Skating Highlights of the Week: Stars On Ice and Two Final Competitions
Stars on Ice tour gets underway as Russia has its last major internal, and synchronized skaters compete at Worlds.
Exactly when a skating season ends depends on how you define it. Most define the ending as being the World Championships, especially if there’s no World Team Trophy, which there isn’t in the Olympic year. So we are, effectively, now two weeks into skating’s off-season. And the Stars on Ice tour has now kicked off in both the U.S. and Japan, which is another indication that skating’s summer has started.
Except it’s not quite as simple as that, because Worlds isn’t the last competition of the season. There are even a couple of international figure skating events afterwards, though ones so tiny they need not necessarily be paid attention to. A bit bigger, on the other hand, is the World Synchronized Skating Championships, where the lesser-known version of artistic skating gets its big moment in the spotlight. That usually happens after the World Figure Skating Championships, and did this year. And in Russia, things go by their own schedule, and they have a number of skaters, usually on the junior level or moving up to it, who are jockeying for a chance to be the next breakout sensation. They too may remain on display even after the senior international skaters have packed it in for the year.
So this week, the first one for which we are attempting to post video highlights of the week that was, the main events included skating’s most known tour, and some lesser known competitions that had some remarkable skating at them.
Stars On Ice
This start of the summer has also seen the start of the Stars on Ice tour, running simultaneously in both the U.S. and Japan. In Japan, it actually opened last week in Osaka, but this weekend came to Yokohama, where the show was professionally taped and aired on Japanese TV.
The stars on the Japanese tour included all three of the ladies medalists from PyeongChang. The highlight of the show is when they let their hair down for this gentle number.
The Japanese show was also lucky enough to have Evgeni Plushenko. He’s back on the ice, doing shortened version of old free programs, such as the one that won him silver at the 2010 Olympics. With easier jumps, of course, but his ability to perform is as sharp as ever.
Evgenia Medvedeva also did her latest dramatization: Christina Aguilera.
Even in retirement, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford are pushing the limits with their jumps. They might not be doing the hard throws or side by sides, but instead they’re attaching them to each other, which, in its way, is even harder.
The home stars were all there, of course. Including Nobunari Oda, who retired back in 2014, but hasn’t lost much of what he had back then. Here, he is being very dashing to Nat King Cole.
Patrick Chan is slightly less sophisticated, except his skating is more, and he’s very playful.
Noone, however, was outpepping Marin Honda.
Kaetlyn Osmond, meanwhile, brought the drama with her new number.
While Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed took advantage of being two skaters to spice up the dramatic flavor.
This men’s group number is included in both the Japanese and American tours, but in Yokohama it was much more colorful.
In the U.S., the opening show in Orlando was also taped, though it hasn’t aired yet. In the meantime, we have a few audience-taped videos to tide us over. In this number, unique to the American tour, videographer Jamie Greenspan wisely focused mostly on Meryl Davis & Charlie White, though Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue also got their turn in the spotlight, as Ashley Wagner & Nathan Chen kept up with the dancers together. (It was probably meant to showcase all three of the big U.S. ice dance teams, but Madison Chock & Evan Bates aren’t on the tour; she’s currently recovering from ankle surgery.)
It was also Davis & White’s sweet solo number that was the one individual performance she’s got up.
Russian Nationals Elder Age
In Russia, the season actually ended this week, with the last of their significant internal competitions in Kazan. Although called Nationals Elder Age, it’s actually for junior level skaters, while allowing in skaters up to two years younger than those allowed to compete internationally. It’s simply called that to contrast with the Nationals Younger Age, which took place last month.
Although the youngest competitors thus aren’t eligible even for next season’s Junior Grand Prix, those that are old enough are often here to try to earn their way in. For many Russian juniors, the ladies especially, it’s harder to make the circuit than to medal there, but success this week would give a skater prime consideration.
Daniil Samsonov is one of Eteri Tutberidze’s up and comers, and he’s even got to perform this season in the galas at the Rostelecom Cup and the European Championships is Moscow. This skate got him a come-from-behind win in the men, though the fatigue got to him near the end. At his age, the miming remains adorable.
Petr Gummenik, meanwhile, had two seasons on the JGP circuit before missing it last fall, and is trying to get back. He won the short program, and was the only man to land the triple axel clean in it.
Although a handful of mistakes including a fall on the solo axel cost Gumennik the win, he made eyes pop at the beginning of this free, when he landed the axel in combination with a triple loop! Most men don’t try to combine it with harder than a triple toe at most. He held onto silver by a hundredth of a point.
Egor Rukhin, who won bronze at his only JGP event last fall, was the only other man to land the triple axel. Doing so in a close to clean free got him up to bronze here, too, all the way from eighth.
Anna Tarusina first won this competition two years ago, got a JGP berth, and then had her 2017 season derailed by a car accident only just before she would’ve debuted internationally. Since then, she’s competed only in one smaller international event, won it, and now has won this one again with this flawless come-from-behind skate. Hopefully she’ll get onto the circuit again and actually be able to compete this time.
Anna Shcherbakova, too, is a skater we only haven’t seen on the JGP circuit yet because she got injured, in her case last fall. She’s landed a quad in the past. Here, she instead won the short program with an exquisite performance, although a bad free dropped her to fifth.
Remarkably, Tarusina won with her triple-triple combination in both programs being only a triple loop-triple toe. Most of the others aimed to combine the toe with a flip or lutz. But after doing the loop-toe herself in the short, Ksenia Sinitsina landed a triple lutz-triple loop in the free, the hardest combination anyone managed. Although she’s not as polished as some of the other ladies, that was enough to get her silver.
The highest technical score in the free skate, however Alena Kanysheva, who used it to pull up to third.
Amina Atakhanova & Nikita Volodin both had a good deal of success on the junior scene with their previous partners, and since teaming up a couple of months ago, they’ve been busy on Russia’s internal circuit. It’s got them already gelling and performing well with each other, and they won this event with two good skates where it showed.
This was a podium were all six skaters had JGP experience, and two of the teams had it with each other. Ksenia Akhanteva & Valerii Kolesev want to finally do well enough at their first event to get a second. They’ll need to manage their technical content for that; it was doing most of it that got them silver here, as they don’t yet have much else.
They may have had an extremely successful international season, but Apollinariia Panfilova & Dmitry Rylov still don’t have the technical content to get higher than third in this field, though their programs remain very watchable.
Polina Ivanenko & Daniil Karpov were fifth at their only JGP event in 2016, and hopefully will get a second with their win in the ice dance. As their short dance shows, they do have the ability to perform. Unfortunately, their free dance isn’t available on YouTube.
The better dancers, however, were actually Elizaveta Shanaeva & David Narizhny, who were less than a point and a half behind them in second. They almost certainly would’ve won had they not been plagued with low levels on their elements in both programs.
And their free dance is available, in all its Russian WTF glory. They seem to be enjoying the hell out of it, at least.
View full results here. (In Cyrillic)
World Synchronized Skating Championships
For synchronized skating, the Olympic excitement might just be getting started, as they’re trying to get included for the first time in 2022; the decision there will come this summer. In the meantime, they held their World Championships this week in Stockholm.
The top Russian team, Paradise, put themselves in position to win their third straight with a technically spectacular short. Then they botched a lift in the free, and had to settle for bronze.
Thus gold instead went to Finland’s Marigold Ice Unity. If one can forgive their free skate for being based off Sea World shows, it’s one of the most creative in the sport. Their final move is especially impressive; they maxed out the score for it too.
Surprise, the higher-ranked of the home teams, first skated to “The Winner Takes it All,” because of course they did. They too did a nature-themed free, and were almost as impressive as the Finns, and they were only about a point behind them for silver.
View full results here.
Next week, an hour’s worth of performances from the American Stars on Ice will hit the small screen; that broadcast is on NBCSN on April 14 at 12:30. There may be other videos finding their way out, as other shows, both club and professional, get underway, though videos of the former especially are dependent on someone being willing to take and then upload them.