The Mentor Nestle Torun Cup was held in Torun, Poland, from January 6-10. Being one of the last Senior B events prior to the cut-off period for the European Championships - for minimum TES scores must be earned at least 21 days prior to the start of the competition - it attracted several skaters who were looking for minimum TES scores prior to Europeans and Four Continents.
As an early-January Senior B, the fields were relatively small, and changed a lot - the men's field changed no less than four times in three days in the leadup to the event and there were late withdrawals across every discipline.
Alexei Bychenko of Israel picked up some badly-needed momentum here with a comfortable win. Last year's fourth place at Europeans seemed like a very long time ago at several points during the season so far, but a good showing here - including successful landings of all three quad attempts - shows that he's right back on track coming to the pointy end of the season. Armenia's Slavik Hayrapetyan was second with two solid programs, including two extremely gutsy triple Axel attempts, and was rewarded by earning not only the minimum scores for Europeans, but also for Worlds. Azerbaijan's Larry Loupolover was third, with a good short program - including a rare triple flip-triple loop combination - but struggled in the long, particularly with his Axel.
The week started extremely well for Jordan Dodds, landing all of his jumps in his short program and earning the minimum score for Four Continents in that segment. Sadly, it didn't continue, and though he started the long program strongly, opening with a lovely triple Lutz, the rest of the program suffered from three falls, and he missed the minimum score by just 3.39 points. It is a disappointing end to the season, but there are many positives to be taken from the year, and Jordan should be proud of himself for his improvement, which doubtless will only continue next year.
It was definitely the day of the little countries in the ladies', with Latvia's Angelina Kuchvalska in fine touch to take out a surprise win. Kuchvalska had two excellent performances, including a superb triple Lutz in both programs, and won by seven points. Anastasia Galustyan of Armenia was second, showing off a stunning triple Lutz-triple toe in the short program but unfortunately struggling in the long program, preventing her from taking the win. Taipei's Amy Lin was third, coming back from a fourth-placed short to win the free skate with a stirring performance.
It was a mixed bag overall for the Team Australia ladies at this event. Kailani Craine continued her magnificent form from Nationals, finishing fifth overall here with two strong performances. Brooklee Han had a disastrous short program, missing her combination jump and falling, but pulled off a superb comeback in the free skate to finish eighth overall. Chantelle Kerry struggled badly here, falling twice in her short program and not landing any triples in the free skate. Sadly, she didn't gain the minimum score for Four Continents in the free skate, but she can be proud of a solid comeback season from a major injury, and she will certainly be much stronger next season.
It was the Japanese pair of Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet who took home the gold here, showing solidly in both programs to solidify their status as the new number one pair in Japan. Lithuania's Goda Butkute and Nikita Ermolaev were second, pulling off impressive triple twists in both programs and an ambitious triple flip throw in the free skate. The French pair of Lola Esbrat and Andrei Novoselov were third, with a solidly clean short program, but their free skate was marred by a fall on the throw triple flip and a failure on their final lift.
Paris Stephens and Matthew Dodds had a mixed bag of a competition. Their short program contained a total of four falls and a failed lift, which was lethal to their score, but their long program was far better, including a level three lift and two level three spins, one of their best performances of the season and a beautiful program overall. Unfortunately, they didn't quite make the minimum scores for Four Continents, but this team continues to grow and improve rapidly with every passing season, and I look forward to their future.
Poland's Natalia Kaliszek and Maxim Spodyriev won the competition here, with two extremely polished and well-executed performances to give them an eight-point victory. Their short dance was well-received by the judges, and their free dance included five level-four elements. Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed of Japan continued their stellar maiden season with a silver medal, not only earning the minimum scores for Four Continents and Worlds in both programs, but being the only couple at the event to hit all six keypoints in the Ravensberger Waltz pattern and collecting four level-four elements in the free. Katherina Muller and Tim Dieck of Germany were third, showing off a four-keypoint pattern in the short dance and four level-four elements in the free.
Lucette Weaver was a strong fourteenth in the Advanced Novice Girls on her international debut, an excellent effort.
Merryn O'Keefe and Nicholas McCreary were eighth overall in the Basic Novice Ice Dance, improving with every segment.
Charlton Doherty came in an excellent sixth place in the Junior Men's event. He earned the minimum TES for Junior Worlds in the free skate, but sadly, his TES for the short program was just 0.25 points short of the minimum.
Jessica Rotondo and Ryan Dodds took home a bronze medal in the Junior Pairs event, a strong outing in their international debut.
Serena Xu was twenty-fourth and Rose Robinson was thirty-first in a very deep Junior Ladies' field.