by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(29 November 2021) The pairs competition of the 2021 Cup of Russia in Sochi ended with the expected medal sweep of the three Russian teams. The reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galliamov from St. Petersburg won the gold medal with 226.98 points. In the short program to the ballet music of “Esmeralda“, the students of Artur Minchuk and Tamara Moskvina were only second. Mishina landed the side by side triple Salchow forward which therefore was downgraded and cost them five to six points. The triple twist with level 4 was outstanding, the triple throw Lutz and the other four elements (all level 4) very good and the components had an average of 9.0. Mishina commented, “Our performance today was not good. I don’t want to justify anything, but perhaps it's because we were skating in front of a home crowd, which is always a bit harder. We wanted to do our absolute best and it didn't work.”
In their dynamic free program to “Snowstorm” and “Time Forward,” both by Georgi Sviridov, Mishina & Galliamov showed their superiority. The jump sequence of a side by side triple Salchow, Euler and another triple Salchow was good. The other ten elements were excellent, including a side by side triple toe loop, a triple throw Lutz, a triple throw loop and three outstanding lifts. Six elements had at least one GOE of +5 and their components were around 9.3. Mishina commented, “The second Grand Prix was harder for us than the one in Japan, I can't explain why. After yesterday we were mad at ourselves and we were upset not because we were in second but because of the mistakes we made.” Galliamov suggested to change the rules in order to allow more innovative and spectacular lifts which attract more young spectators.
Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin of Moscow won the silver medal with 212.59 points. They performed a flawless and entertaining short program to “Be Italian“ from the soundtrack of “Nine“ and took the lead. The triple twist with level 4 and the triple throw loop were outstanding, the other elements very good, including a side by side triple toe loop. Their components were around 8.4. “We are happy that our performance worked out well, we were able to enjoy it and have the emotions,” Khodykin said. “We made the entries and exits of our elements much harder, and there are some true acrobatic tricks in the program.”
Their free program to Tchaikovski’s “Swan Lake“ in the version of the film “Black Swan“ had excellent throws and lifts and a forward outside spiral which hardly any pair can perform. Pavliuchenko fell on the side by side triple Salchow. In their combination of triple toe loop, another triple toe loop and double toe loop, the second jump got a q. Khodykin said, “We are happy we were able to project our characters. Compared to the first Grand Prix in Canada we progressed as we could see with the reaction of the crowd. We'll keep working on it.” Pavliuchenko added, “I feel very inspired by the movie “Black Swan” and want to bring across this a little crazy, not standard character.”
The third Russian pair of Iasmina Kadyrova & Ivan Balchenko, students of Tamara Moskvina, won the bronze medal, collecting 193.58 points. The best elements in their clean short program to a new version of Ravel’s “Bolero“ was a side by side triple Salchow and the lift, the other five elements were good. But their expression is not as strong and therefore the components were only around 7.6. Balchenko said, “Our skate was good and we are happy to be in our first Grand Prix event. We want to thank the audience for their support, it really helps.” In their free program to the soundtrack of “Prince of Persia“, the twist, the lifts and the triple throw loop were excellent, but Kadyrova fell on the triple throw flip and she lost his hand on the death spiral and went down again. She said, “We made a lot of silly mistakes in the program and am sure it will come with the experience, we'll keep working and polishing the programs.“
The U.S. team of Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov of Norwood, Massachusetts finished in fourth position with 186.16 points. The short program of the students of Alexei Letov to the music remix “Toxic – Survivor“ was faultless, including a side-by-side triple Salchow, but only the twist was very good. In their free program to “Ancient Lands“ by Roman Hardiman, many elements were better than in the short, the side by side triple toe loop even very good. But Lu went down on the triple throw loop and the components were around 7.6.
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro of Oakville, Ontario came fifth with 177.72 points. In their short program to “Hold On Tight“ by the Electric Light Orchestra, their triple twist was very shaky. Moore-Towers fell on the triple toe loop, which he doubled, and almost fell again on the triple throw loop. The other four elements were at least good. In the free program to “Carry You“ by the Canadian electro-pop singer and songwriter Ruelle the twist was not totally correctly landed. She singled the planned double toe loop after the triple Salchow, he did not have a third jump and she fell on the triple throw Salchow. On the other hand the three lifts, the triple toe loop and the spin were very good. Therefore they even moved up from seventh to fifth position. Later they said that the elements were much better in practice.
Ioulia Chtchetinina & Mark Magyar, who compete for Hungary, took sixth place, earning 175.80 points. They are qualified for the Olympic Games. She was born in Russia, skated for Switzerland for several years and has now also Hungarian citizenship. He was born in Hungary but has lived in North America for many years. They were alternates for Annika Hocke & Robert Kunkel from Germany who could not compete because Kunkel had a shoulder injury. The Hungarians made no real mistake in the short program, but most elements were so-so, only the twist and the death spiral were really good. In their free program, most elements were relatively clean, he only doubled the toe loop which she tripled.
Nicole Della Monica (32) & Matteo Guarise (33) from Italy finished in seventh place with 172.85 points. They have not come into good shape in this season at all and made two mistakes in the short and two in the long, one when he aborted a lift. After the competition Della Monica announced in the mixed zone in tears that this was their last Grand Prix because she plans to retire after this season. He did not say if he plans to continue with another partner.
Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer from Austria ended up eighth with 163.80 points. The Cup of Russia was their first competition of this season because Kiefer suffered from a hip injury. You could see that they were not as good yet as in the last two or three seasons. Kiefer went down in the triple toe loop in the short, and they made three mistakes in the free program. Like the Italians, they announced to retire after this season.