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2015 Rostelecom Cup

Seven medals for the host country

Moscow, Russia

by Tatjana Flade

Rostelecom Cup once again took place in the old "Small Arena" in the sport park "Luzhniki," which maybe fans remember from Worlds in 2005. The new “Megasport” that was used for Worlds in 2011 was still closed but scheduled to reopen in December so that maybe next year Rostelecom Cup will move back there. Rostelecom Cup was as usual well attended with 8,500 spectators per day on the weekend and a little less on Friday. The favorites and the host country dominated the event with Russia taking seven out of the twelve medals.

Russian Power Girls Sweep the Podium

One year ago Olympic Champion Adelina Sotnikova attended the Grand Prix in Moscow as a spectator only. She was in a cast as she had broken her ankle. At a press conference Adelina said that she was determined to come back, but not everybody believed in it. However, she did come back and there she was now. Technically Sotnikova was not yet at the top of her game, but she has developed a lot artistically and as a skater as a whole. She considered winning the bronze medal as a big success for her. “It was like at the Olympic Games here,” the 19-year-old said and revealed that she felt “really old” next to her 16-year-old teammates Elena Radionova and Evgenia Medvedeva. Those two banged out triple-triple combos left and right and were 25 and 20 points ahead, respectively.

Radionova’s base for her victory was her excellent short program and she also delivered a clean free to “Titanic” with seven triple jumps and level four for her spins and footwork.  In both programs, she really got into her performance. However, the European silver medalist still was ranked a close second to Medvedeva in the free skating as her teammate earned higher GOEs for her high, light jumps, even though she stumbled on a double Axel. But Evgenia was only third in the short and trailing the leader by about 4.5 points as she had fallen on the triple flip. But she knows how to think on her feet and quickly added the triple toe to the triple loop for her combination.

“At the end I was overwhelmed by my feelings, because I know what pain and emotions I’ve been going through. Now I was the old Elena again, not the one from China,” commented Radionova. She qualified for the Grand Prix Final, like Medvedeva, who will go to the senior-level final for the first time. Last year the Muscovite competed in the Junior Final and won. “I feel the difference between juniors and seniors. It is another level now. In juniors you’re still a kid and now you feel you are a grown up athlete who know her goals,“ the teenager noted a little precociously.

Sotnikova looked nervous in the Latin themed short program and reduced her combination to triple toe-double toe. On the one hand she felt the pressure, on the other hand she had to compete without her long-time coach Elena Buianova (Vodorezova) at her side who had been taken ill suddenly. “I’ve never been in this situation before. It made it a lot harder for me,” the Olympic Champion admitted. Her choreographers Irina Tagaeva and Peter Tchernyshev took care of her. Sotnikova attacked in her dramatic free program to “Je suis malade,” she went for triple Lutz-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe, but the toes both were downgraded, and she missed the last double Axel. Some spins were only a level three as she didn’t hold the positions long enough.

Polina Edmunds (USA) put out a clean short with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but she under-rotated four jumps in the free skating to finish fourth. Japan’s Rika Hongo wasn’t in as good shape as in Beijing at Cup of China. She under-rotated the triple flip-triple toe in the short and made errors on the triple Lutz in the free, also doubled a Salchow (5th). Alaine Chartrand of Canada stood in second following a good short with triple Lutz-triple toe. However, she crashed on her triple Axel attempt in the long and also fell on two other jumps. Although she recovered towards the end of the program, she slipped to seventh. Japan’s Yuka Nagai, the surprise bronze medalist at Skate Canada, popped her Lutz in both short and free which cost a lot of points.

Second Victory for Fernandez

The Men’s event started with a big surprise when Russian youngster Adian Pitkeev upset top favorite Javier Fernandez of Spain in the short program. The World Champion tripled his planned quad Salchow in the short which he called a bit euphemistically “a little mistake on the quad.” Pitkeev on the other hand nailed a quad-triple toe combination and had seven more points in the technical score. Fernandez came back in his “Guys and Dolls” free skate, landed a quad toe, quad Salchow-triple toe and a triple Axel, only the third planned quad didn’t work – the European Champion suddenly found himself on the ice after just two rotations. He easily overtook Pitkeev to win his second Grand Prix event this season. “Today I felt much more comfortable than yesterday and I also felt better in practice. I have to work on the third quad, I popped and had a little fall. I was maybe too excited that program went so well. Now I’ll go back to training, I’ll prepare for the Grand Prix Final. It will be a difficult competition with many strong skaters,” Fernandez said.

Pitkeev was for the first time in the top three following the short program at a senior Grand Prix event and being first, he even had to skate last, in front of an expectant home crowd. The 17-year-old Muscovite mastered this challenge very well. Skating to “The Mission” by Ennio Morricone, he reeled off a quad toe and six triples, and he only fell on his second triple Axel. After the fall he was a bit cautious as he admitted himself, but overall his performance was convincing. Now the student of Eteri Tutberidze and Sergei Dudakov just has to look up more into the audience and should smile more. Even at the awards ceremony he looked dead serious! Only when Adian received his score and realized that he had won the silver medal, he laughed, raised his arms and looked happy. “I’m very pleased, but it was difficult for me to pull myself together. I had everybody’s score and they all got seasons best scores and I never had such scores before. After I fell on the Axel, I had to hold back a little, but I’m really glad that it worked out and I’m here in this room (at the press conference),” the Muscovite said.

The solid Ross Miner (USA) took out the quad Salchow in his short program to "New York State of Mind“ by  Billy Joel and skated clean to finish third. He missed the quad Salchow in his Queen long program, but the other elements were good. When he got is his score, he was ranked behind teammate Adam Rippon. Rippon had fallen on a cheated quad Lutz in the short and reduced the combo to triple Lutz-double toe, but he rallied back in the free with a much stronger performance to songs by the Beatles. Adam decided not to try the quad Lutz after hurting his shoulder in a fall in the morning practice.

However, suddenly at the end of the competition, the score changed by 0.50 points and he switched places with Miner, finishing fourth. The Technical Panel with specialists Katerina Kamberska and Ricardo Olavarrieta had decided to change the level of Miner’s last spin, awarding a level four instead of a level three, which resulted in the placement switch.  “Congratulations to Adam Rippon, he was ahead of me and when he found out that the result had changed he handled it with great sportsmanship. Adam and I have known each other since we’ve been little kids. I respect him so much. I was actually standing right next to Adam when the score changed. I love being up here and it’s wonderful, but I don’t want to happen it like this,” Ross shared. “Why should I be mad at Ross? In his place I also would have wanted them to check my spin. I just should have skated better in the short program,” Rippon commented.

Mikhail Kolyada followed up on his good results in the Challenger Series events earlier this year. The 20-year-old from St. Petersburg not only has powerful jumps that come out of nowhere – he doesn’t set up for them forever like many others do –  but he also shows interesting transitions and arm movements. He missed most of the past season as he had broken his right foot, but now he is back in full force. “After my injury I started to approach my training in a different way,” he said. His debut on the Grand Prix was a full success.

Sergei Voronov got the short end of the stick and dropped from fourth to sixth in spite two solid performances with quad toes. However, he looked a bit stiff and some jumps were tight on the landing and therefore didn’t get positive GOEs. On top of everything, his new blue costume for the “Once Upon a Time in America” free skate looked like a pajama. Canada’ s Nam Nguyen looked tired and slow, but he landed a quad toe and a shaky quad Salchow in the free to finish seventh.

Takahiko Kozuka was not in shape following his foot injury that had kept him out of Cup of China (9th). Peter Liebers of Germany withdrew after aggravating an injury sustained earlier this season in practice.

Stolbova & Klimov are Back

Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov disappointed with sloppy performances at Skate America where they only came fourth, but in Moscow the Olympic silver medalists proved that it is too early to write them off. They shone in their precise short program to “I Put a Spell on You“ with a great throw triple flip, side by side triple toe and level-four elements. The free was strong as well, especially the throw triple flip and Salchow, but Stolbova made errors on the side by side jumps, under-rotating the second jump in the triple toe-triple toe-double toe combo and stumbling on the triple Salchow. The original choreography in their program “The Man and the shadow” set to the movie soundtrack “The Unknown Known” by Danny Elfman was much more evident than in Milwaukee. “Since Skate America we’ve just been training a lot and we changed a few things that didn’t work,” Klimov explained.

Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov convinced especially in the short program with strong elements and good flow on Yuko‘s 34th birthday. They missed both the quad throw Salchow (bad stumble) and quad throw loop (fall), but didn’t regret going for them. “Unfortunately were didn’t do the two quad throws clean today. There is still something for us left to work on. But we didn’t have the choice not to go for the quads. Why not trying them when we had a good score and placement (in the short),” Smirnov told the press.

It was not an easy event for Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang. “We didn’t practice for six days. We didn’t have practice in Bordeaux on Saturday and Sunday, then we were sitting on the plane, first from France to China and then from China to Russia. Our first training since the short program in Bordeaux was the official practice here in Russia,” Zhang revealed. Obviously, the Chinese Skating Federation should have sent the skaters directly from France to Moscow and book some ice time for them there. No wonder that the Chinese team was a bit tired. Considering the circumstances, they still did very well. Peng fell on a transition move in the short program and hard on the throw quad Salchow in the free, but these were the only major mistakes. They produced even a quad twist and took the bronze medal.

Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea (USA) turned in two solid performances. They decided not to risk the throw quad Salchow as it didn’t really work in practice. The new Russian duo Natalja Zabijako &  Alexander Enbert celebrated a successful debut on the Grand Prix. They made no glaring error and have a lot of potential. They plan on doing a throw triple Axel in the future.  Valentina Marchei &  Ondrej Hotarek started into the competition with a strong short program, but they struggled with the solo jumps in the free skating, which are usually their strong point. But the audience really enjoyed the lively disco program of the Italians.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro didn’t skate as well as at Skate Canada. Moore-Towers also had to rebook her flight as she had forgotten the costumes at home and needed to go back to pick them up.

Weaver & Poje Prevail

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje danced to their second Grand Prix gold medal this season, but Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte came close. The Canadians impressed with their swinging short dance to Waltz and Polka by Strauss while the Italians convinced with their interpretation of the “Merry Widow.” In the free dance as well the two couples were almost equal technically and in their components. It is a bit a question of taste if you prefer the dramatic-passionate dance to “On the Nature of Daylight” and “Run” of Weaver & Poje or the cheerful “La Dolce Vita” program of Cappellini & Lanotte.

"We put together two really good performances. I think the free could have been a little bit stronger in some places, but it is still early in the season. We felt like the competition was very, very strong. We’re happy we were able to be strong and come home with the gold medal,” Weaver said.

"We still can improve some things, but overall we reached our goal and qualified for the Final“, commented Cappellini. “Especially the short dance still can be better and we did it better in practice,” Lanotte added.

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov won the inner-Russian duel for the first time. Their short dance to Waltz, March and Polka from “Swan Lake” was very characteristic, only the level two for the step sequence wasn’t what they had hoped for. The Russians then earned almost the best possible levels in their somewhat sappy and a little long-winded free dance to “Io Ci Saro,” with a level four for everything but the footwork that was rated a level three. “We are glad to have skated clean again in our second Grand Prix and we have improved our scores. We continue to gather feedback from people that matter to us and we still have to get time better than we were here,” Katsalapov noted.

Charlène Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy achieved a good result thanks to technically solid performances, but their curve lift looks ugly. Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia lost their chance for a medal in the short dance when he fell on the twizzles. The couple from Moscow had the same good levels as their teammates in the free dance to “Frida,” but they got a few less points for the components and the execution of the elements. So they finished fifth. Viktoria Kavaliova & Yurii Bieliaev of Belarus who were invited as substitutes for Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz (who had split up) were clearly last and don’t really belong to the Grand Prix. Other couples such as Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis (Germany) oder Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley (Slovakia) would have more deserved to be here. But maybe it was cheaper for the Russians to invite the Belarus team that partially trains in Russia and at the same time did the Belarus federation a little favor.

Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin of Russia had to withdraw shortly before the Free Dance as she injured a muscle (pull or even tear, the diagnosis was not clear yet at the time of writing).