Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Russian efforts at Cup of Russia 2012

It is clear for everybody that the Russian skating movement is working for giving the nation the best Olympic team possible for Sochi, pushing young athletes and creating new couples.
But will these efforts have some results? Results have been already achieved in the ladies category, but not by the same skater with consistency. Last season Tuktamisheva won her two grand prixs and Youth Olympics, Lipnitskaya won Junior Worlds and Nationals, Leonova got silver at Worlds. Apart from Lipnitskaya who seems very strong (but it is still too early to tell) the other ladies have rollercoaster results. Leonova is one of those. In 2011/2012 she won the bronze in the grand prix final, bombed at European Championships but ranked second at Worlds. Again, she had a disappointing grand prix debut at Skate America, struggling in her short program and ranking ninth where she was expected to be at least on the podium. According to the grand prix standings (see the ladies standings and the best scores here) she won’t make it to the final even if she wins Cup of Russia, but it will be interesting to see how she will react in the upcoming competition.
Adelina Sotnikova instead could battle for a spot in the final, since she got bronze at Skate America. Adelina looked incredibly strong and consistent while she was in the junior circuit and the expectations on her entering the senior category were very high but from last year she started to struggle a little bit in her programs. Last season she got the bronze in both of her grand prixs, got silver at Nationals, Youth Olympics and Junior Worlds.
Cup of Russia has not a front runner in the ladies entries, so that almost everybody could possibly medal there. Kanako Murakami (JPN) and Kiira Korpi (FIN) did medal in the previous grand prixs (both won bronze as Sotnikova) and for that will battle for a ticket to the final. I see Murakami being more consistent than Korpi and Sotnikova if she can manage her tendency of getting a under rotation on her jumps. Kiira Korpi is usually not very solid, especially in her free skate, but this year she has a lovely and beautifully choreographed program and at Cup of China’s long program she did some admirable things as landing a very good triple toe-triple toe to open the program and a triple lutz, a jump she had struggled with for several years.
As for the men, Artur Gachinsky seems to be the Plushenko sotitute since the real one will be able to step on the scene again. Gachinsky is a very talented skater, maybe more technically than artistically, but one who can put quads and several triples in a program, but he is never season-ready during the fall and the grand prix series. He could be a medalist (already world bronze medalist in 2011 and silver medalist at euros last year) and a good competitor but from what we have seen so far, he is not ready for receive the heritage of Plushenko.

The men competition will be a Chan versus Japan showdown. The three 2012 men world  medalists have lost gold in their grand prix debuts but the most disappointing showing has been provided by Patrick Chan who, almost unbeated for two years, came in second in front of the home crowd. Patrick Chan seemed to be slightly more solid in his Skate Canada appearance, if compared to his disastrous season debut at Japan Open. Doubt came not just from his poor performances, but also from some off-season changes.
On the other hand, his Japanese rivals Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka (bronze at Skate Canada and Gold at Skate America) are in good shape and will try to steal Chan the gold. Kozuka needs to fix his quad, as it is a necessary element for every men competing at this level, but he has two delightful programs and looked consistent at Skate America. Oda is back from a disappointing season and already won Nebelhorn Trophy and bronze at Skate Canada behind Patrick Chan.

Of course, don't miss to look at Johnny Wier's debut on ISU competitions after a two years stop. He had already debut at Filnandia Trophy and placed fourth, but his Lady Gaga short program was very well recieved by the crowd. 
Moving to the dance competition, I am afraid there’s no room for a Russian gold, since the world champions proved that they deserve to be on the top (at the moment and in this competition) even with sloppy performances as they did at Skate Canada. Virtue/Moir should check out some of their technical elements (or maybe just set their physical preparation) because at Skate Canada they missed some of them in both of the programs. There are opposite feelings about their new Carmen free dance, in someone's opinion that's the most innovative dance program and the best Carmen ever, others hate it. I say in a diplomatic way that we haven't seen its best yet and this program is just about to grow as the season goes on. At the moment for me it is a good program skated by exceptional skaters, not a masterpiece yet. However, they are just good enough for expecting a sure gold.

If Russia can't do a lot for a gold medal, silver is well within its range. Ilinykh/Katsalapov will make their season debut at Cup of Russia. They ranked a brilliant fifth at Worlds and they are a very nice couple. I think they won't have any problems medalling here, even uf we haven't seen them in competition this year yet.
A challenge could come from the Shibutanis (Alex and Maia) who are debuting at Cup of Russia too and will skate a free dance to Memoirs of a Geisha.

Last but not least (especially for Russia) the pairs event is going to bring satisfacions to the home crowd. Volosozhar/Trankov have already won at Skate America three weeks ago, weren't perfect but their programs are very ambitious and their free skate is beautifully choreographed. So Russia will surely medal here with the world silver medalists and I am sure that there is a good possibility that Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov will land on the podium as well. The second Russian couple had been struggling with injuries last season, had a good recovery at Europeans 2012 where they got the silver. They have strenghts and weaknesses. Vera is really light and that gives to the couple amanzing throws and lifts, but she is quite inconsistent on side by side jumps.
Denney/Coughlin of USA could spoil Russian podium ambitions as they looked solid at Skate America where they ranked third.


Gold: Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Silver: Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
Bronze: Kiira Korpi (FIN)

Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN) I think his (deserved) components score will lift him
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Bronze: Nobunari Oda (JPN)

Gold: Virtue/Moir (CAN)
Silver: Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)
Bronze: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS)
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
Bronze: Denney/Coughlin (USA)

No comments:

Post a Comment