Skating Highlights of the Week: Russian Nationals and Korean Skating
Russian Nationals sees multiple surprise winners and an underage ladies podium; current Korean skaters skate for the national team while Yu-Na Kim skates in Spain.
For most of the Western world, events sort of wind down at the end of the December, with the assumption that everyone, including skaters, will want to at least take a day or two off to spend with their families. Although some of them, of course, are performing in Christmas shows instead. But Japan was formed without Christian influence, and ever since the Soviet days Russia has placed more emphasis on New Year’s. So they find the week before Christmas a perfectly appropriate time to hold a Nationals Championship, especially since they then get to decorate the arena accordingly if they want. Japanese Nationals in fact isn’t over until tomorrow, Christmas Eve-and therefore will be dealt with in its entirety next week.
Russian Nationals was really too big an affair to share a post with another major Nationals anyway. Even before it started in Saransk there was news. When Elizaveta Tuktamysheva withdrew, it caused such a stir that the withdrawals of all three of Sergei Voronov, Alexey Erokhov, and Petr Gummenik from the men’s event almost went unnoticed. Russian officials said before the competition started that they would nonetheless consider Tuktamysehva and Voronov both as candidates for the European team. Russia only does assignments to the European Championships after Nationals, the results here will combine with that competition in Minsk and possibly the Russian Cup Final in February to determine who goes to the World Championships.
While one country was doing European qualification, another was doing the same Four Continents. South Korea held a special ranking competition this week to determine both that and who will be on the national team next season. But that might not have been the event Korean skating fans got most excited about this week. Instead, they looked to Spain, where their greatest star returned to the ice.
Russia has three berths in all four disciplines for Europeans, but the competition for them was still pretty fierce, in the singles especially. Although in the ladies, not all of the favorites were old enough to go anyway.
But while the shocking ladies results included a podium entirely underage, elsewhere at Russian Nationals age was more triumph. The men and dance both saw a return to the top from those who had previously toppled down, and the pairs saw the top team hold steady.
Although she lingered around as a possibility, nobody really thought Anna Shcherbakova the most likely person to win the ladies event. In her short program, she got the job done, having to do without her big ticket quadruple jump, but with her various other developed technical and developing artistic skills, and was in fifth, but was less than a point out of second.
In the free skate, she more or less kept doing what she’d already done in the short, except now she was allowed to do her quad lutz as well. Her delight in pulling of the program was another quality in its favor. And then all the ladies who would have beaten her otherwise had their struggles, and when the dust cleared, she was seven hundredths of a point ahead of all of them, having won the most competitive national title in the world on her first try.
Alexandra Trusova was second after the short program, if by very little. She had a skate very similar to Scherbakova’s, but even without her quads she had the highest technical score.
She too had an excellent free skate which included a quad lutz. The main difference was she went for a second quad, which proved her undoing. Her free skate score was within a point of Scherbakova’s, but she hadn’t been ahead by quite enough.
With Evgenia Medvedeva still reworking herself, Alena Kostornaia was pretty much the best performer out there. That and nailing her jumps allowed her to literally tie for third in the short despite tumbling down her steps.
Kostornaia gave her all into the skating of her free, with all her superior technique and all the expression she could manage. No falls this time, even if the extra half minute left her a little tired. Had she had a better program, it’s not even impossible she might have won. But having neither that nor the quad, she instead ended up with bronze, three points behind the top two.
It was Stanislava Konstantinova who tied with her, when she finally nailed the odd music medley short program she’s been having trouble with for much of the fall. In fact, she was the only top lady from last season aside from Alina Zagitova to do so.
A disastrous free skate last season left people questioning whether Konstantinova should’ve been sent to the World Championships. But doing the same program here, she held it together for more of the program than not. That left her fourth, and the highest finisher eligible for senior international competition. She’s headed for at least Europeans.
Given she’s still having leg issues, and also how both of her Olympic teammates and another one of her fellow Grand Prix medalists from last season did in the short, one can give credit to Zagitova that she put away that program with no real trouble. But that all hit in the free skate, including two falls. She was as low as 12th in that segment, though she managed to finish fifth.
The back half of the top ten all would’ve won most National championships, and they all had at least one excellent skate, if not necessarily a perfect one. In sixth, Sofia Samodurova did much as she had two weeks ago, skating pretty near her best, even if that could only place her so high. But it placed her high enough. Surprisingly, she was named to the European team, with Tuktamysheva only first alternate.
Medvedeva has abandoned her Natalie Cole short for a more traditional Tosca one, but it did her no good here; her mistakes left her all the way down in 14th. But in front of a surprisingly supportive crowd, she rallied herself for her free, and it’s finally developed itself into a full artistic whole. It wasn’t as strong technically as her past ones, and she still had a fall, but it was still very much a triumph for her. The fourth place program, it ultimately got her up to seventh.
The pairs competition was a truly great one, especially for the top four teams throughout, though Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov weren’t the only ones to be less perfect in their short program spins. They certainly weren’t without bounce either.
After spending most of the fall getting away with their free program mistakes, and then not getting away with them at the Final, here at Nationals they finally avoided making them. The result was one of the best performances they’ve ever given, and their second straight national title.
Nataliia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert brought their heavy sturm und drang program to a place where plenty of those have been seen, and had a skate much like that of the top pair.
They had that in both programs. In fact, all of the top three completely nailed their free skates. Of the medalists, Zabiiako & Enbert actually had the technically hardest program, which got them silver, not all that far below Tarasova & Morozov.
Aleksandra Boikova & Dmtrii Kozlovskii got their spin issues over with in St. Petersburg last week, and so were the couple in the top three to truly nail everything.
They of course continued that into their free skate to music appropriate for the season, which may well be the best performance they’ve ever done, period. They’re ready to accompany their elders to Minsk for their first ever European Championships.
Fourth place Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin also skated well. Initially they were in fifth, but that was still with one of their best short programs yet.
They moved up the same way they claimed their Grand Prix bronzes; by landing everything in a free skate more technically difficult than the top three here, though of course they can’t do things as well as they do yet.
Natalie Cole might not have made it to Saransk, but her father did, courtesy Maxim Kovtun’s short. Though he’s done drama more, he is actually really good with that kind of music. Enough so that between that and two quads, even when he fell on his axel he stunned for the lead.
The free skate ended up being a battle of the Carmens, since both he and reigning top man Mikhail Kolyada were skating to it. But Kovtun was the one who delivered far more, and if he did have another fall, so did much of the field. The fallen king everyone had thought was done for and had to qualify for Nationals through the Cups came to reclaim his throne, and his fourth National title.
Kolyada, like Tuktamysheva, ended up ill in the hospital, and was still there less than a week before Nationals. But he was able to skate, and he managed to hold himself together admirably well and fight through his short and much of his long. Even after things went at the end of the latter, he was still left holding silver.
Alexander Samarin lost his quad combination in the short, but he had a relatively decent free skate, and his quad lutz was the only harder quad landed in the men’s event. Second in the segment, he won bronze, and with it the third spot to Europeans; Voronov is only third alternate.
Dmitri Aliev pretty much doomed the rest of his season with a disastrous short program. He skated a better free program, enough so for his to show himself still the best artist in the group, placing fourth in the segment, and sixth overall.
Kovtun wasn’t the biggest shock in the short; that was the guy who came in third. Konstantin Milyukov has been around a long time without ever really being anybody in Russian skating. But on a messy short program night, he nailed his jumps, including a quad, allowing the world to see how pretty a skater he is. Then two falls and two doubles proved his undoing, and he dropped to sixth, which is still by far his highest Nationals finish.
From the time Victoria Sinitsina & Nikitia Katsalapov stalked about the ice in their rhythm dance, it was clear they really aren’t just back to where they were; they’re now better.
And they were better than that in the free dance, where they skated like a dream. They won what’s actually their first National title together, and now top the Russian ice dance field.
Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin tried to match them as best they could. For the most part, they were quick and sharp and strong, though she did have some trouble in the free dance steps. In the end, they finished about four points back for silver.
Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin were initially looking at fourth, and that narrowly after the rhythm dance. But when Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro struggled in their free dance, they took advantage, with the step up they’ve made this season culminating in bronze, and with it, and the final berth to Europeans.
Zagorski & Guerreiro had a good skate in their rhythm dance, and seemed to have a clear bath to the medal and the trip to Minsk. But they made enough mistakes in the free to drop all the way to seventh.
Tarasova & Morozov actually aren’t completely hopeless with contemporary music, at least in their show programs. To remind everyone of that, they’ve once again brought back the John Legend number they debuted back in the 2017 season.
The three young ladies medalists all did older competitive programs in the gala. Anna Scherbakova’s old Secret Garden free hasn’t actually been seen that much anyway.
Betina Popova & Sergei Mozgov, who were fourth in the dance, have moved on from the Power Rangers number to a wackier one. It’s not entirely clear whether his underwear was supposed to be showing or not.
Between this and the Grand Prix Final, Zagitova’s “Survivor” program is starting to take on a whole new context.
Maybe even Evgenia Medvedeva’s program to “Beautiful Mess” has a bit of one too, especially since the love of plenty of people for her remains untouchable.
View full results here.
Korean Figure Skating Ranking Championships
South Korea doesn’t hold its National Championships until January, but that’s not the only qualifier it holds. First comes their pre-Nationals ranking competition. Last year it was the second stage of the Olympic qualification process, but this year its returned to its normal function of determining who gets on the National team next season, and who goes to the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim. Although many of Korea’s skaters are still too young for the latter. Half of the top ten in the senior ladies were.
Eunsoo Lim won the senior ladies competition on the strength of her beautiful short program.
She didn’t lose the free by much either, despite a fall in it.
After the Junior Grand Prix, Young You went back to her delightful Pirates of the Caribbean routine from last season. When she skated it here, she was down in ninth from a bad short, and her opening triple axel attempt did go much better. But she nailed the rest, reminding us of why she’s been a skater to watch for years. She won the free skate, and pulled all the way up to second.
Yelim Kim took third, and like Lim she did it on the strength of a graceful short program; she was fifth in the free. Although qualifying for Four Continents was much easier for her, since she and Lim were the only members of the top six old enough to go. They’ll be joined on that team by Hanul Kim, who finished seventh.
It was Haein Lee and Seoyeong Wi who beat her in the free skate to claim fourth and fifth respectively. Wi even got the highest technical score after You, a fraction of a point ahead of Lee’s.
In terms of both results and ability, no male skater in Korea has ever gone as far as Junhwan Cha has now. He won by over fifty points, and despite a couple of underrotations this program’s a good statement of why. Especially with two clean quads in a competition where no one else was even trying them.
There were 47 ladies competing in the junior event, but Yeon Jeong Park finished high above all of them. Korea’s top juniors were really all in the senior competition, but Park’s on her way.
The event had a gala, where Lim did her popular “Havana” number.
Junhwan Cha did “What a Wonderful World” number that worked better as a show program than a short program
Yelim Kim’s best performance of the week might have been as Juliet.
The top juniors also got to perform. Junior men’s winner Dukhoon Jeong skated to a number by a German country duo!
Revolution on Ice Murcia
Last week, when Nationals was being held throughout most of Europe, Spanish Nationals was forced to do without the soon to be retired Javier Fernandez, because he was too busy starring in Revolution on Ice, a new show that’s been traveling around Spain. It’s had some other skaters of note in it too, but on Friday, the Murcia show landed the biggest guest skater available right now: Olympic champion and Korean skating legend Yu-Na Kim. Naturally when she took to the ice, the fans broke out their phone cameras, and most of the footage available of the show is her.
For her newest number, Kim deviated a little from her usual style. But she can be surprisingly dapper, and it also turns out dressing like the boys brings them all to the yard.
She had the cast at her beck and call for a short number involving an umbrella.
She also did the “House of Woodcock” number she first returned with last summer.
Not all the videos available are of her. The host also got some attention, along with his comic bullfighter number.
We also got Javier Raya, putting aside last week’s Nationals disappointment to accompany young Spanish singer Blas Canto.