Happy New Year! As usual, the 2016-2017 Russian National Championships featured what feels like an unreasonably deep ladies field and a very competitive battle for the pairs and dance podiums. Junior Grand Prix Final champion Alina Zagitova surprised fans by beating successful senior skaters Maria Sotskova, Anna Pogorilaya, and Elena Radionova, among others, and by having the highest technical score in the free skate, besting even training mate Evgenia Medvedeva.
Thanks to the judges who watched and rejudged Russian Nationals over the holidays!
J.J. (@RealDetective) | Tumblr
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. One time Meryl Davis told me happy birthday and another time a security guard told me he took a picture of me and Zach Donohue but he unknowingly never actually pressed the button and I didn’t want to ask Zach for another picture. It was all very sad. Except for the Meryl part. Which made being old worth it.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Davis/White 2014 US Nationals Free Dance and let me tell you why, you see one judge (specifically Mary Karen Henderson OF THEIR VERY OWN HOME STATE OF MICHIGAN) thought that they were worthy of only +2 GOE on two elements and had the gall, THE GALL, to give them a 9.75 in one (1) PCS category WHICH IS A FULL STEP LESS THAN WHAT IS SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE. Sure, these scores are thrown out and Meryl Elizabeth Davis and Chuck White scored the maximum amount of points possible BUT THE PRINCIPLE. The principle. (Don’t @ me.)
Kara M. (@NamasteRead)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I took lessons from 13-15, but ended up quitting during Freestyle 1 due to lack of finances and talent (ha!), but I’ve been a fan of figure skating since Katarina Witt skated at the 88 Olympics. I used to practice jumps in my basement in my socks. Sasha Cohen forever!
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Honestly? Anything Mirai Nagasu does. Until this season anyway. I think the judges have been really unfair to her over the years. Also, Ashley Wagner’s short program at the Sochi Olympics. I’ll never forget her face in the K&C.
Matthew R. (@mrusskie93)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Never was a skater but have attended three Worlds (2009, 2013, and 2016), and three U.S. Nationals (2006, 2013, 2014).
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Mao Asada’s Sochi LP: indisputably the best free skate of the event. More recently, Satoko Miyahara’s LP at Skate Canada: lowish PCS and an invalid step sequence seemed like a convenient way to keep her behind Kaetlyn Osmond.
Nori (@NakedIceBlog) | The Naked Ice Blog
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Long time fan, runner of the Naked Ice Blog…and I can stroke around pretty well on ice skates…I can even skate backward (very slowly).
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? It used to be Christina Gao at the 2013 Nationals but I think I’m going with Mao Asada’s Sochi FS.
Ryan P. (@jetsfan_85)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I used to compete from ages 15-17 and casually skated for years later. Just got back into it this year (31y.o now). I watch every GP competition of the year as well as Canadian and American Nationals etc.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Bourne/Kraatz River Dance 1998 Worlds…they should have won gold.
TJ C. (@Tsk8c)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I am a current competitor in ice dancing (and a first-time national qualifier!). I’m a huge fan of the sport, but it’s not like I have a problem or anything (hehehe…).
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje’s FD at the 2014 GP Final.
LET’S GET JUDGING. Click “continue reading” below to continue. When you’re finished reading, leave a comment to let us know what you thought about Russian Nationals, how you think the real judges did, and how you think our judges did. If you disagree, sign up to judge an event later in the year and share your thoughts!
Be honest: how much of this event did you *actually* watch?
J.j.: I watched the first three men’s short programs live. I caught up on points of interest later.
Kara: I watched all the women’s, men’s, and pairs. No ice dancing. I just don’t care about Russian ice dancing.
Nori: Just the ladies…sorry, I was sick!
Ryan: 95% of everything except women’s FS bottom 6.
TJ: All of the SP/SDs for Ladies, Pairs, and Dance, and most of the FS/FD and Mens short.
Who had the best performance of the event?
J.j.: Maxim Kovtun: reaction, for Maxim Kovtun’s free skate. A True performance. Honorably mentioning Tatiana Tarasova for Maxim Kovtun’s short program. She was truly shaken.
Kara: Definitely Evgenia Mevedeva. When you can throw in an extra jump at the end that doesn’t even count for funsies, you know you’ve done a great job.
Matthew: Evgenia Medvedeva. She’s already a very divisive skater, and not everyone is going to embrace her excessive miming and Tanoed triple jumps, but I adore her. She never gives anything less than her best and she has total belief in herself, her choreography, and her skating. She deserves a better choreographer than Averbukh, but for the time being completely commits to the themes he wants her to portray. The ad-libbed triple-triple-triple was worth it just to hear Tarasova’s commentary.
Nori: Evgenia Medvedeva. Evgenia’s freakish consistency is…well, freakish. She’s undefeated for over a year now so she’s gotta know people are gunning for her. It doesn’t seem to matter though. She was steady and calm in both programs.
Ryan: I would have to say without a doubt and of course Evgenia Medvedeva. She’s a wonder on ice. Both her programs were just perfect. She had a flippin’ triple-triple-triple combo, that sums up her competition. He FS is just so full of emotion and she just pulls you in. You can’t look away. I have to give honorable mention to that little 14 year old Alina Zagitova.. She outscored Medvedeva in her technical scores in the FS and ended up with a silver medal!
TJ: Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin’s FD. There’s a lot that I love about this program. Every last detail is oozing with tango, and they have beautiful elements that go perfectly with the music.
Who improved the most from the last time you watched them skate?
J.j.: MEDVEDEVA HAS AN EIGHT-TRIPLE PROGRAM NOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE ADDED THE AXEL IN TWO WEEKS!!!! Oh. Oh, I see.
Kara: Alina Zagitova. She was great on the JGP, no question, but she had the performance of a lifetime here and beat almost ALL the senior girls, and she’s only fourteen. It’s ridiculous.
Matthew: No one’s improvement stood out much to me, though Elena Radionova had at least a better competition here than at GPF, even if it didn’t result in her going to Euros and Worlds. Alexander Samarin has been gradually picking up momentum as a domestic contender and delivered better than could’ve been expected here.
Nori: Alina Zagitova. I wasn’t Alina’s biggest fan earlier in the year. She backloads her programs with 100% of her jumps which, in addition to making the program look lopsided, affected the quality of her jumps. She’d be fine in the SP but the FS was usually peppered with stiff jumps and stand-still landings. Well I saw improvement in her stamina at the Final and again here. She’s capable of doing Tano and Rippon jumps and she did both so well here. I still don’t like the backloading but those jumps were incredible.
Ryan: I am not 1000% familiar with all Russian skaters but I will have to say Maxim Kovtun. He went from 7th to 2nd place. It was also the first time I feel he really showed some emotion in his skating. His FS is one of the better ones he has done.
TJ: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have improved so much with their artistic expression, especially in the short program. I’m enjoying it much more than I did in the beginning of the season. Still, there’s plenty of room for growth in their free skate.
Which performance was the most underscored?
J.j.: If the standard to which we’re holding Russian men PCS is the newly crowned national champion, I’ll take the smooth skating quality and softer/any knees of Dmitri Aliev in the short program first thanks.
Kara: Tarasova and Morozov’s free program. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter since they and Stolbova and Klimov both made the world team, but I think Evgenia and Vladimir should have won here.
Matthew: Anastasiia Gubanova’s LP. She wasn’t perfect, but she brought a lyricism, elegance of line, and soft edge quality that was a breath of fresh air from the many cluttered, overwrought programs of the competition. Skaters have been using the Korzeniowski Romeo and Juliet soundtrack like it’s Carmen, but watching Gubanova made the music fresh, like we were hearing it for the first time.
Nori: Anna Pogorilaya. I was really surprised to see her place 4th here. I believe she had some under-rotation issues in one or both programs but, considering how well she’s been skating and the improvements she made, I thought she was a lock for 2nd after that performance. Sotskova was amazing but Pogorilaya has more maturity, speed and presence. I was shocked to see her miss the podium.
Ryan: I’m not sure there was a ton of underscoring but I would of liked to see Ilia Skirda get some more PCS points for his SP Bo Jangles. As well I believe Stepanova/Bukin should have won the SD and Tarasova and Morozov should have won gold. The top two pairs teams both had mistakes, however, I felt T/M did their program better.
TJ: Is it possible to be underscored at Russian Nationals? We may as well just call it “being judged fairly.” Anyway, I thought Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin deserved third in the short dance. In my opinion, it was more entertaining than Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s dance.
Which performance was the most overscored?
J.j.: Stanislava Konstantinova’s free skate. Literally #what. Was it the labored skating? The adorable single loop? Skating on one note and acknowledging one tempo, and still not being sure which either of them were? It was decidedly not as Lit as the judges obviously were. Also Nikita and that girl, free dance, by like 0.2 points.
Kara: I’m sorry, but I just don’t GET Maria Sotskova. I find her performances boring and I almost fall asleep every time she skates. Technically, yeah, I get it, but I find Elena Radionova’s skating so much more engaging and I would have liked to see her make the team instead. Sotskova’s component scores were too high, I think.
Matthew: I could write a dissertation on the overscoring at Russian Nationals: it was everywhere. Sotskova is perhaps the most obvious given that it affected the medals, though thankfully not the qualifiers for Euros. For being so statuesque, Sotskova is an oddly timid skater with carefully calculated transitions and shallow projection, yet she receives PCS in the 9’s across the board. Also, Zabiiako/Enbert, despite having the look of a classic Russian pair, never fail in leaving an audience completely cold with limited technical content to boot.
Nori: Evgenia’s programs…for obvious reasons of course. The programs are the same they’ve been all year but the scores continue to climb ever higher. I’m not shocked at all. She’s the national champion and she will continue to get the gigantic scores as long as she continues kick butt. Still 80+ and 150+ is ridiculous…
Ryan: Stolbova/Klimov’s FS. too many mistakes to reach that high of a score. I don’t think they deserved gold.
TJ: Alina Zagitova’s FS. While I admire her ability to do every jump in the second half of her program, I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to add 10% to her component scores ;).
Out of those skaters and teams who finished in the bottom half of their events, who had the best performance?
J.j.: Alisa Fedichkina. Soft stylish skating, impeccable side ponytail, effortless movement, polished, natural musicality, and charisma. Her jumps were only mildly terrifying thanks to that freak fall so I’m gonna count that as a positive.
Kara: Okay, so I bookmarked some programs I really enjoyed and these are the skaters I would love to see more of: Valeria Mikhailova, Anastasia Gubanova, Andrei Lazukin, Pavel Vyugov.
Matthew: Officially they weren’t in the bottom half, but Zahorski/Guerreiro had terrific skates especially considering she was ill. They have long, sinuous lines and a palpable chemistry. Also, Alina Lozko’s Edith Piaf LP was lovely with fast, effortless spins.
Nori: I thought Elena Radionova put up a good fight. Her jumps aren’t working for her the way they used to. She still manages to land the majority of them but it’s obvious she’s hanging on by a thread right now. I still love her SP and I thought she did decently in the FS as well. Sucks she won’t be making the trip to Euros or Worlds this year.
Ryan: I definitely would have to say Alisa Lozko. 14th place in both SP and FS. What a joy to watch, her spins are fantastic. LOVE her final spin in the FS…that flexibility is incredible. She reminds me a tad of the Swiss super spinner Lucinda Ruh.
TJ: I enjoyed watching Maria Stavitskaia and Andrei Bagin. I’m happy to see Maria improving as an ice dancer in such a short amount of time. This team has very good matching extensions, even though it’s their first season together. I loved their choreo spin, but it’s too bad it didn’t get called.
Who has the most to gain at their next competition?
J.j.: Ksenia Stolbova and her partner I once vaguely trusted. I don’t know if it’s by Design, but I think she can gain momentum at European Prix Final and make a run for the Worlds Prix Final title.
Kara: Honestly, it would be Sotskova, wouldn’t it? I didn’t even know who she was at the beginning of this season. She’ll be making a big name for herself if she does well at Euros and Worlds.
Matthew: Evidently the Russian Federation is backing Sotskova to sufficient extent that a medal at Worlds won’t be out of the question. She’s sort of the 1990’s Romanian gymnast of the ladies field–solid, workmanlike, not particularly exciting–but as long as she can rotate her jumps she will have an easy medal at Euros and could be in the conversation come Helsinki. Mikhail Kolyada’s win here will also set him up nicely for what is a wide-open field for Euros (at least for silver and bronze). He looks to be ready to make that quad lutz in competition.
Nori: Maria Sotskova. She had a strong debut on the GP and medaling ahead of Anna is a big deal as we head into Euros and Worlds. A strong showing at Euros, especially if she finishes ahead of Anna, could help to position her for a possible top 5 finish at Worlds.
Ryan: More experience and exposure is going to be a big positive for our JGPF champ and Russian national silver medalist Alina Zagitova.
TJ: Mikhail Kolyada has now proven that he is currently the strongest of the Russian men. His well-rounded skating abilities could definitely get him on the podium at Europeans.
Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
J.j.: Nikita and the girl. Because I don’t want him to be there so fingers crossed, you know?
Kara: Maxim Kovtun. I absolutely love his free program this year, but he’s had a really unstable season so far and I feel like the powers that be must be losing faith in him. He’s so inconsistent. If he does poorly at Euros and Worlds, I feel like that could be it for him.
Matthew: Pogorilaya. Skating through a knee injury at Nationals to gain her spot must have been exhausting, and I wonder how physically she copes for Euros since there’s no time off. Her strong Grand Prix also leads me to wonder whether she will peak too early in the season. Tarasova/Morozov are a pair which took advantage of lots of injuries and poor performances during the Grand Prix, but by Worlds it’s doubtful they will be so lucky against so many strong (and in some cases, resurgent) pairs.
Ryan: Evgenia. She is expected to win flat out. If she doesn’t the sky will fall.
TJ: If Maxim Kovtun doesn’t have two strong skates at Europeans, his chances for the world team will be in jeopardy. Considering his performances from the Grand Prix series, the odds are not in his favor.
What surprised you most about this event?
J.j.: Other than Kovtun’s free skate being an absolute JOY to catch up on, I’m mostly surprised that they keep finding new ways to disappoint me in mother russia.
Kara: How deep the ladies’ field is, and Lipnitskaya did not even compete. Going in, I knew it was deep, but seeing it made it even more awe-inducing. Like, whoa. My mind is blown.
Matthew: I haven’t paid as much attention to the JGP this season, so Zagitova, while I was aware of her, came as a big surprise. It wasn’t just her finishing second, but the manner in which she did it: the entirely backloaded program resulting in a technical score higher than Medvedeva’s. As long as she can keep the puberty fairy at bay for another year, she will be a threat for an Olympic medal and a darkhorse for gold.
Nori: As always I am surprised by how well-skated the event was for the women. In addition to being well-skated, the level of skating is so beyond what you see in any other country. It makes perfect sense why the Russian women are so tough and consistent. They are battle tested from the beginning…even against their own training mates. Evgenia and Alina train with the same coach and they went 1-2 in this event.
Ryan: I’m not actually surprised, but it more amazes me how many fantastic Russian women are competing. Placing in a Russian nationals basically means you could win a medal at any event including worlds and Olympics.
TJ: Alexander Samarin’s strong showing this week was a big surprise for me. He made a very strong case for himself to be selected for Worlds.
Which skater/team selected (or likely to be selected) to participate in 4CCs, Euros, or Worlds will have the most success at those events?
J.j.: “Success isn’t always measured by a gold medal” – Sandra Bezic. On that note, Bobrova will hopefully be very successful in leaving space for Kaitlyn Weaver get back to the top so she can make Grand Prix Final next year.
Kara: Oh, definitely Mikhail Kolyada and Evgenia Medvedeva. They are both really solid and consistent skaters with a strong mind and body. I don’t see them losing momentum anytime soon. I also think Stolbova and Klimov will do well the rest of the season. There isn’t a lot of competition in pairs this season, unfortunately.
Matthew: Medvedeva’s dominance I don’t see changing, at least before the season’s end. She was strangely more nervous at Euros then at Worlds last year, so perhaps we’ll see that again, but I still expect her to be first. There could also be another podium sweep from the Russian ladies at Euros, though there’s a small chance Kostner could throw a wrench into that if her jumps progress.
Ryan: Evgenia.. she’s a skating goddess.
TJ: Evgenia Medvedeva will slay everything, probably break six world records, and land amazing triple-triple-triple jumps just because she can.
Which skater/team selected (or likely to be selected) to participate in 4CCs, Euros, or Worlds will have the least success at those events?
J.j.: Nikita, for reasons listed above.
Kara: I hate to say it, but Maxim Kovtun again. He’s just not doing well, and what started as a promising career has almost lost all its steam.
Matthew: I’d like to think Samarin will get massacred in PCS at Euros. Besides his jumps there isn’t much there, aesthetically or artistically, but since he’s Russian his PCS will probably receive a buffer. At this stage of his career the experience is only his to gain, anyway. Otherwise, Kovtun is always a wildcard, but given his skating this season I don’t expect him to medal at Euros or deliver at Worlds.
Ryan: Any of the men with the exception of Mikhail Kolyada. This was not a very strong men’s competition. Many of them have much to prove.
TJ: Natalja Zabijako and Alexander Enbert do not have the technical strength that the other teams have to be competitive for high placements at Europeans and Worlds.
The experts always get to make “bold predictions.” Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
J.j.: Jean-Jacques Leroy will redeem himself after winning that completely bogus medal (I LOVE U, U TOTALLY DESERVED IT AND THE APPLAUSE) at Grand Prix Final and win Grand Prix Final in season 2.
Kara: I still say Pogorilaya is going to win Worlds. Ashley Wagner won’t even make the podium, sadly. Gracie Gold will retire from competitive skating. Patrick Chan will win Worlds. Savchenko and Massot will win Gold at worlds. Papadakis and Cizeron won’t medal at Worlds.
Matthew: Sotskova and Kolyada will medal at Worlds. U.S. ladies will not retain three spots.
Nori: I predict that the Russian skating federation will unanimously vote Eteri Tutberidze as the president and all skaters will be coached by her next year. She’s cranking out the champions over there, that’s for sure…
Ryan: Not Russian but… Virtue and Moir will win worlds by more than 8 points, breaking their existing world record from this year.
TJ: The Russian ice dance teams will get their three spots back in time for the Olympics. Also, Evgenia will be the only Russian skater in the top 4 at worlds.
Bonus question! You get to unilaterally move one skater or team from this country to another country. Which skater/team do you pick, where do you send them, and why?
J.j.: Voronov to the Bahamas. I feel like he could use it about now.
Kara: Can we have Elena Radionova, please? I feel like she would have much more success over here, and I really, really love her.
Matthew: Alina Lozko to Switzerland, because, spins.
Nori: I’d send Anastasiia Gubanova to the United States. I am a bit worried about her technique on some of her jumps (lots of upper body cranking for those rotations) but WOW what a gorgeous skater. She has presentation, artistry and presence on the ice unlike any of the other Russian juniors. With the rather sad landscape of the American women as we head into this pre-Olympic year, she would be an amazing flagship skater for Pyeongchang.
Ryan: Maria Stavitskaia is from Ukraine. She seemed decently talented winning a bunch of junior events before she changed for ice dance. Ukraine could have used her in ladies singles if she panned out doing it. Been a while since a Ukrainian lady has graced us.
TJ: Maybe it’s not all that original, but it would be interesting to see Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro represent France. It would be a great opportunity, since Tiffany already competed for France, but they would have so much more exposure to higher level competitions. They’re always behind the top four teams in Russia, but they could actually place very well at Europeans and Worlds. Then France could send three teams instead of two, and no one gets kicked out. It’s a win-win!
Anything else to add about this event?
J.j.: I am truly a bird with a broken wing, also I love you Anna Pogorilaya.
Kara: Can we stop overscoring Bobrova and Soloviev? What in the world has been going on at the least few competitions? Russian men’s skating needs another Plushenko, and fast. And also, I really enjoyed the commentators on ESPN 3. They were hilarious, snarky, and honest. I wish ours were like that.
Matthew: The Russian ladies event is one of my favorite competitions of the year. Certain things never fail: triple-triples galore, grandiose costumes, and above all else, a spirit of competition unlike anywhere else. It’s sad many talented ladies can’t get outside of Russia because of the depth, but it sure makes for an exciting and dramatic competition, each and every year.
Nori: Loved it!
Ryan: Can I just mention Ludmila Sosnitskaia / Pavel Golovishnikov’s costume really confused me.. all I thought of was river dance with that green dress.. not a tango. Also Tiffany Zahorski / Jonathan Guerreiro SD.. nasty boy?! really?! .. that garter stocking didn’t exactly compliment the swing part of the dance either..
TJ: The quality of the ladies event was amazing! Almost all of these girls have international experience. I was very entertained. The men, however, did not excite me nearly as much (except Mikhail of course).
What did you think about this year’s Russian National Championships? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!