by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(29 November 2021) The Cup of Russia 2021 took place in the Olympic ice rink named “Iceberg“ in Sochi, Russia. The women’s competition had a very good level. The runaway-winner was Kamila Valieva from the Tutberidze school in Moscow with three women’s world records: She won 272.71 total points, more than the men’s winner at the same competition, in the short program 87.42 and 185.29 in the free. And the 15-year-old skater had 43 more than the silver medalist in her first senior season. She is the top favorite for Olympic Gold. Quad jumps are not yet allowed in a women’s short program, but Russia will make a proposal at the next ISU Congress in June 2022 to allow them, like men can do them.
The 2020 Junior World Champions opened her short program to “In Memoriam“ by Kirill Richter with an outstanding triple Axel with two hands above her head, followed by an excellent triple flip and a sovereign combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. All of her jumps look very easy. Each of her three spins and the step sequence were so brilliant that they had some GOEs of +5. Her components were around 9.4, with one 10.0 for performance. Valieva said, “I almost did my maximum today. There is always a place for improvement, the combo was not so great. I enjoyed skating today, especially in the step sequence and I hope I was able to project the character I was trying to.”
In her free program to Maurice Ravel‘s “Bolero“, her first element was a quad Salchow with one hand above her head, followed by a triple Axel and a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, everything in outstanding quality. Four more triples, another quad toe loop in a sequence with an Euler and a double Salchow came later. Spins and steps got many GOEs of +5. The components of around 9.5 were a bit too high because she has to concentrate on her elements and has almost no difficult steps in-between. She said, “I am very happy that I was able to skate almost well today. There was one little mistake when I did a double Salchow instead of a triple, so it was not yet my maximum.”
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from St. Petersburg won the silver medal with 229.23 points. Skating to the Tango “Oblivion“ by Astor Piazzola, the longtime student of Alexei Mishin performed a good triple Axel, three good other triples and excellent spins and steps. Her components were around 8.9. “I am happy with my skate today,“ the 2021 World silver medalist said. “I think it's thanks to the support of the audience and the crowd cheered so much for all girls and we felt it. When the mood and the energy is so high you feel great skating and you don’t get tired by the end of the program. I was a bit ill a week ago and my preparation was affected.”
In her free skate to a mixture of modern oriental music pieces, her first triple Axel in combination with a double toe loop was good, but she stepped out of the second triple Axel. Later she performed six other good triple jumps and excellent spins and steps. She commented, “I was a bit tired before my performance, I was fighting for all the jumps and I think the audience and the judges saw it, but I am still happy because the skate was not bad and after this tough week I am going to the Grand Prix Final.”
Maiia Khromykh from the Tutberidze school completed the Russian medal sweep by winning the bronze medal with 219.69 points. In the short program to “I’ll Take Care of You“ by Beth Hart, her double Axel and triple flip were excellent, but she fell on the triple Lutz and therefore had no combination. In her free, she landed a clean quad toe loop and stumbled on the second one, but it helped her to move up from fifth to third place. Skating to two Tangos, she also performed six good other triples and excellent spins and steps. It is a bit strange to let a 15-year old skater perform to the “Tango de Roxanne“ which is about a prostitute. She explained, “I am happy that I was able to fix the mistakes from Italy. The landing of the second quad toe was messy, but I am glad I was able to focus after the short program yesterday.” All three medalists qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Mariah Bell of Irvine, California, finished in fourth position with 210.35 points after being third in the short program to the romantic piano piece of “River Flows in You“ by Korean composer Yiruma. There she made no real mistake, but her combination was only triple flip and double toe loop. The six other elements were very good. She said, “I was in France last week and obviously I didn’t have a great short program there. And here, not doing the planned triple-triple, so still leaving points out. I was able to get the points on the levels and spins that I missed in France. This program is really enjoyable for me.“ In the free to “Hallelujah“ by K. D. Lang she had five good triples, but the Salchow was wobbly. She had come to Russia from France where she competed the week before and had seen her father for two days in between who works in Switzerland.
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium sits fifth winning 203.69 points. In the short program, she popped the triple flip, the rest was O.K. and the spins excellent. In the free, five triples were good, but two a bit shaky. Madeline Schizas from Canada placed sixth with 192.14 points. She performed a clean short program with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. In the free, five triples were good, but she almost fell on a triple flip and doubled the Salchow which had a bad landing. Viktoriia Safonova from Belarus is seventh, earning 185.64 points. In the short program, she fell on the triple Lutz and the triple flip of the combination was slightly under-rotated (q), the other elements were clean. Her free program was faultless and included seven triple jumps. She was an alternate for the Elisabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan who had been silver medalist at Worlds 2019, but was injured since and had finished her career in the early fall 2021.
Rino Matsuike from Japan ended in eighth position with 184.36 points. In her short program combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop, the Lutz was a bit under-rotated. Four triples in the long program were good, but she fell on the Lutz which was downgraded and almost fell on the triple toe loop after the triple Salchow. Ekaterina Kurakova skates for Poland and trains ins Egna with Lorenzo Magri. She finished ninth with 175.64 points. She missed the two triple jumps in the short, and only three of the seven triple jumps in the free were good.
Ekaterina Ryabova from Azerbaijan is tenth with 175.24 points. In her short program, the triple flip was downgraded, the other elements relatively clean. She landed six relatively good triples in the free program.
Eva-Lotta Kiibus from Estonia was out of shape again and finished eleventh with 163.11 points after making two serious mistakes in the short and three in the free.
Olga Mikutina from Austria, eighth at Worlds 2021, has suffered from a knee injury for a long time and made her season debut in Sochi. She ended up twelfth with 161.09 points and was not yet in the shape of last season. But she was happy to be able to compete again.