The Rostelecom Cup (also colloquially known as the Cup of Russia) was held from November 20-22 in Moscow, Russia.
Attention in the build-up to this event was diverted by the tragic events of the week before in Paris, as well as the subsequent cancellation of the long programs at the Trophee Eric Bompard in Bordeaux. The figure skating community’s thoughts are with Paris in this terrible time.
The cancellation of the second half of the Trophee Eric Bompard has made qualification to the Grand Prix Final unclear for those skaters who were in Bordeaux, with no clear resolution in sight by the time the Rostelecom Cup got underway.
The field here was pared down before the event started, with the late withdrawals of Sweden’s Alexander Majorov and Germany’s Peter Liebers due to injury. This meant that the field was down to ten skaters, as they could not be replaced in time.
Reigning World Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain won this event, but not as easily as you might expect. Fernandez struggled in the short program, popping his planned quad Salchow to a triple, and was second after that stage of the event. However, his long program was much stronger, including two clean quadruple jumps, and was enough to pull him up to take out the gold medal.
The surprise packet of the event was the young Russian Adian Pitkeev. Now in his second season as a Senior, Pitkeev had shown glimpses of promise at Skate America, but really capitalised here in the short program, turning in a clean performance on home soil and taking the lead. Unfortunately, Pitkeev could not convert his form into the free skate, making a series of small mistakes and falling on his second triple Axel. His fifth-placed long program dropped him to second overall.
Ross Miner of the USA was another delightful surprise, with a sudden return to form that saw him come out with the bronze medal. Miner is a former US National medallist, coming second as recently as 2013, and a twice Grand Prix medallist, but had struggled with his form in recent seasons and had finished seventh at Skate America. Here, however, his skating took on new life and ease, and he finished third in the short program and fourth in the free skate to finish third overall, beating out his more-fancied teammate Adam Rippon by half a point. Rippon found himself down in sixth after the short program after again failing to rotate or stand up on his quad Lutz attempt, but wisely took the problem jump out ahead of the free skate, which enabled him to pull up to fourth.
A Russian sweep was the early prediction for this event, with an incredibly tough set of Russian ladies present here. Reigning National Champion Elena Radionova and reigning Junior World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva are drawcards in their own right, but all eyes were on reigning Olympic Champion Adelina Sotnikova in her comeback from injury.
Radionova eventually won the day, turning out two clean programs with only minor errors in the free to win overall. After a rough event at the Cup of China, Radionova’s relief was evident as her emotions overflowed at the end of her free skate. Radionova’s win here, combined with her Cup of China result, means that she is likely to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
Medvedeva came in second with a strong recovery in the free skate. She had been third after the short program, where she had taken a hard fall on her triple flip, but had a clean free skate with only one small moment of doubt during an awkward landing on the double Axel. She won the free skate and pulled up to second as a result, which punches her ticket to Barcelona and also stands her in good stead for Russian Nationals.
Sotnikova completed the sweep of the podium with her bronze medal here. Having missed the entirety of the previous season due to a serious Achilles injury, Sotnikova did show some first-competition rust. However, the experience gained on the Russian Dancing With The Stars was evident, and her performance skills have improved impressively. She popped her combination in the short program into a triple-double, and struggled with both combinations in the long program, but otherwise showed that she is certainly not going to fade quietly into the shadows.
It turned out to be a battle of the Russians in the pairs event as well, but once again another surprising result was in store for the spectators.
Reigning National Champions Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took out a strong victory here, winning both programs and sending out a firm reminder to the judges and the fans exactly why they are the reigning National Champions. Their short program included four level four elements, losing points only on their triple twist, and their long program was also very good, with only a few bobbles on their side-by-side jumping passes. With Olympic Champions Volosozhar and Trankov now withdrawn from the NHK Trophy and in doubt for Russian Nationals due to injury, this result has come at an ideal time.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov continued on from their win at Cup of China with a silver medal here. Though their short program was clean, they were hit with poor levels, including a level one on their death spiral and only two level four elements. Their free skate was much more ambitious, but was marred by a messy throw quad Salchow and a fall on the throw quad loop. Nevertheless, they were more than good enough to stamp their ticket to the Grand Prix Final.
Chinese pair Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang continued their solid form by taking home the bronze medal here. They put together a clean short program, but lost points with only a level two step sequence and a level one triple twist. Peng also had an unfortunate fall mid-step sequence that cost the team a deduction. Peng and Zhang opened their ambitious long program with an excellent quad twist, one of the few teams in the world able to pull this off, but were unable to land the throw quad Salchow cleanly. Nevertheless, they retained their third position. Unfortunately, Peng and Zhang’s other assignment was the Trophee Eric Bompard, meaning any potential Grand Prix Final berth is currently uncertain.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada continued their good form with a win here. Their quality short dance left points on the table, with only one level four element, but hit five out of six keypoints for the Ravensburger Waltz. Their excellent free dance included four level four elements and an all-round high level of skating, securing the win.
Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte also continued a good run of form, taking home the silver medal. They did miss two keypoints in the pattern for the short dance, but had two level four elements, while their superb free dance to the La Dolce Vita soundtrack secured four level four elements and an excellent performance, bringing them within two points of the reigning World bronze medallists.
All eyes were on the two Russian couples at this event, and the concept of which order they would finish in was the subject of much heated debate before the competition. In the end, it was Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov took home the bronze medal. They hit four of the six keypoints in the short dance, but left points on the table with a level two step sequence; their free dance included five level four elements, but they received a deduction for holding one of their lifts for too long. The Russian dance battle will also be a nailbiter come Nationals time.
With five events down, the Grand Prix Final picture should become clearer, but the tragic events in Paris have cast qualification into confusion. Should the ISU use the short program results as the final results, and say bad luck to those who did not score well there? Or should they find some way of holding the free skates, that those who were at TEB are given the same opportunity as everyone else? Or will some third, unusual method of deciding come into play?
It seems obvious that as time goes on, we will not find out until after the sixth, and final, Grand Prix – the NHK Trophy in Japan…