, who just wasn’t as good a performer as the top three. Also, she underrotated her triple lutz-triple toe in both programs, and fell on it in the free. She might have been a little low on energy at times, too, especially late in the long.
She finished fourth, a point ahead of Rika Takino. Araki’s countrywoman, who won bronze in Brisbane, managed her triple flip-triple toe in the short, and a three-jump with the flip in the free. But she failed to do the triple-triple in the latter, and an ugly double in the short and single in the free cost her further. American Tessa Hong suffered multiple underrotations, including all three triple-triple attempts, and her free was bad enough to leave her a distant sixth.
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From the start, two of the three Russian pairs stood decisively ahead of the rest of the field. After the short program, Anastasia Poluianova & Dmitri Sopot were .08 ahead of Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin. Both had skated clean and easy shorts where they fought for their elements. They both had free skates which were pretty similar, albeit with hands down on their side by side combinations. But Pavliuchenko & Khodykin’s was still a sequence of triple toes, and their solo side by sides were salchows, which gave them much harder technical content than Poluianova & Sopot’s. Also, the two programs Poluianova & Sopot debuted here were on the dull side; Pavliuchenko & Kodykin were a bit livelier. Pavliuchenko & Kodykin moved ahead to take gold by four points.
Riga Cup winners Apollinaria Panfilova & Dmitry Rylov also landed all their jump elements, with some effort, including a throw flip in the free. But in both programs they messed up one of their other elements. In the short they fumbled an exit for their lift, which left them in fifth. Only just ahead of them were Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov, who had shown no small amount of skating ability in their own clean short. A point ahead of the Americans, Chinese pair Feiyao Tang & Yongchao Yang introduced themselves to the world with a beautiful short, although even there they showed moments of not being certain of themselves yet.Embed from Getty Images
But Tang & Yang couldn’t quite keep it up in the free skate, where they were more hesitant and not as beautiful. And while they still weren’t trying the hardest elements, they landed neither side by side jump element and stumbled on their harder throw. When Lu & Mitrofanov then suffered four falls in their sixth-place free skate, Panfilova & Rylov took advantage. Even when he pretty much failed to do their side by side spins, they knocked the two teams down to fourth and fifth and completed the sweep.
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The ice dance gold was the only one that didn’t go to Russia. But even then they won the other two medals. And the gold may have gone to American team, but even half of that team was the son of one of Russia’s most famous ones. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko avoided any twizzles disasters this time, winning their second gold of the series with two well-put together and perfectly executed programs. Indeed, their free dance is now approaching the level of sublime nobody here could really match.
Not that the silver medalists Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin didn’t put in an impressive performance themselves. She showed herself to be a developing diva in the short dance especially, and they both ramped it up for a free dance worthy enough of the senior level. They might have even made it a bit closer, except that they had a harder time getting the levels of technical difficulty on their elements, and especially had trouble with the steps of their free dance. Their technical tariff in both programs was the lowest of the top three.Embed from Getty Images
Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov followed up a pair of bronze medals on last year’s circuit with another one here. They matched Carreira & Ponomarenko for the highest tariff in the short dance and got the highest of anyone in the free. Being ridiculously fierce in the latter also helped them get second in that segment, though it was a bit more one-dimensional than what the two teams above them showed. Skoptcova & Aleshin held them off by less than a point.
View full results here.
Alexandra Trusova, Apollinaria Panfilova & Dmitry Rylov, and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko became the first locks for the JGP Finale in December. Had she finished in the top two here, Riko Takino could have also put herself in the running, but she’s now out. No one else here was really in position to qualify. View full series standings here.
Next week the series travels to Zagreb. Two men’s winners, Alexei Krasnozhon and Mitsuki Sumoto, will face each other, as well as Makar Ignatov, who won silver at his first event. Salzburg ladies winner Anastasia Tarakanova will look to be the second Russian lady to repeat, with Mako Yamashita, who joined her on that podium, will try to do so again. Junior World pairs silver medalists Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii will have their second event, while bronze medalists Yumeng Gao & Zhong Xie will have their first. And Riga Cup winners Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Efremenko will try to win a second dance gold, with two silver-medal winning teams, Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha and Ksenia Konkina & Grigory Yakushev, against them.