What to know ahead of Russian nationals as Kostornaia pulls out
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Mikhail Kolyada headline the singles disciplines in Chelyabinsk, where competition will be fierce.
Stockholm will be on the minds of skaters this weekend in Chelyabinsk, Russia, where the Russian figure skating national championships are taking place.
Sweden's capital is set to host the World Championships in late March with the top finishers at these nationals probably punching their tickets to the Worlds, although the final teams will be named at a later date.
This competition would have formed the basis for selection for the European Championships, but January's event in Zagreb was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.
The event was rocked on Tuesday (22 December) by the withdrawal of last season's dominant skater Alena Kostornaia.
The Grand Prix Final and European champion tested positive for COVID in early December with Figure Skating Federation of Russia president Alexander Gorschkov telling TASS she had not recovered in time to take part.
The Russian skating scene is one of the most competitive in the world with at least four potential world medallists in the ladies’ singles and stacked fields in the men’s, pairs and dance disciplines.
Here's what you need to know for the Russian Championships, which get underway on the afternoon of 24 December (local time).
Teenagers Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova dominated the Grand Prix a year ago, but 24-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 world champion, won last month's Rostelecom Cup in Moscow beating both Kostornaia and Trusova.
Kostornaia has joined Olympic champion Alina Zagitova and silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva on the sidelines, Medvedeva withdrawing last week as she continues to deal with back issues and recover from a bout with COVID.
And we could see Tuktamysheva attempt a quad toe loop in competition having published a video of herself landing it in practice.
In a recent interview with Olympic Channel, Tuktamysheva said she’d like to follow up her Rostelecom Cup title with a win at nationals: “It’s one of the most important competitions of the season,” she said. “It is the selection for the Russian national team, the selection for major competitions in Europe and the world, so it is better to win the Russian championships than Rostelecom.”
While Kostornaia was second to Tuktamysheva at Rostelecom Cup, Trusova struggled in her free skate, falling several times and finishing in fourth. She’ll look to bounce back at nationals, as will reigning Russian champion Shcherbakova who missed the Grand Prix event due to illness.
Also to factor in: Kamila Valieva, the reigning world junior champion, who is still only 14, but should come armed with a quad jump herself. She won the most recent stage of the Cup of Russia, a domestic series, earlier this month.
While all eyes will be on the women, the men’s field will also be highly competitive, as well, with Rostelecom Cup winner and two-time Russian champion Mikhail Kolyada as the favourite, the 25-year-old looking increasingly confident under new coach Alexei Mishin.
Kolyada, the 2018 world bronze medallist and part of the 2018 silver medal team at the PyeongChang Games, will be the elder statesman in an otherwise youthful field. Alexander Samarin, Andrei Mozalev, Petr Gumennik, Artem Kovalev, Makar Ignatov and Evgeni Semenenko are all skaters to keep an eye on, as well.
It was Gumennik who won bronze at Rostelecom, though Mozalev was within two points of the podium.
The 17-year-old will look to lead the crop of youngsters with a splash on the senior level as 2020 Russian and European champion Dmitri Aliev has withdrawn from these nationals after contracting COVID.
Some of the best teams in the world will be battling it out to claim national bragging rights.
It’s hard to choose the favourites, but reigning national and European champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii won at Rostelecom thanks to an excellent free skate.
Mishina and Galliamov are the 2019 world junior champs, while Panfilova and Rylov clinched that title back in March after winning gold at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
But don’t count out Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, fourth at PyeongChang 2018 and two-time world medallists, or 2018 world junior champions Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, who were European bronze medallists last season.
That should clear the way for Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, six-time medallists at nationals, to claim their first Russian title.
Tiffany Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro are also contenders along with Anastasia Skoptsova and Kirill Aleshin.