Skating Highlights of the Week: Russian Junior Test Skates & North American Competitions
Russia’s top juniors show their programs to officials and audience members; Moore-Towers & Marinaro & Tennell among those showing shorts in competition.
Halfway through August, and while one might dispute whether or not the 2018-2019 figure skating season has begun, for most skaters, it definitely has. Most of those based in North America who haven’t already are getting ready to skate either at one of the U.S.’s many club competitions, or in one of Canada’s Summer Skates. In Russia, the junior skaters are showing their programs to officials at the yearly test skates; the seniors will have their turn early in September. Most of the major summer shows have come and gone, though some with longer runs are still ongoing.
Fans get to watch a lot of this. Canada’s events are usually streamed on Dailymotion, and for events without streams, we still have fancams. It’s sometimes harder to get a camera into Russia’s junior test skates. Last year, especially, they even suppressed footage for the first Russian Cup events, wanting their senior skaters not to show the world their programs until the open skate at the end of the senior test skates. But they’re not necessarily as strict about it in years where isn’t an upcoming Olympics. Ultimately, it comes down to whether someone’s willing to make the effort to record and upload the videos.
This week, we had people at Russia’s junior singles test skates in Novogorsk who were. Meanwhile, in North America, various videos hit YouTube from competitions for both this and last weekend, giving us first looks at multiple top names.
Russian Junior Test Skates
The Russian dominance of the junior scene makes their junior test skates an event of interest to fans. Most years we get at least accounts of what went down, but actual footage is less common. Even this year, the videos aren’t that well done. Many of them are vertical, most of the short program videos are incomplete, and the camera’s attempts to follow the skaters around the ice occasionally get blocked by other audience members. Nonetheless, they give us a picture of what we should except at the Junior Grand Prix starting in two weeks’ time.
Most of Eteri Tutberidze’s girls don’t choose their own music. But when Alexandra Trusova got a pair of movie soundtracks, she’s having fun with them both, with her Kill Bill short especially. Her Fifth Element free skate is a little more dependent on her landing the crazy three quads choreographed in, but even there a bit of her personality comes through.
Watching Alena Kostornaia skate her programs, you wish she’d left the Tutberidze group. You can see her work some of her magic even in these limited glimpses of the short program, but there’s at least some aspects of it she had to overcome to do that. And it’s practically a disgrace that she was the one who got burdened with the discombobulated Romeo and Juliet mashup for her free.
At least Anna Scherbakova’s Rondo Capriccioso free skate is much more a whole entity, and will serve her well once she’s landing the quad. Her short to the more unusual choice of Richard Clayderman’s “A Comme Amour” seems to be likewise.
In her short program, Anastasia Tarakanova is trying to refine the wild ways that defined her debut last season, which may be necessary in the long term, but certainly doesn’t play to her strengths. Or at least what will be her strengths once she’s done coming back from injury; the Imagine Dragons free will likely be much stronger once she can infuse her full energy into it.
Alena Kanysheva, like Scherbakova, has been getting attention within Russia for a while and is newly old enough for junior international competition. This is very much a junior free skate, but shows her to already be well developed as a skater.
Ksenia Sinitsyna is another skater newly aged in, but she’s still waiting for her first JGP assignment. Sadly, she’s the sort of skater who would dominate the field in many a country, but struggles to stand out in Russia.
Egor Murashov appears to be going for the Russian voids in his free. Those are more impressive when you don’t fall down multiple times.
Various Club Competitions
Canada’s Summer Skate series was in full swing this weekend, with Quebec and Ontario both holding their big events. However, the biggest names don’t necessarily compete in them. And when they do, sometimes they only skate their short program. Such was the case for Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro at the Quebec Summer Championships in Pierrefonds:
Maybe that was just as well, when none of the senior pairs skated well in either segment. But Moore-Towers & Marinaro may eventually be able to make us stop thinking about abused animals whenever we hear the song they’re skating to.
None of the other biggest senior names in Canada competed, but the most successful junior skaters of the moment did, and Majaroie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha winning both their segments no problem.
They’ve even come up with a rhythm dance with enough to stay memorable in the sea of tangos.
Free dances to classical music are harder to pull off that other kinds of free skates to classical music, but Lajoie & Lagha are the kind of team that can pull this program off, at least when they have a smoother skate than they did here.
To the south, one of the biggest first looks we got this season was from one of last weekend’s competitions. The DuPage Open In Vernon Hills, Illinois isn’t the biggest of events, but the competitors included Bradie Tennell, and Wednesday a local fan uploaded her short program.
It’s easy for Tennell to fall into the pretty princess persona on the ice, but here, she shows a much more intriguing and beautiful side of herself, as well as improvement from last year.
Also uploaded was Tomoki Hiwatashi skating a short program he throws himself into. Still, “Cry Me a River” remains overused, and this isn’t good enough to make us forget that.