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Russian Junior Nationals Shows Depth of Russian Figure Skating

by Tatjana Flade

New "starlet" Sofia Akatieva

(12 February 2021) The new Russian Junior Ladies Champion is Sofia Akatieva, 13 years of age and, not guess what - a student of Eteri Tutberidze and her team. Akatieva has a triple Axel and quad toe, but not everything worked out in Krasnoyarsk. The triple Axel in the short program was slightly under-rotated, got a "q” and she landed forward and fell on that jump in the free. In her free to "Mulan” Sofia shone with a quad toe-double to and six triples, but the solo quad toe was not clean. This young skater cannot only jump, but she is also elegant and expressive. To put it short: tons of potential (220.00 points).

Said Akatieva, "Neither the short nor the free were ideal. I was able to skate my programs clean in practice and all elements were good. Maybe I didn’t do enough in practice, didn’t do as many jumps as I should have done and I was too nervous. But I am pleased that I did the first quad toe in combination and skated well in the second half of the program. I am very happy to have won. I was really nervous until the last moment.”

Adelia Petrosian, who is the same age as Akatieva and trains also under Tutberidze, does not yet have a triple Axel or quads, but she convinced with solid triples and beautiful performances. She especially interpreted her free to the famous Armenian piece "Artsakh” very well and later said that this program and music means a lot to her since her father is Armenian. Adelia did not expect to take silver in this deep field. (211.87). Petrosian and Akatieva will be internationally junior age-eligible next season.

The bronze went to Sofia Muraveva, who has been training in Evgeni Plushenko’s school since last spring. The 14-year-old did not go for the originally planned quad toe, but went for clean programs and this strategy paid off for her. She even led following the short program (208.13).

Sofia Samodelkina (the name Sofia seems to have been extremely popular in that generation!) was considered one of the top favorites, but she stumbled on the triple Axel in the short. At least she still added a triple toe for a combination. She missed the first quad Salchow in the free, but the second one (with her arms lifted over her head) in combination with a double toe was really nice. Samodelkina did not risk the quad loop as it was not consistent enough in practice (4th & 207.64). She and Muraveva would  have been eligible for the Junior Grand Prix this season and she was disappointed about the cancellation. "On the other hand, we had more time to work on everything,” she noted.

Elizaveta Berestovskaia came fifth. She trains with former Belorussian top skater Sergei Davydov at CSKA Moscow and has landed the quad to before, but since only one out of six attempts worked in practice before the competition, she did not try it. There were many more talented girls that placed behind her. Agneta Latushkina deserves a special mention. She trains in the Russian province Mari-El mostly by herself and with the help of videos, but she has all triples including the Lutz and finished a respectable 11th. Twelve-year-old Veronika Zhilina, another Plushenko student, landed two quad toes in the free but fell on the triple Axel in the short to come 12th.

Gold for Evgeni Semenenko

Evgeni Semenenko drew attention in the fall and winter and was considered a medal contender for senior Nationals, but he faltered and came only 11th. The 17-year-old came to Krasnoyarsk looking for redemption and succeeded. His short was clean and he reeled off a quad toe and seven triples in the long to "Notre Dame de Paris”. The only error came when he doubled the planned quad Salchow. However, Evgeni needs to improve the quality of his jump landings to get more points for the GOE. Nevertheless, he deservedly won the title with 11 points to spare (247.37). Coach Alexei Mishin now for the first time since 2010 holds the senior and the junior title in the same year. Back then his students Evgeni Plushenko and Artur Gachinski were the champions, now it is Mikhail Kolyada and Semenenko.

"I am happy with the result," Semenenk reemarked, "and partly happy with the free. It wasn’t my first time at Junior Nationals, but I didn’t do well in the previous years. It is very important to me that I was able to win this time. I got over my disappointment from Russian (senior) Nationals and continued to work hard.”

The unknown Alexander Golubov snatched silver ahead of Egor Rukhin, who wasn’t considered a top favorite either. Golubov comes out of Nizhnyi Novgorod  but has moved to Moscow for training four years ago and is coached by Ksenia Ivanova. He has the quad Salchow and triple Axel in his arsenal, other quads are on the way, but he needs to work on the presentation and the whole package

(236.58). Rukhin switched coaches from Eteri Tutberidze to Elena Buianova a year ago and healed his back injury. Although the Muscovite has grown very tall, he was able to become more consistent and add the quad Salchow and toe to his repertoire during the season. Due to an error the first quad Salchow in the free was input as a triple, but it was noticed quickly and corrected at the end (235.71).

Ilia Yablokov was second in the short, but after falling on a quad toe and a triple Salchow he slipped to fourth (234.24).

The very talented Nikolai Ugozhaev from St. Petersburg finished fifth in his debut at Junior Nationals. The 14-year-old did not try the quad Lutz that he has landed in practice, but all his triples are usually solid and he is very expressive. He stepped out of a triple Axel in the short.

Two-time and defending champion Daniil Samsonov didn’t compete all season yet at he was recovering from knee problems and made some errors (7th). Andrei Kutovoi, who trains with Ugozhaev under Veronika Daineko, is another very artistic young skater, but he struggled with the triple Axel and placed 10th.

Victory for Artemeva & Nazarychev

Russia can be also proud of their young and talented Pairs. Which ones will be successful at the senior level depends on many factors, but the potential is there. Iuliia Artemeva & Mikhail Nazarychev

from the Perm school celebrated a rather clear victory over the St. Petersburg team of Ksenia Akhanteva & Valeri Kolesov as they had a higher degree of difficulty in the free and earned higher GOEs for their elements. The 2020 World Junior bronze medalists Artemeva & Nazarychev had kept both programs to "Senza Parole" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". They skated clean and with power. Their free included a double Axel-Euler-triple Salchow, plus triple toe, throw triple flip and loop (204.50).

Nazarychev remarked, "This was the most important competition for us this season. If there was no Corona pandemic, this would have been the qualification event for Junior Worlds. Therefore, I was nervous, but while we skated the free the nerves went away and we did well. Points-wise, this was almost the maximum we could have achieved, but we still could have improved some details.”

World Junior silver medalists Akhanteva & Kolesov did not compete at senior Nationals like Artemeva &  Nazarychev, as he had a foot injury. Now he was recovered and the couple put out two clean performances to music from Cirque du Soleil in the short and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd in the free (194.26). "I was almost for a month off the ice, but we were able to start training normally in the beginning of January and we prepared intensively for the championship," Kolesov commented.

Anastasia Mukhortova & Dmitri Evgeniev are a team coming out Nina Mozer’s school in Moscow. They stood in fifth place following the short as she stumbled on the double Axel. They delivered a clean and strong free to "Paganini – the Devil’s Violonist” soundtrack that featured a triple Salchow-Euler-double Salchow combination, triple toe as well as nice throws so that they moved up to capture the bronze medal at 188.77 points.

The silver and bronze medalists age out of juniors next season. Artemeva & Nazarychev still can stay junior and have not yet decided if they want to focus completely on the senior level next season. Most likely they’ll continue to skate on both levels, though and aim at the Junior World title.

Two-time World Junior medalist Polina Kostiukovich has been skating with new partner Alexei Briukhanov this season.  The team left a good impression and if she hadn’t missed the triple Salchow in the free, they would have been third (187.33). Ekaterina Petushkova & Evgeni Malikov form Tamara Moskvina’s club dropped from third to fifth after aborting a lift in the long program, but other elements were well done (179.85). Karina Safina & Sergei Bakhmat and Daria Boiarintseva & Maxim Shagalov in sixth and seventh are two more solid teams.

Ushakova & Nekrasov Win Ice Dance Duel

There were basically two competitions in the Ice Dance event: the top three fought for the medals and the rest for the ranking below. Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov were very convincing as in earlier competitions this season. They achieved high levels in their Rhythm Dance to "Chicago” – only the diagonal step sequence was rated a level three, everything else was a level four – and skated with speed and expression. The couple from Odintsovo was able to get almost the maximum from the levels in the dramatic free dance to "The Master and Margarita” again (187.55).

Ushakova said, "We finally claimed this title in our fifth try and that makes us very happy. I am looking forward now to the senior level, we’ve been long enough in juniors. We’re approaching our first senior season without expectations, but we want to present ourselves as a strong team straight away and we don’t want to wait in line.”

Elizaveta Shanaeva & Devid Naryzhnyy competed only in their first full event this season. They both had been ill with Covid-19 and he needed a long of time to recover. However, the 2020 World Junior bronze medalists managed to get into good shape for Junior Nationals and came close to the winners. They had kept their "Bonnie and Clyde” RD. Since their first pattern of the Tea Time Foxtrot was rated a level one, the Muscovites ranked third in this segment. They debuted a new free dance to music from "Amaluna” from Cirque du Soleil, in which he is visiting another planet and meets an extra-terrestian. Their levels were good, but the program overall wasn’t as captivating as Ushakova & Nekrasov’s (184.19). Shanaeva & Naryzhnyy will move up to the senior level as well next season.

Bronze medalists Irina Khavronina & Dario Chirizano that train like the champions under Alexei Gorshkov and Maxim Bolotin will stay junior. The 2020 Youth Olympic Games Champions have developed very well technically and artistically and have good chances to develop into the next top junior team in the world. They interpreted "Hipsters” to music from a Russian movie by the same name in the RD. In the free, the son of an Italian father and Russian mother took the role of a crazy pianist while his partner played his muse (181.60).

There was a significant gap to the next teams. Ekaterina Andreeva & Ivan Desiatov from Moscow ranked fourth with solid performances (167.92), followed by Margarita Svistunova & Dmitri Studenikin from Orenburg (163.52). Elizaveta Shichina & Gordei Khubulov from Alexander Zhulin’s school left a good impression (6th). Vasilisa Kaganovskaia & Valeri Angelopol, students of Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov, were expected to do better, but came seventh after some low levels in the RD and a fall in the FD.


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