Kvitelashvili takes short program at Rostelecom Cup, Kolyada third

Georgia's European bronze medallist Morisi Kvitelashvili beat Russian rivals to take the men's singles lead in Moscow. Sinitsina/Katsalapov lead in ice dance.

By Nick McCarvel

Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili had a career-best short program to take the lead at the Rostelecom Cup on Friday (20 November).

Competing against the cream of Russian skaters in Moscow, Kvitelashvili scored 99.56 with Petr Gumennik second with a score of 96.26 and 2018 world bronze medallist Mikhail Kolyada third, scoring 93.34.

The Rostelecom Cup is the third stop on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series this season and being held with COVID-19 protocols including limited numbers of fans and only Russian or regional athletes competing.

In ice dance, defending champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov skated to a comfortable lead in the rhythm dance, scoring a 91.13, some seven points ahead of second place.

Kvitelashvili, 25, outscored his previous best short program (89.94) by 10 points although this will not count as a personal best as the judges are local - due to COVID-19 - rather than international.

Skating to "Amsterdam", Kvitelashvili delivered on a quadruple Salchow-triple toe loop opening combination, then showed his confidence, hitting a triple Axel and quad toe later in the program.

Russia's Makar Ignatov is in fourth (91.82) ahead of European champion Dmitri Aliev (89.62) with reigning world junior champion and Lausanne 2020 silver medallist Andrei Mozalev sixth (86.01).

Kvitelashvili shines; Gumennik impresses too

Kivitelashvili won the silver medal at Rostelecom Cup in 2018. He is one of the few top-level men that work with famed women’s coach Eteri Tutberidze and her coaching staff.

He told reporters after his skate that he enjoyed the morning practice and afternoon competition schedule which can be challenging for some.

“I like this schedule,” he said, adding about his preparation: “Nothing has changed in my training process. We are working the way we’ve been working before."

There were high hopes for Kolyada coming in after some fine performances since making a coaching switch to Alexei Mishin in the off-season.

But the 25-year-old put both hands down to save his opening quad toe loop, a blip he never fully bounced back from in an upbeat cover of “Let’s Get Loud”.

He did however hit a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combo to close his short program.

Kolyada missed the whole of the 2019-20 season due to sinusitis and subsequent surgery, but was clear when asked about it on Friday if he was still dealing with any sinus issues.

"No. I’m just trying to do my job,” he replied to the media.

Noting the competitive landscape of Russian’s men skating currently, he said, “The high level of competition is always pushing you forward; that is good.”

Gumennik, 18, was making his senior Grand Prix debut, and is the reigning junior world bronze medallist.

He was fluid in his skate to “Moonlight Sonata”, hitting a triple Axel to open his program, then a quad Salchow and a big triple Lutz-triple loop combination to close.

Ice dance: Sinitsina/Katsalapov breeze into lead

It was a confident day in the office for the reigning European champions, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov impressing in their “Singin’ in the Rain” rhythm dance. They received nines and above for their program components and Level 4 and 5 scores for their twizzle sequence.

Defending their title in Moscow, Sinitsina/Katsalapov are without their chief domestic rivals, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who missed the competition as Bukin continues to recover from COVID-19.

Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro skated to music from “The Greatest Showman,” their upbeat performance earning them a 84.46, good enough for second place.

Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin, the 2018 junior world champions, were third, scoring 79.75.

The competition marks the first full event for Sinitsina/Katsalapov, as Sinitsina continues to recovery from a knee injury which forced them to pull out of the free skate at Stage 2 of the Cup of Russia in Moscow six weeks ago.

"We are not 100 percent recovered yet," she told reporters. "It’s difficult to go through rehab for my knee and get prepared for competition. I want to make sure my knee is recovered 100 percent."