Shcherbakova, Kostornaia, Valieva shine at 2021 Russian national senior test skates in Chelyabinsk

World champion Anna Shcherbakova and the rest of the '3A' were on the ice again in Russia as Kamila Valieva and others showed what an exciting Olympic season we have in store.

By Ken Browne
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The Russian national senior test skates announced the beginning of the figure skating season for some of the top skaters on the planet right now on Saturday 11 September 2021.

The test event in Chelabinsk is a chance for the country's top skaters to present their programs for the year to a panel of judges and the public ahead of this Olympic season.

While the event didn't feature scores or placements, it gave us a glimpse of where the skaters are at after the summer break and what to look out for this season.

In the stacked women's singles field, 2021 World champion Anna Shcherbakova led the way at the Ice Arena Traktor in the central city of Chelyabinsk.

We saw just how incredibly difficult it will be for the ROC team to cut the women's singles list for Beijing down to three with Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kostornaia, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Kamila Valieva, Maiia Khromykh, and Daria Usacheva all vying for places at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Valieva particularly impressed with a beautifully delivered short program.

Meanwhile in the men's singles, leading man Mikhail Kolyada was disappointed with his own performance.

And in the pairs Evgenia Tarasova / Vladimir Morozov proved that they are out to challenge World champion pairing Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov this season.

Read on for a full wrap of what happened.

Ladies: Eteri Tutberidze's "3A" dazzle the crowd in Chelyabinsk

It was all eyes on the women's singles in Chelyabinsk as a fab five of world-class skaters took to the ice in the final group.

First up was Anna Shcherbakova skating to 'The Songs of Distant Earth', delighting the crowd with her typical technically tight and emotionally expressive skating, she landed a double Axel, triple flip and just held on to a triple Lutz.

The Mr. Brown bears rained from the stands as she completed her skate.

Alena Kostornaia had her time next skating to 'Am I the one' by Beth Hart, but stepped out of a triple Axel before executing a triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe combo.

Her triple Axel was perfect in the warm-up, and she looks like she's out of that slight slump we saw last season.

It was a good day for Kostornaia who has a little ground to make up on the other two of the '3A'.

Alexandra Trusova followed next with her program to 'Alcoba Azul' by Elliot Goldenthal from the soundtrack to the film 'Frida' dressed in bright red, achieving a nice aesthetic to match the music.

It wasn't Trusova's best performance however, as she fell on her triple Axel and only just landed a triple flip but then recovered nicely to nail a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

Despite a couple of stumbles it's a program that marks a new maturity for Trusova, she connects well with the music, the fast pace suits her and it's a beautiful short packed with technical and expressive elements. Just wait until she adds the quads.

In this test event, the quad squad kept the big jumps for another day.

World silver medallist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva is the senior of this group now at 24 and she performed a new program to 'Oblivion (J'oublie)' by Misia, skating clean with a brilliant triple Axel, a triple Lutz-double toe combination and a triple flip.

Tuktamysheva proved that she's very much in the hunt for an Olympic spot.

The final skater of this star-studded line-up was Kamila Valieva and the 15-year-old put down a sensational short program to 'In Memoriam', cleanly executing a triple Axel, a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

In her first senior year Valieva showed why she could be a real threat to the other ROC team contenders and with the array of quads in her arsenal, to the top of the podium in Beijing too - just as Alina Zagitova was when she came fresh off her final junior year to win gold at PyeongChang 2018.

With the '3A' back – after a season coached by Evgeni Plushenko for two of the three – with star coach Eteri Tutberidze, it's going to be a thrilling ride from here to Beijing.

Who'd be an ROC selector?

Men's: Dmitri Aliev warms up for Olympic qualifier as Mikhail Kolyada disappoints

With the men's competition on the rise in Russia, we got a peak at what to expect this season.

It was a disappointing day for reigning national champion Mikhail Kolyada who many expect to see challenging for the podium at Beijing 2022.

Kolyada, dancing to Caruso by Pavarotti, fell on his first jump - a quad Salchow - and had a little shake of his head after an unsteady quad toe, but recovered to reveal a powerful short program full of strong technical elements and a real depth of expression.

His own biggest critic, you could see his disappointment clearly afterwards as his interview was cut short with questions unanswered.

Expect him to recover and tighten up before the big events this season.

It was a big day too for Dmitri Aliev who was warming up before he represents his country at the Nebelhorn Trophy ISU Challenger Series event from 22–25 September, where he can confirm a third men's Olympic quota for ROC.

A 2018 Olympian, Aliev skated to 'Pilgrims On A Long Journey' by Coeur De Pirate, but hit a couple of hitches too, he didn't get the pick right on his quad Lutz and then over-rotated on a triple jump, but landed a nice quad toe and gave a gripping performance artistically.

As this is a test event, the warm-up will help him work on those details before Nebelhorn.

Last season was exciting for a new generation of men's talent including 18-year-old Mark Kondratiuk who shone in Chelyabinsk.

A flawless short program full of energy and confidence drew big applause from the thousand or so fans in the Ice Arena Traktor, as Kondratiuk landed a quad toe perfectly, nailed his step sequence, and displayed that winning combination of technical execution and artistic expression.

There were strong showings too from Alexander Samarin who allowed himself a smile after a clean skate, with Evgeni Semenenko, and 2019 European silver medallist / 2020 world junior champion Andrei Mozalev showing why they're all in the mix for an Olympic place too.

Pairs: Tarasova / Morosov make strong statement

We're set for a captivating season of pairs skating after Evgenia Tarasova / Vladimir Morozov showed World champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov that they mean business this term.

Mishina/Galliamov stunned everyone after they finished fourth at the Russian National Championships then went on to win Worlds in Stockholm.

You could see the determination in Tarasova / Morozov's short program as they set out to reassert themselves in this Olympic season.

A clean skate with spectacular side-by-side triples, big throws and lifts, they upstaged the reigning World champs who looked slightly off, not the same speed or connection that brought success in Stockholm.

There was a huge hug for coach Tutberidze after Tarasova / Morozov's performance, the veteran pair look locked in on an Olympic medal.

But a fine skate from Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitrii Kozlovskii also proved the fierce competition and depth of talent that the ROC team will bring to Beijing.

With Chinese host pairs Sui Wenjing / Han Cong and Peng Cheng / Jin Yang waiting, they'll have to be at their best.

Dance: Ice dance big guns put on a show

With world champions Victoria Sinitsina / Nikita Katsalapov, and Alexandra Stepanova / Ivan Bukin, Tiffany Zagorski / Jonathan Guerreiro all in action, we saw a show in Chelyabinsk.

Expect these three pairs to light it up this season too.

2021 Russian senior national test skates schedule

Times are local to Chelyabinsk (5 hours ahead of UTC, 2 hours ahead of Moscow)

Sunday 12 September

11:55am Ice dance, free dance

1:25pm Men's singles, free program

3:00pm Pairs, free program

4:10pm Ladies' singles, free program

How to watch 2021 Russian test skates

The 2021 Russian test skates, as with a number of other Russian domestic competitions, is available to watch on Channel One within Russia.

An international feed is expected to be provided for global fans on the Channel One youtube page.