Mikhail Kolyada storms back to capture first career Russian Grand Prix title

Third after the short program, 2018 world bronze medallist Kolyada of Russia summoned his best skating to win the Rostelecom Cup. Sinitsina/Katsalapov captured the dance.

By Nick McCarvel

This much is clear: Mikhail Kolyada is back.

After a year away from figure skating due to illness, the Russian 25-year-old won his first-ever Rostelecom Cup at his home Grand Prix, the 2018 world bronze medallist and PyeongChang 2018 team silver medallist capturing the men’s event with a 281.89 overall.

Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili finished second at 275.80 and Petr Gumennik of Russia third, scoring a 268.47.

Kolyada missed the 2019-20 season entirely due to sinusitis and subsequent surgery, and in the off-season changed coaches to Alexei Mishin. He said earlier this season, after winning a Cup of Russia national event, “We are on our way.”

The Rostelecom Cup featured limited crowds and strict social-distancing protocols for athletes. Only Russian and regional athletes were allowed to compete, to mitigate travel due to the pandemic.

In ice dance, reigning European champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov emerged as winners, scoring a 217.51 overall. It’s their second consecutive Rostelecom Cup title and third Grand Prix gold.

Kvitelashvili had led after the short program, skating to a three-point lead over Gumennik, who came in second. Kvitelashvili’s previous best here was a silver in 2018, while Kolyada won bronze in 2017.

Up-and-coming Russian Andrei Mozalev turned in a stirring free skate performance to climb from sixth to fourth. Dmitri Aliev, the reigning Russian and European champion, finished fifth.

It's a second career Grand Prix win for Kolyada, who had won Cup of China in 2017. Kolyada finished eighth at the Winter Games in 2018.

Kolyada comes up with the goods

Skating to “The White Crow” soundtrack, Kolyada, dressed for the part, skated fluidly, opening with a quadruple toe-triple toe combination, and then a second quad toe on its own.

He did not let a single Axel deter him, hitting four more triple jumps and emoting with the music through his step sequence and closing choreography. He scored in the mid- and high-nines for his program components, outscoring Aliev, who was next in that mark, by some five points (95.00 to 90.60).

Kvitelashvili, the 2020 bronze medallist at the European Championships, opened the door for Kolyada with a fall on a quad toe midway his free skate, losing five points. It’s a second career Grand Prix medal for the Georgian, who had won silver here in 2018, as well.

Gumennik, just 18, was making his senior Grand Prix debut. He is the reigning junior world bronze medallist. Mozalev, meanwhile, won the silver medal at the Youth Olympics Games in Lausanne earlier this year.

“It feels good,” Kolyada said of his win. “It gives me extra motivation.”

Dance: Sinitsina/Katsalapov glide to victory

Without chief rivals Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (still recovering from COVID-19), the duo of Sinitsina/Katsalapov, who won silver at worlds in 2019, glided to gold, beating Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro by over 10 points.

Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin, the 2018 junior world champs, won the bronze.

Sinitsina/Katsalapov skated powerfully and with charm to their Michael Jackson medley, though they did struggle with a rotational lift towards the end of the program, Sinitsina awkwardly on Katsalapov’s shoulders. But the error was small in an otherwise succinct program for the team, which was favoured from the outset.

"This was our first full competition of the season," said Sinitsina, who had a knee injury in the off-season. "We hope to continue to improve."

Sinitsina/Katsalapov beat four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at Europeans in January, the French duo's first loss since taking silver at PyeongChang. While the French have said they will not skate at Euros due to travel limitations in and out of Canada (where they train), the Russians would like to go if they can.

"We really hope that this competition will take place," Sinitsina said of Euros. "We are not going to miss it. We hope to fight and present our very best."

Cup of Russia, nationals: What comes next

In a season full of uncertainties for figure skaters, there are clear targets in the coming weeks for Russian skaters, culminating at the national championships, set for 23-27 December.

Kolyada, Gumennik and Aliev are all also scheduled to skate in Stage 5 of the Cup of Russia, to be held in Moscow, 5-8 December. The last of the domestic series also is set to feature Alena Kostornaia. The events have carried more weight this season with fewer international opportunities due to COVID-19.

Russian skaters usually earn their European spots at nationals, that event still set for late January in Zagreb. The world championships, which were cancelled in March to end last season, are set for March 2021 in Stockholm.


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