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Dec 28, 2010

Russian Nationals 2010/2011 Rundown

Just a few comments on the recent Russian National Championships....(yes, this is a srs bsns post, but then again, I am of course always a srs bsns sort of blogger)

Being a pairs team in Russia today is like being a Japanese ladies skater: absolutely brutal if one is not in the coveted No. 1 or 2 position. But upstarts Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov bring truth to the maxim that Ukraine's greatest exports are ladies pair skaters: Ukainians Aliona Savchenko and Ms. Volosozhar are the best ladies pairs skaters competing today, and both of them do not skate for Ukraine. Expectations were high when Volosozhar/Trankov first paired up, and they are currently meeting and even exceeding such expectations. Volosozhar/Trankov won the Russian National pairs title on their first try--and quite convincingly too, by almost 14 points (albeit with some inflation on PCS). But what promise this team has--such superb lines and that classic Russian polish in their elements. Their programs are fairly pedestrian this season and they could use a bit more gelling on things like spin unison and speed, but if Volosozhar and Trankov keep up this up, they will make very good rivals for Savchenko/Szolkowy.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov have the best pairs long program this season (thus restoring my formerly-wavering faith in Tamara Moskvina), but bobbles throughout kept them from recapturing their national title. Though I admittedly prefer Volosozhar/Trankov, Kavaguti/Smirnov deserved to score above Volosozhar/Trakov on PCS components such as IN and CH...which didn't happen. Perhaps Mr. Piseev is sending some signals?

A special mention goes to Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, a team that I am rather fond of this season. Stolbova/Klimov finished sixth, and barring plague and a few Tonya Harding-esque incidents, are unlikely to get much respect from the judges (given the incredibly deep pairs field in Russia). But their short program is by far my favourite pairs short this season--the interesting choreography, coupled with the relentless pace of their music, lends an arresting tension to their short program that is eminently watchable--high praise for a CoP pairs program, indeed! They do, however, need to upgrade their double twist to a triple and skate cleanly and consistently to have even a chance of standing out among their compatriots. Unfortunately their short at Nationals is not on Youtube, but here is the Skate America version:

Ice dance
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won their first National title in ice dance. Although I understand why Bobrova/Soloviev won (they present well, had good skates, etc) I find them fairly nondescript (though this is possibly because of the soporific quality of their FD music) and they are likely to be passed over in the future by both second-place finishers Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenkoas well as Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. Ilinykh/Katsalapov had a great SD but unfortunately faltered in the FD (including a giant bobble on the twizzles on Mr. Katsalapov's part), dropping to a distant third. This probably means that Ilinykh/Katsalapov will only be sent to Europeans this season, given that Mother Russia has but a paltry two spots on the world team.

Jana Khoklova and Fedor Andreev invite comparisons to Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio--that is, Ms. Khoklova is the much stronger dancer of the team, just like good ol' Ms. Fusar-Poli  (it's rather clear that Mr. Andreev's and Mr. Margaglio's most important tasks are to avoid tripping and lend a helping hand or two during lifts). Khoklova/Andreev finished a surprising (ha!) fourth at Nationals. Obviously the combination of Jana Khoklova's reputation and talent, Marina Zueva's influence, and Fedor Andreev's good looks is very potent indeed. Seriously, fifth at Golden Spin....then very soon after, fourth at the much more competitive Russian Nationals?

Konstantin Menshov is positively Precambrian (particularly for a singles skater) but managed to capture his first National title. Sadly, this is rather more indicative of the weak men's field in Russia today than any awe-inspiring talent on Mr. Menshov's part, but he is of course to be commended for his achievement.

The Russian wonderbabies looked fragile during the SP but came back roaring in the LP. Both Adelina Sotnikova and Liza Tuktamisheva redeemed themselves in the LP, pulling themselves up to first and third respectively. Sprightly young thing Alena Leonova skated very well and placed second overall at the tender age of 20 years, while Julia Lipnitskaya surprised by placing a very good fourth place at her advanced age of twelve years. Relying heavily on her walker and with the handy aid of some false teeth, Miss Lipnitskaya gave a rousing performance to Carmen, showing flashes of her delightfully elderly charm. Miss Lipnitskaya's flexibility is absolutely mind-boggling, but I for one am itching to send her to someone like Nobuo Sato to ensure that her basics are as good as her flexiblity--old age is no excuse when it comes to having good basics, after all.

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