Russian Nationals Goes on Amid Outside Drama
Mikhail Kolyada wins yet another ugly men’s competition; Alina Zagitova stays ahead of a brilliant ladies one, Tarasova & Morozov end up the last pair standing after the free; Bobrova & Soloviev soar while other teams have more trouble.
It now seems settled that the Russian skaters will endure having to compete as neutral athletes under a potentially very silly-looking logo. The next question, perhaps, is how this will affect the selection of the team, especially when it will happen. Normally Russian officials just name the team for the European Championships after Russian Nationals, with Olympic/World teams named after that competition. But this time, of course, all athletes from Russian need to be reviewed, cleared, and invited by the IOC. All indications are they’ll let the sports federations do the actual selection of athletes they’ll then review, but skating officials might name the team a little earlier, to give them time. They might at least send them the obvious ones, the ones where there’s absolutely no doubt they’ll be in Korea so long as the IOC doesn’t object.
If the Russian federation wants to hold off on making any decisions in particular, it might be for the men, since that competition went the same way most of the men’s competitions have this year: disastrously. Two high-profile skaters didn’t even make it all the way through: Maxim Kovtun and Alexander Petrov came in injured, skated bad shorts, and then withdrew. Four more top men skated decent shorts, but none of them skated a decent free.
The short resulted in a surprise leader. Between skating clean, landing two quadruple jumps, and one of those quads being a quad lutz in combination with a triple toe, Alexander Samarin took it just ahead of favorite Mikhail Kolyada. Kolyada was lovely, especially on his easier quad toe loop-triple toe loop, but stumbled on his solo quad lutz and put a hand down on his triple axel. Sergei Voronov technically skated clean, but he had to hold onto his jumps and do only a quad-double combination. Dmtri Aliev, who did the quad as his solo jump and somehow got lower presentation scores, still proved technically superior enough in general to get over a point and a half ahead of him for third. But there was a near ten-point gap between him and Kolyada.
It was that huge gap that kept Samarin from dropping more than one place even when his fourth place free started with a fall on the quad lutz followed by two doubles, and didn’t improve enough after that to make up for it. Kolyada’s free wasn’t pretty either, but he merely stumbled on the quad lutz again and rotated the quad salchow too before falling. Even with a tripled quad, singled axel, and doubled loop, that left him with by far the highest content of the top four. His second straight title was a case of winning ugly, but it wasn’t a hard win.
That was largely because the first half of Sergei Voronov’s free turned disastrous, with his two quads fallen on and two-footed and his axels singled and doubled. He tried to compensate in the second half, even getting his triple axel three-jump in, but none of his jumps were easy, and one even got invalidated. He actually beat Samarin in the free skate, but only by .23. Meanwhile, Aliev was second in the free skate. His opening quads went a little better, though he could only managed a single toe after the first of them. So did the first half of his program in general. But then he fell out of nowhere, and didn’t manage a clean jumping pass after that. He didn’t beat Voronov and Samarin by much, and remained in third to win bronze.
They might have all been helped by Andrei Lazukin, who was fifth after the short, having an equally bad first half in his ninth place free. He dropped to seventh, from which Artur Dmitriev pulled up to round out the top five. His was actually the highest technical tariff of the night. But even that was plagued by underrotations and even a full downgrade on his quad flip, and those weren’t even his only problem.
Even with World Champion and Olympic favorite Evgenia Medvedeva out, the ladies was an excellent competition throughout. In the short most of the top nine landed their jumps, and most of the top fifteen landed their triple-triple combinations. Ironically the one exception to both was Alina Zagitova, who stumbled on her triple lutz-triple loop. Between her highest technical content and excellence in everything else, however, she still led. In the free, some mistakes crept in, but eight of the top ten made no more than one major one, and also eight of them landed difficult triple-triples. Zagitova wasn’t an exception there; her only issue was an underrotated salchow late. That mean the lutz-loop was fine, and so were most of the rest of her backloaded jumps. The program might have even been a mite less juniorish. Noone else stood a chance then; a first National title was hers.
Between Medvedeva and Zagitova, the other ladies old enough for it were all competing for the last spot to Europeans, and in all probability the Olympics. In the end, that was a pretty easy win for Maria Sotskova. She had one of the best short programs she’s ever skated. She was also excellent throughout most of her free skate, with no major errors, only two minor ones. There was perhaps a little debate whether she deserved silver over bronze medalist Alena Kostornaia. She skated two brilliant programs, all backloaded jumps and two triple-triples in her free. The strongest technically besides Zagitova, she probably should’ve gotten higher presentation scores too. But she wasn’t old enough to be in the Olympic race anyway.
She was actually fourth in both segments; third in the free skate was Stanislava Konstantinova. She was the other skater in the top ten to go completely clean, and she impressed with her technical quality and the strength of her performance as well. She’d been down in tenth after the short because she’d doubled her lutz. Mistakes like that simply weren’t forgiven in a competition like this. But she still climbed all the way up to fourth.
After the short, the other main contender for the third berth was Polina Tsurskaya. She’d done all her elements elegantly enough to outscore Sotskova technically, though lower presentation scores kept her a point behind her. But she was one of the two skaters in the top ten to make two major mistakes; popping a lutz, and doubling the triple in her double axel-triple toe-double toe attempt. That took her down to sixth in the segment and fifth overall, a point ahead of Anastasiia Gubanova. She who’s had crazy ups and downs had an up here, even pulling off a strong triple-triple-double combination in her free, though she did have an underrotation, and the weakest presentation of the top six.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was as good as she could manage in her short, but with only the easy triple toe-triple toe she couldn’t get higher than sixth there. When her one major mistake in the free was to double the first jump of it, and she never tried her triple axel, she was left without enough to keep from dropping to eighth in the segment and seventh overall. Elena Radionova was the other person in the top ten with more than one major error in her free, and after she’d underrotated and fallen on a loop in the short. The last serious contender for the top, she finished a painful tenth.
The pairs competition consisted of two battles: the battle for gold between Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov and Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, and the battle for bronze, and the likely third IOC invite, between Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov and Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert. Unfortunately in the free the nerves seem to get to three of these teams.
Less so to Tarasova & Morozov though. They were second in the short, when Stolbova merely stepped out of side by side triple toes, and Tarasova fell on them. But maxing out the possible score for their split triple twist helped keep them within a point. Their free wasn’t perfect either; she doubled the salchows and they had a rough twist and spin. But the twist was a quadruple one, and they were fine on their three-jump and throws. That was easily enough for their first national title when Stolbova fell on both throw and solo salchows, underrotating the latter, and they didn’t quite manage the three-jump either.
Zabiiako & Enbert were flawless in their short of easier jumps. Astakhova & Rogonov, with the short’s most ambitious jump content, made good on side by side triple salchows, only to fall on a throw triple flip. In the free, neither team managed any good jumps. Zabiiako & Enbert were nervous throughout, and she fell on both salchows and throw loop. Their three-jump was out of sync and their throw flip had a hand down. But Astakhova & Rogonov didn’t even get credit for their three-jump, and their salchows were fully downgraded. Add dodgy throws, and Zabiiako & Enbert were the ones left with the prized bronze.
In fact, while the top two were never seriously threatened by those below, Astakhova & Rogonov needed their presentation scores to hold off the two Junior Grand Prix Final teams who both skated far better and came in just below them. In fifth, Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii held onto not only salchows in a clean short but ambitious triple loops in the free skate, although they didn’t rotate their equally ambitious three-jump, and got rougher near the end. Technically they beat three of the four teams above them, but the highest technical score of the night after Tarasova & Morozov’s went to sixth-place team Daria Parvliuchenko & Denis Kodykin, who went completely clean, though they still lack the artistry of those above them.
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, favorites for their seventh title, got the lead in the short dance, but it was surprisingly close. In fact, when they were a mite loose on the twizzles, they were beaten technically by Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin. They came out guns blazing and couldn’t have skated better. Bobrova & Soloviev were still superior skatingwise and Latinwise, which got them about half a point’s lead. In the free dance, however, Bobrova & Soloviev nailed the twizzles, and then also everything else, from the signature rotational lift they maxed out to grace and haunting beauty that brought the audience to its feet, and left their hard-faced coach Alexander Zhulin in tears:
Meanwhile, it was Stepanova & Bukin’s turn to go loose on the twizzles, with her barely completing the second set. It cost them in the technical tariff too. The two teams had gotten the same one in the short dance, but in the free dance Stepanova & Bukin were a point behind. The rest of their elements they did with more of their earlier level of excellence, which at least made winning the silver easy. And any doubts that remained that they’ll follow in his father’s footsteps to the Olympics were ended by the unfortunate events that happened below them.
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov came in having reestablished themselves as favorites for at least bronze and a trip to Europeans, after initially being beaten in one competition by Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro. Then in the short dance, she put her foot down on their opening twizzles, costing them dearly. When Zagorski & Guerreiro had a solid skate and the highest technical tariff of anybody, they claimed third by three points. That was bad enough. Then, nearly three minutes into their free dance, the aftermath a straight-line lift gone wrong had him suddenly clutching his leg and apparently unable to continue. He’d shown signs of possible leg issues in the warmup, though the report from the Russian federation president afterwards was that he’d injured his ankle during the performance.
Ironically they might have even taken the bronze after all, especially after Zagorski had a foot down herself in the circular steps in her & Guerreiro’s free dance. That even caused them to come in below Betina Popova & Sergei Mozgov in the segment. Popova & Mozgov were the ones who had a solid free dance, with her Carmen released something ferocious. But Zagorski & Guerreiro still got higher presentation scores, which kept the difference in scores to less than two tenths. Popova & Mozgov had been much further behind after a short dance weaker in both tariff and execution. They could only pull up to fourth, leaving Zagorski & Guerreiro with bronze and in all likelihood the ticket to Europeans.
View full results here.
There’s actually an online petition circulating to send Sergei Voronov to Europeans instead of Dmitri Aliev. That likely won’t have any effect, but his much stronger fall results might. It’s also possible Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov could get named if the doctors declare he could potentially make it, but even then the federation might still for with Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro. In ladies and pairs there’s no reason for them to deviate from the Nationals results. The announcement of who gets sent where could start as early as tomorrow, and the European team, at least, can’t wait too long.