This is my favorite skating-related Christmas video of all time.
As a rather belated celebration of Christmas in Russia (January 7, for all you heathens using that new-fangled Gregorian calendar), consider this post a small fête for all things Russian and figure skating! Plus comments on the most recent Russian Nationals after the jump.
The sheer Wagnerian heft of Alexei Yagudin's Gladiator makes 99.9% of all other programs look like skimpy little things in comparison.
I expect to be confined to a wheelchair chain-smoking cigarettes when I'm in my fifties, but the Protopopovs show how it should be done.
I think I fell in love with Anjelika Krylova after watching this FD.
Say what you will about G/P, but this is a pretty amazing OD.
Onto more recent rumblings in Russia....
The Senior portion of Russian Nationals took place in humble Saransk this season....hence testing the devotion of the thousands of fans who came to witness the glorious appearance of veritable Russian figure skating deity Evgeni Plushenko descending upon the city in his first competition since the bygone days of the 2010 Olympics:
He is, as Yeats would say, shade more than man, more image than a shade. The fact that Mr. Plushenko can casually churn out those quads and triple axels at his advanced old age after multiple knee surgeries, limited training time and other jump-destroying impediments is astounding. I usually find Mr. Plushenko's skating an endless source of amusement, but seeing him in Saransk has finally shut me up in a way. Even if Mr. Plushenko can't convince me he's an artist, I think I can believe that he's some sort of superhuman during the seconds in which he's launching himself into the air.
In the long spaces between his jumping passes, however, Mr. Plushenko's skating was rather less scintillating. Firstly, Edvin Marton again. Bleh. Secondly, what happened to that totally new and dazzling Alexander Zhulin choreography with transitions and all that Mr. Plushenko was promoting throughout the summer? Unless blowing kisses to the audience, doing crossovers, and posing counts as transitions/'new' choreography, I really don't see it. But whatever, he's Evgeni Plushenko, so it probably doesn't matter (if his PCS at Olympics were any indication) and the judges at Russian Nationals were certainly tripping over themselves to anoint Mr. Plushenko with 9s in PCS. Still, it would be very fascinating to see what kind of scores the international judges will give to Mr. Plushenko at Europeans, given the fact that his programs are blatantly many magnitudes less complex, less transition'd and less related to the music than many of the top men skating today.
Artur Gachinski is like a younger Evgeni Plushenko with better choreography but inferior jumping prowess. Also, unfortunately, Mr. Gachinski lacks Mr. Plushenko's aura of command and that ineffable "bow down, bitches" quality to his skating that usually has judges anointing Mr. Plushenko with high PCS like moths to a flame. Despite being the reigning World Bronze Medalist, Mr. Gachinski still lacks a Grand Prix medal and it was clear that the pressure was eating away at him throughout the Grand Prix season. Hopefully with Mr. Plushenko kicking around now, Mr. Gachinski will have some pressure off of him and continue to improve his skating. He's no artist, but the choreography in his Vaguely Vampiric LP is much better than the mess he had last season and there's definitely less flashy but mindless arm movements that have long become a Mishin trademark. That being said--Mr. Gachinski really needs to sell the program more between the jumping passes. It's only Vaguely Vampiric at the moment and it's quite clear he's entirely focused on landing the jumps to the detriment of interpretation and performance. Don't waste that Tom Dickson choreography!
Adelina Sotnikova repeated as the Russian ladies champion, her third title despite being the tender age of 15. Her Liebestraum LP is still schlocky and slightly embarrassing compared to Mao Asada's version--the less said about it, the better. However, surprisingly, I'm really warming up to the Bolero SP. The particular incarnation of Bolero used in the program is at times reminiscent of shattering dinner plates, there's nothing particularly original or creative about the choreography or Miss Sotnikova's performance of the program, but there's something relentless and slightly jarring about the music that fits with Miss Sotnikova's angular and rather antiseptic style quite well. It's a much better match for Miss Sotnikova than the polite and muted Liebestraum.
The UR and downgrade calls for the 3Lz-3Lo Miss Sotnikova received in both the SP and LP don't bode well for the future of that particular combination, however.
Julia Lipnitskaya continued her stellar season by winning the silver medal with a first-place long program among the ladies. Miss Lipnitskaya is looking more polished and much less like a rhythmic gymnast on ice this season, but someone get her a new choreographer! Miss Lipnitskaya performs her programs to the best of her thirteen-year-old abilities, but there's only so much one can do with such generic choreography and uninspired music choices, something that is accentuated by the fact that the most direct points of comparison are Sasha Cohen's far superior programs to the exact same music from the 2005-2006 season.
Elena Radionova is just adorable, with such spark to her skating. She and Shoma Uno are currently my favorite tiny child skaters at the moment.