Kamila Valieva and Anna Shcherbakova lead way for team although Mark Kondratiuk impresses for opposing "Time of Firsts" team
The "Red Machine" team captained by Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova claimed victory in the Channel One Cup by around 29 points on Sunday (7 February) off the back of high-scoring skates from world junior champion Kamila Valieva and three-time Russian national champion Anna Shcherbakova.
Going into the ladies' free skates trailing Evgenia Medvedeva's "Time of Firsts" team by just over 24 points, the stronger ladies skaters on "Red Machine" came to the fore to seal the victory.
The win is worth 5 million Russian rubles (U.S. $67,000) for Zagitova's team, while Medvedeva's squad receives 3 million rubles (U.S. $40,200) as the runner-up and an additional 1 million rubles (U.S. $13,400) for winning the People's Choice vote.
Unsurprisingly, among the ladies skaters it was the students of Eteri Tutberidze's Sambo-70 Crystal group who shone during the free skate, with their big jumps.
Short program "winner" Valieva skated first and laid down a big marker, landing two quad toe loops.
Her routine was well-planned and matched her music choice, Boléro by Ravel. She also performed a triple Axel to open her routine, which received a total of 179.19 points.
Shcherbakova, meanwhile, will probably be underwhelmed at her own skate (169.06 points), which included some uncharacteristic errors.
While she opened with a quad Lutz that received a high grade of execution score – over +4 on the -5/+5 scale – from the judges, she put her hand down on her quad flip and popped a loop later in her routine down to a single.
Meanwhile, for the "Time of Firsts" team, their biggest hope rested on Alexandra Trusova's shoulders, with the former Tutberidze pupil – now under Evgeni Plushenko – also capable of big quads.
However, she fell on her opening quad Lutz attempt, which was downgraded, and also put her hands down on her second. She did, however, recover with a big quad toe later in her skate.
Earlier, the unheralded Mark Kondratiuk performed the routine of his life in the men's free skate for "Time of Firsts" to announce himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Kondratiuk, who has not competed internationally on the Junior Grand Prix or Grand Prix circuits, landed three quad jumps in a beautifully-choreographed performance that had the audience – and captain Medvedeva – in tears.
The 17-year-old opened with a solid quad toe, followed that with a quad Salchow - double toe combination, and landed an even cleaner quad Salchow for his third jumping element.
Kondratiuk was clean on all his elements in a spectacular routine (196.23 points) with lots of ability, with his coaches hugging in delight.
He even outscored national champion and "Time of Firsts" teammate Mikhail Kolyada (195.02), who had to step out of three of his jumps.
Kondratiuk will certainly be one to watch when international competition resumes.
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