The 2016 Russian National Figure Skating Championships were held on December 23-27 in Ekaterinburg, Russia. As is usual for Russian Nationals, there were upsets, surprises, and predictable results – often in the same division!
As is usual, the teams named after Russian Nationals only cover the European Championships. The reason for this is that unlike other countries, Russia often takes many other results into account for World team selection, including finish at Europeans, participation in the Russian Cup Final, and even on occasion, heavily-monitored test skates. Therefore, we will not know who will be in Boston until after the European Championships on January 27-31 and the Russian Cup Final on February 16-20.
Reigning National Champion Maxim Kovtun defended his title here, hanging on to take the victory by less than six points. Though he landed both quad jumps in the short program, he fell on the triple Axel and came up short on his step sequence and change sit spin which only got level threes. His free skate was also a little scrappy, with an underrotation on the first quad Salchow, popping his combination after the second quad Salchow into a double toe, completely failing to take off for a triple Axel in sequence with a triple loop, and once again dropping levels on his step sequence and change sit spin. However, he managed to fight out the program well enough to hold on for victory.
The exciting young Mikhail Kolyada was second, continuing his impressive return from the broken leg that kept him out last season. His clean short program only lost points on the step sequence and the change camel spin, which were level threes. His free skate was superb, including a quad toe and two clean triple Axels, and he actually beat Kovtun on the technical score for it. He caught the attention of many, including none other than the great champion Evgeni Plushenko himself, who was so confident in the youngster that he wagered a bottle of champagne that he would win. He didn't, but Plushenko has offered to take Kolyada under his wing, and such a combination could see the rise of the next Russian star.
Alexander Petrov kept up with his solid run of form by taking home the bronze medal in Ekaterinburg. There were few who favoured the youngster from St Petersburg, given that he does not yet attempt a quadruple jump, but Petrov proved the old adage that cleaner is sometimes better than harder by turning out two polished performances. He had positive grades of execution on every element in the short program, though only one spin earned a level four. And in spite of those same lost levels plaguing his free skate, he again had positive execution scores for all the elements, and even without the quad earned a higher technical score than Kovtun. Petrov is one of Mishin's youngsters and there is no doubt that he is one to watch.
Europeans: Kovtun, Kolyada, Petrov (Alt: Gorshkov, Voronov)
Reigning Junior World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva has continued her stunningly successful transition into Seniors by taking out her first Senior National title. Her short program was absolutely flawless, hitting all of the jumps and getting level fours for all of the spins and steps. Her free skate was even better, and she didn't put a blade wrong as she swept her way imperiously to the title. Barring injury or disaster, it now seems inevitable that she will be crowned both European and World Champion - though it is still a long way to Boston.
Last year’s Champion Elena Radionova’s return to form has continued with a solid performance to take out the silver medal here. Her short program was clean, with all jumps landed and level fours on all of the spins and steps. She showed impressive fight through her long program as well, landing all of her jumps cleanly and only dropping a level on her step sequence. Given how she looked at the start of the season, this was a gritty performance that made a statement - one that clearly said, "Don't write me off!".
Anna Pogorilaya has completed a brilliant turnaround from her horror NHK Trophy to snatch the bronze medal in a complete surprise. Her short program was solid, dropping a level on the step sequence and losing out in base value by electing to do a triple loop rather than a triple flip as her solo jump, but it was strong enough to keep her in the mix, and she capitalised on that during the free skate. Her free skate was generally excellent, with high grades of execution and all level fours on her spins and steps, marred only by a wrong-edge call on the triple flip late in the performance.
And in a total upset, reigning World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva is dangerously close to missing the World team altogether after an eighth-placed finish here. Tuktamysheva will attend the final of the Russian Cup series, where she will be observed closely by the Federation and a final decision will be made.
Europeans: Medvedeva, Radionova, Pogorilaya (Alt: Sotnikova, Lipnitskaya, Tuktamysheva)
Reigning Olympic Champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov proved that the niggling injury that saw them miss NHK Trophy is not a major concern, taking out their third title. They opened their account with an impressive short program that included all level four elements, clean side-by-side triple Salchows and a clean throw triple flip. Their free skate was also very good, with all level four elements, marred only by a fall on the throw triple flip and a mistake on the side-by-side combination that saw it completed as a triple Salchow-single toe-single toe. Nevertheless, they have shown good form and the prospect of their rematch with Stolbova and Klimov at Europeans has pairs fans salivating with excitement.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov remain in good form and showed it here by taking out the silver medal. Their short program was solid, with two level four elements, a clean side-by-side triple toe and a strong throw triple loop. They struggled a little in their free skate, with a fall on the side-by-side double Axel sequence, a shoddy landing on the throw quad Salchow and a messy triple twist, but also gathered five level four elements to hang on to silver and the third spot at Europeans.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov will be ruing just a single mistake after they missed out on the silver medal by just over a tenth of a point, leaving instead with the bronze. Their short program was very clean, with level fours on four elements, a clean side-by-side triple toe and a well-executed throw triple loop. They opened their free skate with their breathtaking quad twist, but popped the side-by-side triple Salchow into a double, and in spite of their five level four elements, lost the free skate to Kavaguti and Smirnov by just six hundredths of a point - making that side-by-side double Salchow into a triple would have been enough. Unfortunately, due to the depth of Russian pairs, it means this extremely impressive young pair team will be left at home.
Newly-crowned Grand Prix Final Champions Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were forced to withdraw just days before the event after Klimov suffered a nasty skin reaction during a back massage. Due to their season results, however, they were named to the European team ahead of Tarasova and Morozov.
Europeans: Volosozhar/Trankov, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Stolbova/Klimov (Alt: Tarasova/Morozov, Astakhova/Rogonov, Zabijako/Enbert)
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev recovered well from some early-season stumbles to take out the victory here. Their short dance was only good enough for second in that segment, despite hitting all six keypoints on the Ravensburger Waltz and hitting two level four elements, but their free dance really shone. They acquired five level fours for that free dance and a high level of grade of execution, with not a single judge giving them below 1 for any element. In the tumultuous world of Russian Dance this was an important victory and will lay an interesting platform ahead of Europeans.
Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov competed their remarkable turnaround in form from last season by finishing second here, just a point behind Bobrova and Soloviev. They won the short dance in impressive fashion by nailing all six pattern keypoints, and also earning level fours for all three non-pattern elements. However, their free dance contained a major error on the twizzle sequence, dropping them to third in that segment and second overall.
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin turned in two solid performances to skate off with the bronze medal and a trip to Europeans here. They got five keypoints in the Ravensburger Waltz for their short dance, along with two level four elements, to keep themselves in the hunt. While the battle between former partners went on ahead of them, they quietly turned in a high-quality free dance, with four level four elements and good grades of execution, to hold their position.
Europeans: Bobrova/Soloviev, Sinitsina/Katsalapov, Stepanova/Bukin (Alt: Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, Zahorski/Guerreiro)