The penultimate stop on the Grand Prix circuit is Cup of Russia, being held this year at the “Megasport” sports palace in Moscow. The Megasport is a brand new sports complex located near the famous CSKA rink, which produced such great Russian figure skaters as Irina Rodnina, Alexei Ulanov, Alexander Zaitsev, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Sergei Grinkov, and Alexander Fadeev.
The battle for first place will likely be between Russia’s own Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin and France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat. Both teams placed second to Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto during earlier Grand Prix events: the French at Skate America in Reading and the Russians at Cup of China in Harbin. Domnina & Shabalin’s strengths in the compulsory dances were evident at Cup of China, where they placed first in this portion. Their OD to traditional Russian folk music had them four points ahead of Belbin & Agosto going into the free dance. A costly error during a spin in the free dance–combined with a great performance by Belbin & Agosto–left Domnina & Shabalin in second overall. They will no doubt be looking to take the gold here on their home ice. They will have to put a lot of energy into their free dance set to the powerful “Masquerade Waltz” in order to be on top at Cup of Russia.
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat’s silver at Skate America was their highest Grand Prix placement in their career and saw them ahead of two teams they had finished behind at the most recent World Championships. They had a strong showing in the OD, skating a flamenco to “Le Gitare al Viento” by Guadiana and earned a new personal best in the free dance, which is skated to music entitled “Organ Donor” and “Space Monkeys.” As the music titles suggest, Pechalat & Bourzat’s FD is unique and innovative. It will be interesting to see how this free dance compares with the more traditional choice of Domnina & Shabalin.
The quest for third looks to be wide open. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev finished fifth at Skate Canada with a final score of 151.97. Armenia’s Anastasia Grebenkina & Vazgen Azroyan finished sixth last week at Trophee Eric Bompard with a score of 156.18.
Other teams to watch are Ukraine’s Anna Zadorozhniuk & Sergei Verbilo, who placed sixth at Cup of China, Russia’s third team, Ekaterina Rubleva & Ivan Shefer, who were eighth in Reading..
The American dance contingent at Cup of Russia will be the team of Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov were scheduled to compete in Moscow, but withdrew after their accident at Skate Canada. Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt were junior bronze medalists at the 2007 U.S. Nationals and finished 8th at this years Nebelhorn Trophy.