Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016 Rostelecom Cup Post-Mortem: 2 More U.S. Medals and a Ladies' Podium Sweep Goes Awry

I know this is turning up almost two weeks after Rostelecom took place, but between prep for an interview I recorded with The Skating Lesson last week (!) and more than a little anxiety/distraction following the elections (!!), I’ve fallen behind. But I’m a No-GP Event-Review-Left-Behind kind of girl, so here we go:


1)      It was one of the collectively cleanest sets of SPs I can ever remember seeing in a GP event. The only fall, as I recall, was a fluke-ish one just after the double axel in Elizabet Tursynbayeva’s program (and she happened to skate last)!

2)      And the free skates were going fairly well too… all the way until Julia Lipnitskaia did that waltz jump that made everyone watching say UH OH. You’ve probably seen what happened from there— another non-jump, followed by around three minutes and 15 seconds of a bewildered Julia drifting between coach Alexei Urmanov and the judges/referees while she/he/they tried to determine what would happen next. Which, ultimately, was Julia insisting on completing her program… gamely and in obvious pain (and a hard fall on a double axel surely didn’t help). Here’s all I really want to say about this: Please, ISU, make a rule that if a skater has to stop a program due to illness or injury, the program music will not be re-started unless and until the COACH (not the skater) gives the signal to do so.

As British Eurosport commentators said at the time (paraphrased) about her (apparently supported) decision to continue: “She’s 18. Alexei Urmonov is not. He should know better.” Indeed.

3)      So Lipnitskaia finished dead last, and USA’s Courtney Hicks (who had already done well enough to leapfrog two skaters to move from 6th to a probably 4th place finish) claimed bronze. As Hicks herself said via Twitter, it wasn’t the way she wanted to end up on the podium. But the good news is that she skated quite well in both phases of the event (yes she was 6th after the SP but it was due to extremely tough competition, not any major errors on her part). And Hicks received two GP assignments—she’ll be at Cup of China—so while the competition there promises to be quite tight as well, she’ll get a second chance at the GP podium (unlike Mariah Bell, who despite her excellent showing at SkAM was passed over for an NHK spot when Polina Edwards had to withdraw due to injury).

4)      And as for Anna Pogorilaya—who also did back-to-back clean programs and easily won the event—there’s something I said about her on Twitter that others seemed to agree with: It's like she won World bronze she said "wait! If I can get this after the season I've had, I can get gold" & got to work right away. Honest to goodness this is a night & day difference from this time last year (except last year she wasn’t even one of the three Russian women invited to compete).


1)      While I’m proposing rules about coach-only music restarts, here’s another proposal: If a competitor is bleeding for any reason, cut their music. It’s rare (unless you’re pairs World Champ Meagan Duhamel, who has actually encountered this twice that I recall), but it does happen, sometimes in the form of a bloody nose as it did with Sweden’s Alexander Majorov at Rostelecom. Whatever triggered his—it seemed to start after he took a fall on his opening quad toe, though the fall didn’t look to affect his face in any way—it continued for the rest of the program, making for a long and uncomfortable 4 minutes as Majorov became clearly distracted and the rest of us became mindful of the possibility of bodily fluids on the ice. He did, however, manage to do most of his final footwork sequence while pinching his nose with one hand… does IJS have a component score for that??  

2)      Former U.S. men’s champ Max Aaron didn’t fare too badly in Moscow—rebounding from an 8th place SP to finish 4th in the FS and 5th overall—but something that I found myself asking as he struggled through that Nessum Dorma short program was “Why do I feel like we’ve been looking at the same SP for Max since 2003?” Answer—because we’ve been looking at it since early 2015 (when he replaced “Footloose” with ND for Worlds), and nearly three years in SP Time feels like approximately 12 years in real time. Please, Coach Tom Z, give Max an SP reboot in time for Nationals!

3)      A fascinating story to keep watching, particularly if he makes it to Pyeongchang in 2018, is that of Israel’s Alexei Bychenko… simply stated, Rostelecom provided him one of the best competitions he’s ever had at this level (Personal Bests all over the place, and a Bronze medal to boot)… with the possible exception of Euros earlier this year, at which he earned silver. This from a man who didn’t even qualify for the FS at Worlds in his first two attempts (2012-13). This from a man who was 21st at the Sochi Olympics, and last place at Skate America as recently as last year. This from a man who will be 29 years old in February! Let’s watch him at his other GP assignment (NHK) and see if he can stay consistent enough to be considered a serious threat to crack Worlds Top 10 this year.

Since this is coming so late, I’m again going to skip over the Pairs and Dance disciplines of 2016 Rostelecom… EXCEPT to say

1)      Savchenko/Massot won here, but Savchenko damaged ligaments in her ankle on a throw 3ax at Trophee de France (one week later). So despite a win in Paris as well, they’ve already opted out of the GP Finals for which they easily qualified.

2)      Both Bobrova/Soloviev and Chock/Bates qualified for the Final with respective gold and silver wins here. I picked C/B to win, but an egregious error on Bates’ part in the FD (with the twizzles) combined with remarkably higher scores all around for Bob/Solo (compared to SkAM). Weaver/Poje made their season GP debut here and got bronze; their 2nd run at gold will pit them against the Shib Sibs at Cup of China.

Speaking of which… CoC predictions, which I’ll be posting late Thursday night so that everything’s up in time for the SPs. Those will begin with Short Dance at 2:30 AM (ET) in the wee small hours of Friday morning. 

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