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Fierce roster highlights Rostelecom Cup

15RosCup-CL-RR-3501By Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Robin Ritoss

This weekend, eight teams will compete in an exciting battle at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. This event is the fifth competition of the Grand Prix Series, and Final qualification spots are on the line. Since the ISU has not yet announced its decision on how the truncated Trophée Eric Bompard competition will affect qualification for the Final, it is hard to whether skaters “on the bubble” after Rostelecom Cup will make it. The French Grand Prix was aborted last weekend out of security concerns; the terrorist attacks in Paris occurred on the eve of the short programs.

Four teams are expected to contend for the medals in Moscow. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje enter as the highest-ranked team, but they are not locks for the gold medal. The 2014 world silver and 2015 world bronze medalists changed their Elvis-themed short dance to a more traditional dance with music by Johann Strauss after the Elvis program received negative feedback in Finlandia Trophy. The new dance fared better at Skate Canada, where Weaver & Poje won with a score of 173.79.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy are also coming off of a Grand Prix win. They triumphed over a field that included Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates two weeks ago in China. Their winning score of 173.30 gives them the same scoring potential as Weaver & Poje, and it looks like the two teams who were so narrowly separated at the 2014 World Championships will again be racing for the top step of the podium. This summer, Cappellini married pair skater Ondrej Hotarek, who will also compete this week in Russia.

Three Russian teams will face off here in the lead-up to the Russian Championships. After their silver medal at Skate America, Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov may have a slight edge, but they also have to overcome skating first in the short dance and they have had the longest break between competitions, which could affect their momentum. They scored 162.21 at Skate America and, thus, appear to be just a level below the top two teams, but a lot can happen on a new day with a new panel. Sinitsina & Katsalapov will likely make the Final if they break into the top two teams here; a bronze could also qualify them, depending on what the ISU does with the Bompard results.

Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin leapt out of the gate last year ahead of Sinitsina & Katsalapov, but their former partners have closed the gap. Ilinykh & Zhiganshin won the bronze medal at Cup of China two weeks ago with a score of 159.00. The team also competed at Mordovian Ornament earlier this season, where they set soaring new personal best scores in both segments of the competition, totaling a sky-high 176.00. It will likely take a win in Moscow for them to qualify for their second Grand Prix Final outright; a silver will place them on the “wait and see” list.

Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin have less of a chance at the podium in this tough field, having only scored 147.57 points at Skate Canada this season, but they will be looking to skate well in front of a home crowd, and more importantly, in front of the Russian officials that will decide their fate for the rest of the season.

Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri will be looking to continue the upward trajectory of the last couple of seasons. They finished ahead of Monko & Khaliavin at Skate Canada this season with a score of 154.74. If they can repeat that placing here, that will set them up well for the European Championships.

South Korea’s Rebeka Kim & Kirill Minov will also compete in Moscow this week. They were eighth at this event last year and recently won the Volvo Open Cup in Riga, Latvia.

Viktoria Kavaliova & Yurii Bieliaiev of Belarus are making their Grand Prix debut here. They found themselves on the substitution list based on the strength of the Challenger Series scores. Last month, they won the silver medal at Denkova Staviski Cup.

The dance events will kick of the competition each day in Moscow, with the short dance set for Friday afternoon and the free dance on Saturday afternoon.


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