Daleman and Radionova Both Out of NHK Too
Struggling Canadian and Russian ladies among week’s withdrawals; replacement skaters now include Alena Leonova.
At this point, skating fans have spent two weeks anticipating multiple high-profile withdrawals from the later Grand Prix events. Namely, the skaters who had already withdrawn from their first events, but hadn’t wanted to give up the second ones yet. Gabrielle Daleman led the trend, swiftly followed by Elena Radionova, Karen Chen, and Madison Chock & Evan Bates. Days after that came the withdrawal of Carolina Kostner, but that was from both her events.
As Kostner was replaced in Finland and France respectively by Hanul Kim and Alexia Paganini, two skaters very happy just to make it onto the circuit, and Chock & Bates in Finland by Katharina Muller & Tim Dieck, who are lucky indeed to get two events, eyes turned anxiously to the NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup. Daleman and Radionova were both assigned to the first, and Chen and Chock & Bates to the second. Daleman’s withdrawal was due to undefined mental health issues, and the other three to the kind of injuries that cast their second events into doubt. As of right now, Chen and Chock & Bates are still on the roster, but that’s still not for two and a half more weeks. At this time next week, they could very well be out.
Because Daleman and Radionova, who had a week less to make their final decisions, are both out of the NHK Trophy. They weren’t even the only withdrawals this week. This week’s Grand Prix in Helsinki lost two more skaters withdrawing only from their first events, Alexey Erokhov and Nicole Schott. So far we’ve heard nothing about why in either case. This is both a lesser loss, because neither were among the event’s top entries, and a greater one, because there’s no time to replace them.
This is especially bad news for Radionova. It essentially means her season is over, because it voids her bye to Russian Nationals, and she already had to withdraw from one Russian Cup event. She could try to compete at much lesser events in the spring if she really wants to, but it’s hard to know if she’ll be recovered there anyway. Hers is a back injury, and those can be tricky and unpredictable. It could even force her to end her career if it’s bad enough. Even if it wouldn’t, a skater with her disastrous recent history, facing the impossibly packed Russian ladies field, might still be driven by it to quit.
Daleman’s situation is the opposite of Radionova’s in exactly one way: until such time as Kaetlyn Osmond decides to compete again, she has no competition within Canada. But her results from the Olympic ladies free onward have been equally painful. Yet they’re the kind that mental health problems would definitely explain, so if she can recover from this, she might be just fine upon her return. How long recovery might take her, however, is even harder to predict. One just hopes she really takes care of herself and doesn’t try to come back before she’s ready.
They didn’t actually have to, but the Japanese federation moved quickly to replace both skaters. One Russian lady’s loss is another’s gain: Alena Leonova got the invite to compete in Radionova’s place. This is the sixth year in a row she’s gotten that invite to Japan, though she withdrew in 2016, but nobody expected her to make it onto the circuit this fall. She probably got it due to her history with the event, and being a longtime fan favorite. It also gets her into Russian Nationals, which she probably wouldn’t have made otherwise, and basically means she gets at least one more appearance at the top events. Given her long-running decline, you would expect this to be her last dance, but when it’s Leonova, who knows.
Replacing Daleman is a more predictable invite. Kailani Craine’s been around the top of the alternate’s list for some time, and it was high time she got in. It’ll be her second ever event; her first was last year. Even with two top skaters out, the NHK Trophy ladies field remains a strong one; at this point neither Radionova nor Daleman were looking likely to medal anyway.
Now all eyes are on the Rostelecom Cup roster, and more than ever, because it’s both Schott’s and Erokhov’s second event as well. One hopes any withdrawals happen next week, instead of days before the event, and the Russian federation finds at least some replacements.