Four down and two to go on this season’s ISU Grand Prix Series. This week the six-country tour moves to Moscow, Russia, for Rostelecom Cup aka Cup of Russia.
Skaters in all disciplines have been withdrawing from their assigned events, and with the options of replacements limited because of ISU qualification guidelines–as well as visa issues–these spots are not being filled. Cup of Russia is down two teams, so only eight of the possible 10 slots are being used.
Medal favorites Sinead Kerr & John Kerr of Great Britain have had a rough season because of an injury to Sinead’s shoulder. They withdrew from Finlandia Trophy, but came back to compete at Skate Canada, placing second. With an exacerbation of Sinead’s injury, the Scottish siblings were forced out of Rostelecom Cup. They have no chance of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.
France’s Zoe Blanc & Pierre-Loup Bouquet have withdrawn from Cup of Russia as well as their second event, next week’s Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris.
Russia has three dance teams entered, and it should be interesting to see how many of them wind up on the podium.
A medal is certainly within reach for Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, who took the silver at Cup of China. After four years as seniors, the team has never really broken through to be considered a top threat in Russian ice dancing. However, as we have seen over the years, when the top team retires, the “next in line” suddenly receives much higher scores.
The reigning World Junior champions, Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, made their senior debut at NHK, placing fourth. They were just edged out of the bronze by last year’s rival, the Shibutanis. Low levels in the free dance cost Ilinykh & Katsalapov a medal in Nagoya. Their Grades of Execution were primarily +1s and +2s, with not a single negative through their eight elements. Five of those eight elements, however, were only level 2. The team has had three weeks off between competitions and is a serious threat for any step of the podium.
Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov are Russia’s third team, and Rostelecom Cup will be their second Grand Prix this autumn. They were sixth at Skate Canada in week two of the Series, a typical position for them in their Grand Prix history. They are more than capable of executing solid level 3 and 4 elements, but their PCS reflect the lack of pizzazz in all their programs, with marks primarily in the 4-6 range.
The reigning world bronze and European silver medalists, Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali of Italy, fought two losing battles against the costume monster in Beijing two weeks ago at Cup of China. Faiella’s long skirts met Scali’s skate blades in both the short dance and long dance, causing falls and costing many points. They dropped behind Bobrova & Soloviev, taking only bronze. It will be exciting to see if the team can climb back to the top of the podium.
Canadians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (pictured, right) finished second to Ilinykh & Katsalapov at the World Junior Championship and come into Cup of Russia riding the wave from their strong senior debut at Skate Canada. In Kingston, a second-place free dance put them painfully close to the podium–fourth place, less than a point behind Americans Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein. Paul & Islam even topped the Kerrs in the free dance and had the highest TES of the event. Their weakness is the Golden Waltz portion of the short dance, and if they can avoid the errors they had in Canada–and improve the levels from only a pair of 2s–anything is possible.
Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell of the United States finished in sixth place at Cup of China, where a double fall in the midline step sequence–plus an additional deduction for extended delay–placed them in eighth following the short dance. In the free dance, they placed third in TES (ahead of Faiella & Scali) but their PCS showed a bit of “first group-itis” for the former Junior Grand Prix Final champions. They come to Russia with something to prove and with the support of their coach, the Moscow-born Anjelika Krylova.
Hungary’s Nora Hoffman & Maxim Zavozin (he is originally from Moscow) made their Grand Prix debut at Cup of China, where they finished in fourth place overall. Once again, Zavozin had trouble with the twizzles, and their PCS marks ranged from 4.75 to 7.75. In both segments of the competition, their level calls ran the gamut. Judges seem to love them or “meh” them, and it may come down to the random secret selection to determine which faction wins out this week.
This will be the fourth Grand Prix – the second of the season – for Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak of the Czech Republic, who they are still trying to break into the top five. Negative grades of execution in their short dance left them in sixth place at NHK trophy, where they received only three level 4 calls out of seven elements in their free dance.
The 2010 Rostelecom Cup’s schedule has all four disciplines competing their short dances/programs on Friday and all frees on Saturday. The best is saved for last, as ice dancing will be the final event both days.