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2018 Rostelecom Cup Ladies

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany








(21 November 2018)  The Rostelecom Cup in Moscow was the fifth Grand Prix of this season. The ladies competition had a good level. But only nine of the twelve invited skaters skated the free program.

The 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova from Russia won an easy gold medal with 222.95 points. Skating confidently to the music “The Phantom of the Opera“ by Andrew Lloyd Webber, she opened her short program with a highlight, a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, which is more risky than the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Her double Axel and her triple flip were outstanding, the flip had nine GOEs of +4. Her stellar spins and her step sequence even had some GOEs of +5, but mainly also +4. Her components had an average level of 9.3, with some 9.75 as highest ones. She commented, “Today before the short program I only thought about my program and after the program I was a little bit happy, but tomorrow is still another day. The scores or my placement are not important for me, for me it is only important to skate clean and to put my heart into it.”

Her free program to George Bizet’s Carmen was good as well, but not flawless. After a good double Axel for warming up, her first main element was an excellent combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by a triple Salchow and a second double Axel. But in the second half, the second triple Lutz and the triple flip were a bit under-rotated and the second flip near the end was only double and wobbly. Spins and steps were as excellent as usual and the components around 9.2. “I can’t say that my performance was that good today, but I am glad that I was able to pull my combinations together. On the last jump I made a stupid mistake and I will keep working,” she said. After two victories in Finland and Russia she is certainly qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Zagitova’s teammate Sofia Samodurova won the silver medal with 198.01 points and was second in both parts of the competition. Performing to the flamenco "Nyah“, she started her short program with a good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, a so-so triple loop and a very good double Axel. Her spins were very good and her step sequence as well. She collected 67.40 points and her components were around 7.6. She said, “This is the best score I‘ve ever had and one of the biggest events I’ve competed in. Compared to Skate America, I felt more confident today and I felt that I was able to give a strong performance.”

Her free program to the soundtrack of “Burlesque” was almost flawless as well, but her elements are less spectacular than those of Zagitova. Six triple jumps were at least good, only the toe loop of her first combination after the triple Lutz was under-rotated. Her spins and steps were good as well. She explained, “I am happy that I was able to skate two clean programs. There were some mistakes, my skate was not so clean, and this motivates me to work even harder.” After a third place at Skate America and this second place she has to wait and see until the last Grand Prix in Grenoble if she qualifies for the Grand Prix Final.

15-year-old Eunsoo Lim from South Korea earned the bronze medal with 185,67 points. In the short program, she was only sixth because she missed the triple flip and therefore had no combination. Moreover she stepped out of the double Axel. The triple Lutz at the beginning was her only clean jump. Her spins and steps, however, were good. But with the free program she could move up three places. She performed to the musical “Chicago“, beginning with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop and followed by an excellent triple loop. Three more triples were good, only the triple flip under-rotated. Her spins were excellent and the components had an average of 7.8. “I didn’t do my best performance, but I tried to do better than in the short program. I have to skate better in my next competition, but overall I am satisfied. This season is really important for me, because it is my first senior season,” she commented.

Alexia Paganini from Switzerland, who had been 21st in the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, has Swiss and American citizenships due to her parents and trains in Hackensack, NJ. She finished in fourth position, winning 182.50 points in her very first Grand Prix. In the short program to the Tango “Yo Soy Maria”, which is often used in ice dancing, she was even third after performing a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop and a good triple loop. She explained, “I am really happy with my performance, this is the best I’ve skated ever. I have been working hard on making sure all my programs are consistent and clean and on getting all my levels up. I am a little surprised to be in third, but I was working hard and I was doing clean programs in practice every day.” In her free program to the soundtrack of La La Land, five triple jumps were clean, a triple Salchow under-rotated and two spins only got a basic level which cost her the medal.

Yuna Shiraiwa from Japan is fifth, earning 180.93 points. In her short program combination, both the triple Lutz and the triple toe loop were under-rotated. The double Axel and the step sequence were excellent, the triple loop good. In her free program to the music “Pictures at an Exhibition“ by Modest Mussorsky, both combinations of triple Lutz and triple toe loop were clean and not under-rotated. But later in the program, three other jumps got a deduction for under-rotation.

Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan, who had moved from Brian Order in Toronto to Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow in the summer, came sixth, earning 180.45 points. In the short program, the triple Lutz and her combination of triple Salchow and only double toe loop were not clean. In the free program she dropped from four to six because her triple Lutz and triple loop were not clean again and she fell on the triple flip.

Mako Yamashita from Japan is seventh with 161.22 points, Polina Tsurskaia from Russia sits eighth with 149.45 points. The third Japanese skater Jura Matsuda ended up ninth with 137.99 points.

For Gracie Gold the Rostelecom Cup was supposed to be her first competition after a long break due to depression, eating disorder, panic attacks and other problems. Strangely enough she had not done any smaller competition before which might have helped her to get back into the feeling of competition. She had told NBC that she still was not back to full fitness after her time away from the sport, not even close to 100 percent, but only 30 or 40 percent. She said that she had decided to come back for a four year chunk and her longtime goal was to compete again in the 2022 Olympics. She is coached now by former French citizen Vincent Restencourt in Aston, Pennsylvania.

The music of her new short program is "I Put a Spell on You“ by Annie Lennox. She skated slowly and you could see that is not not yet in good shape. Her first element was a combination of double Lutz and double toe loop, which certainly is invalid. Then she fell on the (under-rotated) triple flip and did not really take off for an Axel. The layback spin was good, the other two spins and the step sequence so-so. She had 37.61 points and was tenth and last.

The next morning Gold withdrew from the free program due to emotional stress. On Twitter she commented, I’m heartbroken to withdraw from tonight’s free skate. It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture. Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.“

U.S. skater Karen Chen and German champion Nicole Schott had already withdrawn from their first Grand Prix due to longtime injuries. But both withdrew from the Rostelecom Cup only a few days before the competition, too late to invite somebody else because in most countries you need a visa for Russia in your passport which takes some days. Their behavior or the behavior of their coaches or federation is unsportsmanlike and unfair to other skaters. Last year Schott for example was happy to be invited as alternate to two Grand Prix because other skaters had withdrawn early enough.