by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The ice dance competition at the Cup of Russia 2020 had a good, but not outstanding level. Six Russian and four other couples performed in front of 1.200 spectators and the TV cameras of the livestream which was visible in most countries throughout the world.
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov, the reigning European champions and silver medalists of Worlds 2019, won the event without big problems with 217.51 points. Katsalapov had had back problems in September, but he was fit again. They kept their successful Rhythm Dance from last season to “Singin‘ in the Rain“ by Arthur Freed with two Slowfoxes and a Quickstep in the middle. All five elements had a level 4 and were executed in an outstanding way. Five of the seven judges awarded GOEs of +5 for the Twizzle sequence. The Rotational Lift had two GOEs of +5 and the midline step sequence one (from a different judge). They met all four key points in the Finnstep section and the Partial step sequence was also excellent. The students of Alexander Zhulin skated in high speed and the components had an average of 9.8 with 12 perfect 10.0, among them for composition from all seven judges. They were the only skaters of the whole Cup of Russia to get components of 10, no single skater and no pair got any.
Katsalapov commented, “It felt great. We love competing and we missed it. We had some health problems and we were not able to finish the free dance in our last competition.” Sinitsina added, “When we heard that we keep the Rhythm Dance, I was at first a bit upset because I do not like to skate a program for such a long time. But I realized that we still love the music and the program. We didn't change anything from the technical side but we've worked on interpretation and expression. We're not at our 100% yet. It's difficult to make our recovery top priority when we need to prepare for competitions. When I have more time, I'll fully focus on my knee.“
The first three elements in their new free dance to Michael Jackson’s “Smile“ and “Come together“ were outstanding, The twizzle sequence in perfect harmony had six GOEs of +5, the first two lifts and the step sequences mainly +4. But the rotational lift was quite wobbly and they had to fight a bit not to fall. Therefore it was only level 1 and had mainly GOEs + 0 and +1. The components remained high and had an average of 9.7 with five 10.0 out of 35 total components.
Sinitsina said, “It was our first full competition and full run-through of the free dance and we really felt the support of the crowd. Unfortunately, we made an error on the lift. We hope to improve and to skate without mistakes next time. We hope the 2021 European Championships will take place. We’re not going to miss them, by no means.”
Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro, 13th at the Olympic Games of 2018, won an expected silver medal, earning 206.91 points. They are a very international couple. Zagorski (26) is originally British, lived and competed then in France for many years, has been skating with Guerreiro for six years and took Russian citizenships in 2015. She even had to change her last name from Zahorsky to Zagorski for language reasons. Guerreiro has a Portuguese father who moved as a seaman to Australia and married a former Russian coach there. Later Jonathan lived in the USA and had ice dance partners there before going to Russia with his mother.
For their Rhythm Dance they used March, Quickstep and Waltz from the soundtrack of ”The Greatest Showman”. Four elements had a level 4, the midline step sequence a level 3 and everything was excellently performed. ”Our main goal for today was to fix some mistakes we made at the small competition in Sochi lately“, Guerreiro explained. “We wanted to deliver a clean, more conscious and expressive performance. We belive we did it and that makes us happy. Despite a small amount of spectators tonight due to pandemic restrictions, we felt a great support from the audience.“
Their free dance music pieces are “Survivor“ by Beyonce Knowies and “Gangster’s Paradise“, both by the German group “2Wei“. The levels of the students of Svetlana Alexeeva and her daughter Elena Kustarova were excellent, their whole performance powerful and flawless with GOEs of mainly +3 and +4. Guerreiro said, “We're very happy with the outcome. It's always a great pleasure to win a medal, and this is the first time we are on the podium at our home Grand Prix event. We had the chance to get a good rest during the quarantine and discuss improvements for our programs. Another important thing is that we focused on our health and recovered from our injuries. Our program 'Survival' matches this year 2020 perfectly.”
Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin from the same school as Zagorski & Guerreiro took a surprising bronze medal with 199.25 points. Like last season, in the Rhythm Dance they interpreted Blues, Foxtrot and Quickstep from “Bonnie and Clyde“. They had the same excellent levels as their training mates, but lower GOEs. Skoptcova said, “After Kazan (fourth stage of the national series) we did not have much time, but we nevertheless fixed some technical things and we are happy that we did everything today,” Aleshin added, “We changed the midline step sequence, the pattern dance step sequence. We added emotions and speed.”
In their passionate free dance, they used “Never Tear Us Apart“ and „Earned it“ from the soundtrack of “Fifty Shades of Grey“ by Bishop Briggs. Their GOEs were mainly +3 and the levels excellent. Skopkcova explained, ”Our free dance is about a delicate subject – passion. It’s about a relationship and how different it can be. For us the competition is very important and exciting because this is our first (senior) Grand Prix medal. Obviously the Grand Prix format is different this year, but nevertheless there were strong couples competing and they were not only from Russia.”
The new team of Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Egor Bazin, students of Denis Samokhin in the city of Tolliati, placed fourth with 193.18 points. In their Finnstep section in the Rhythm Dance they met only one of four key points, the rest was good. In their free dance mainly to “Experience“ by Ludovico Einaudi, everything worked well and their levels were relatively high. They play the story of an elderly couple who looks back on their whole lives. Annabelle Morozov, the daughter of coach Nikolai Morozov, & her partner Andrei Bagin finished on fifth position, earning 191.00 points. They performed a funny Rhythm Dance, mainly to the musical “Chicago“ and a smooth free dance mainly to “Terra Rossa“ by contemporary Hungarian composer Balazs Havasi.
Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin from the Ukraine often train in Moscow and came sixth with 188.25 points. With seven Russian and no Ukrainian judge they were a bit undermarked. They skated to the musical “42nd Street“ in the Rhythm Dance and to three pieces of Rene Aubry in the free dance. Their highlights were hydroblading lifts.
Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius skate for Lithuania and were invited as alternates for the Georgian couple of Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya who could not compete because he suffered from a knee injury. Ambrulevicius is a real Lithuanian citizen and she is American and had competed for Georgia and for Israel with other partners before. Her older brother Chris Reed, also an ice dancer who competed for Japan, died in April 2020 of a heart attack. Reed and Ambrulevicius had planned to move from Oberstdorf in Germany to train in the Ice Academy of Montreal in springtime 2020. But due to Covid 19, they were not allowed to travel to Canada. Therefore they have meanwhile trained online and stayed in Finland with Finnish National dance coach Maurizio Margaglio. In Moscow, they are on seventh position with 182.56 points. In the Rhythm Dance to the musical “Bandstand“ their twizzle sequence was not in perfect harmony, everything else was good. Their free dance to music by Norwegian singer Aurora was also faultless.
Russian dancer Anna Yanovskaya & Hungarian partner Adam Lukacs placed eighth with 163.65 points. Lukacs fell on the Partial Step Sequence, the rest of the Rhythm dance to “Grease“ was good. Their free dance music was a love song by Patricia Kaas and they interpreted it well. Ekaterina Mironova & Evgenii Ustenko are ninth with 152.14 points. Their levels were lower and their GOEs mainly +1 and +2. They came as alternates for Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin who could not compete because of a Covid-19 infection. Moreover, Stepanova had had back problems in the summer which required treatment with specialists in Munich. Victoria Semenjuk & Ilya Yukhimuk from Minsk in Belarus ended up tenth with 146.38 points after two performances without serious mistakes, but with lower levels.