Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Russian (Nats) Were Here; The U.S. (Nats) Are On the Doorstep

Is it too late for a Russian Nationals recap? Hope not! Here goes... 

LADIES... Adelina Sotnikova defeated Julia Gumbyskaia --you may know her as Lipnitskaia-- in the SP (the latter scuffed up the back end of her 3lz/3T) and while Lipnitskaia skated clean and won the FS, Sotnikova had enough of a lead to stay on top overall. Kudos to Alena Leonova, for while she finished 5th, she appears the best bet for the Olympic alternate since both Elena Radionova (bronze medalist) and Alexandra Proklova (4th place finisher) are too young for Sochi. I’d have figured her to finish 6th or 7th at best, given what we’d seen earlier this season from Anna Pogorilaya and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. But Pogorilaya appeared to 2-foot the back end of her 3lz/3T in both programs, and Tuktamysheva wiped out on the 3T part of that jump altogether in the SP (then fell on another jump and doubled many jumps in her FS). They finished 8th and 10th, respectively.

MEN... The showdown of showdowns! Indeed, it was Plushy for the SP victory... but Maxim Kovtun claimed the overall prize with a FS packed with multiple quads and triple axels (his only notable mistake was a doubled quad salchow attempt). Plushy, to his credit, got off A quad and A triple axel in the FS too. But that was about it, and in this case, it wasn’t enough. He lost steam as the program wore on; there were some triples, but there were a lot more doubles and other minor mistakes than I’m used to seeing in a Plushy program. The look on his face at the end said it all: Eh, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t what I came here for. Not a look I think any of us are used to!

PAIRS... An interesting year for this event, given that the World Champs Volosohzar/Trankov weren’t here, and two-time World Bronze Medalists Kavaguti/Smirnov remain out of contention due to Smirnov’s injury and subsequent surgery. Stolbova/Klimov – the team using Addams’ Family for their FS this season—came away with the win, edging Bazarova/Larionov (who had trouble with the SBS jumps, as per usual) by less than a point. The bronze medalists here (Maria Vigalova/Egor Zakroey) are most likely alternates rather than bona fide Olympians, since Volo/Trank will round out the team of course. But if you’re up for a reminder of the dangers of pairs skating, check out the FS of Evgenia Tarasova/Vladmir Morozov, who were in third up to that point. The very last lift of the program resulted in both skaters falling but an especially hard slam to the ice for Tarasova, who avoided hitting her head (thank goodness) but was in obvious, serious pain despite recovering enough to complete the pairs spin at the very end.

DANCE... Bobrova/Soloviev won the event, but their FD irritates me so I chose to skip it. Ilinykh/Katsalapov had that glorious, high-reaching, straight-line lift early in their Swan Lake FD, but in setting up for their second one (an ice-grazer, just the opposite), I/K took an unfortunate fall that cost them the entire maneuver—and may have affected their rhythm for the rest of the program, though I didn’t see any other major flaws. They still finished second, easily putting them on Russia’s three-spot Olympic team, but they (she) looked understandably rattled as they did the K’n’C wait. 2013 bronze medalists Riazanova/Tkachenko looked like they had a little twizzle trouble, as well as problems with their final lift... those and some other technique issues paved the way for 2012 World Junior champs Sinitsina/Zhiganshin to claim this year’s medal. And the third Olympic spot too? We’ll see... both S/Z and R/T have been assigned to the European Championships, which start in Budapest on January 13.


U.S. Nationals are already underway in Boston! The senior (or “championship”) events are scheduled to unfold like this on IceNetwork (All times Eastern):

THURSDAY 1/9: Pairs SP 4:15 PM; Ladies SP 7:45 PM

FRIDAY 1/10: Dance SD 1:45 PM; Men’s SP 8 PM

SATURDAY 1/11: Pairs FS Groups 1 & 2, 11:30 AM; Dance FD Groups 1 & 2, 12:45 PM; Ladies FS Group 1, 6:45 PM

SUNDAY 1/12: Men’s FS Groups 1 & 2, 12:50 PM

The remainder of the “live” coverage will be on NBC:

3-6 PM Saturday (later groups in the Pairs & Dance Finals, I presume)
8-11 PM Saturday (later groups in the Ladies Final, but prepare to see more SP recaps in that 8-9PM hour than anything else)

3-5 PM Sunday (later groups in the Men’s Final)

By the way, the NBC Sports TV page lists Tom Hammond, Sandra Bezic, Scott Hamilton, and Andrea Joyce as the commentators for all its coverage. Apparently they are saving Tanith Belbin and Johnny Weir for Sochi...

And predictions?! Yes, of course there will be predictions! I predict my predictions will be up for all to see... either late Wednesday or early Thursday. (By “early”, of course, I mean “sometime before the Pairs SP starts at 4:15 PM Eastern”)

What are YOUR predictions for the podium and/or U.S. Olympic Team? Post ‘em in the Comments!

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