2004 Russian Figure Skating Championships: Highlights

The 2004 Russian Figure Skating Championships were held Jan 7-11 at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Men

In the men’s event, Evgeni Plushenko (St. Petersburg) didn’t have to fear his competitors as they all struggled. He alone put out two splendid performances to claim his fifth national title as well as a lot of 6.0s. Ilia Klimkin (Moscow) won his second silver while Andrei Griazev (Moscow) won the bronze – his first senior national medal.

Griazev, a student of Tatiana Tarasova (and Alexei Yagudin), reeled off a huge triple Axel-double toe combination, but the landing was off balance. He executed a triple flip and finished with Yagudinesque footwork followed by a double Axel which earned him marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6 for a third place finish after the short.

Klimkin started out well with a solid short program that contained a triple Axel-double toeloop combination as well as an effortless looking solo quad toeloop. His performance to Swan Lake earned marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.8, for a second place finish after the short.

Plushenko delivered a dynamic short program which included a quad-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel, triple Lutz, and fast footwork. Though his combospin was a bit slow, his Tango and Flamenco routine earned marks ranging from 5.8 to 6.0, easily putting him in first place after the short.

Alexander Abt (Moscow) finished fourth, followed by Denis Leushin (Moscow-Kirov) who placed fifth after the short.

Abt withdrew from the event after the short program, citing pain from a long-time groin injury. The 2003 Russian National champ announced that this would be his last eligible competition and was honored by the Russian Skating Federation during the exhibition gala.

In the long, Griazev missed his triple Lutz and stepped out of his first triple Axel and triple loop, but he hit a beautiful solo triple Axel. His performance to Fellini soundtracks earned him marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6, resulting in a third place finish overall for the 18-year-old.

Unfortunately, Klimkin ran into trouble in his free skating to Dr. Diesel. Both triple Axels weren’t clean and the 1999 World Junior Champion also stumbled on his quad toeloop. His best elements were his spins, a triple Salchow out of a camel spin and a triple toeloop. The 23-year-old’s marks ranged from 5.3 to 5.8 for an overall second place finish.

Although the Plushenko is still bothered by the meniscus injury in his right knee, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist didn’t hold back in his free program. He reeled off a quadruple toe-triple toe-double loop combination followed by a triple Axel, a triple Axel-triple toe combination, a triple flip, a triple Lutz, a triple loop, and a triple Salchow. The 21-year-old impressed with excellent steps and decent spins and his inspiring performance was the only one that earned a standing ovation from the near capacity crowd in the arena. The judges agreed and awarded the two-time World Champion one 6.0 for technical merit and nine perfect scores for presentation.

Andrei Lutai (St. Petersburg-Belgoro) moved up three spots from seventh place to finish fourth overall. Konstantin Menshov (St. Petersburg), who was 11th after the short, had a fourth place finish in the free skate resulting in fifth place overall.

Pairs

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin (St. Petersburg) defended their title, but it didn’t come easy. Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov (St. Petersburg) won their fifth national silver medal followed by newly-teamed Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov (St. Petersburg) who won the bronze.

Competing in their first season together, Obertas and Slavnov, skated their short program to a Spanish theme which opened with side-by-side triple toes where Slavnov had to hang onto the landing. Obertas stepped out of her throw triple flip and the young team earned marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6 to place third after the short.

Skating to Baxter, Petrova and Tikhonov opened their short with side-by-side triple toes but Petrova turned out on the landing. They executed a double twist and a nice throw triple loop to earn marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.8 for a second place finish in the short.

Totmianina and Marinin skated first in the short and had a solid performance to Variations on a Theme of Pagaini with good side-by-side triple toes and a high triple throw loop. The two-time World silver medalists earned marks ranging from 5.8 to 5.9 to take the lead.

Viktoria Borzenkova (Moscow) and Andrei Chuvilaev (St. Petersburg) were fourth after the short, followed by Natalia Shestakova and Pavel Levedev (St. Petersburg) who placed fifth.

In the long program, Obertas and Slavnov earned the highest technical marks in the free skate which featured two triple toeloops (one in sequence with double toe), a throw triple flip and loop as well as interesting lifts. The young couple, who is coached by Tamara Moskvina, took the bronze with marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.7.

Feeling pressure from the home crowd, nerves caused problems in Petrova and Tikhonov’s long program to Princess of the Circus. Tikhonov doubled the toeloop in the jump sequence and Petrova crashed on the triple throw loop. She also struggled on the landing of the solo double Axel, but the 2003 World bronze medalists produced difficult lifts, earning marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.8 for an overall second place finish.

Totmianina had injured her left knee in practice, and due to pain and swelling, the the team decided to downgrade the difficulty in order to protect the knee in their new long program to Edvin Marton’s Art On Ice. The two-time European champs executed a side-by-side double Salchow, a double twist and a double throw Salchow. Their other key elements – toeloop, throw loop – were triples, and though the team looked cautious, they managed to defend their lead with marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.9.

Borzenkova & Chuvilaev and Shestakova & Levedev didn’t change placements and finished fourth and fifth overall respectively.

Ladies

Elena Sokolova (Moscow) captured her second nation gold at this event while Julia Soldatova (Moscow) won silver and Kristina Oblasova (Moscow) took home the bronze – her first senior national medal.

In the short program, Oblasova had a shaky landing on her triple Lutz-double toe combination and then doubled her triple flip. The 19-year-old earned marks ranging from 4.2 to 5.4 for a fifth place finish after the short.

Soldatova’s short was disappointing as well, as she double her Lutz in the combination and fell out of the double Axel, earning marks ranging from 4.1 to 5.4 for a sixth place finish after the short.

Sokolova wasn’t in good shape earlier this season, finishing a distant 9th in both her Grand Prix events. But now she’s on her way back. The Muscovite looked strong in practices and grabbed the lead with a clean short. She landed a triple Lutz-double toe combination, a triple flip and a double Axel. Her performance to Polovetsian Dances earned marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.7 for a first place finish after the short.

Viktoria Volchkova (Moscow) was in second place after the short, followed by Tatiana Basova (St. Petersburg) and Alima Gershkovich (Moscow).

In the long program, Oblasova landed five triples in her performance to the Teheran 43 soundtrack. The 2001 World Junior champion fell twice, but put out a good fight and repeated the Salchow successfully, earning marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.4. The two-time junior national champion moved up two spots to seize the bronze medal.

Soldatova celebrated a wonderful comeback at these Nationals, putting out an excellent, flawless long program to Spartacus which not only included five triple jumps, but also had good flow and nice choreography. She pulled up from sixth after the short to claim the silver with marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.7. Unfortunately, Soldatova is not eligible to compete for Russia internationally this season as she competed for Belarus from 2000 to 2002.

Sokolova made some errors in her free program, two-footing her first Lutz and popping the second attempt, but produced four clean triples in her performance to Notre Dame de Paris. The 23-year-old earned marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.7 to finish second in the free skate and first overall.

All three medallists are students of the same coach, Viktor Kudriavcev. He remarked that this [results] is also a result of the strong and healthy competition in his group.

Volchkova finished seventh in the free skate and dropped from second to sixth place overall. Basova finished sixth in the free skate, dropping from third to fifth overall while Gershkovich maintained her original fourth place finish.

Ice Dance

Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov (Moscow) easily danced their way to their second national tile, picking up some perfect 6.0s along the way. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin (Odintsovo) won their first senior national silver as a team, while Svetlana Kulikova and Vitali Novikov (Moscow) won the bronze.

All of the ice dancers maintained their placements throughout the entire competition, not moving up or down after the Compulsory Dances (CD), Original Dance (OD), and Free Dance (FD).

Kulikova and Novikov had a messy OD with a coordination problem at the beginning and needing almost 30 seconds to get back into the rhythm of their dance. Their marks ranged from 4.9 to 5.4 for a third place finish.

Domnina and Shabalin finished second in the OD, showing much improvement, and earned marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.7 for a second place finish.

Navka and Kostomarov had two little stumbles in their OD, but they still won and deserved it with marks ranging from 5.7 to 6.0.

Kulikova and Novikov’s FD to Carmina Burana overwhelmed the dancers and their program looked heavy and labored. Their marks ranged from 5.4 to 5.7 for an overall finish of third place.

While Domnina and Shabalin’s performances were solid throughout all phases of the competition, they need to increase the difficulty and variations of their lifts in the future. Their FD to Four Seasons Tango by Vivaldi and Piazzola earned marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.8 for an overall second place finish.

Navka and Kostomarov’s FD to Pink Panther and Austin Powers entertained the crowd and contained nice lifts and moves, but the footwork could be more difficult and there was also too much posing. The Grand Prix Champions received six 6.0s for presentation in the free dance and placed first in the overall event.

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski (Moscow) finished fourth ahead of Ekaterina Rubleva (Kirov) and Ivan Shefer (Moscow).

The day after the Championships, the Russian Figure Skating Federation announced the team for the European Championships.

Elena Sokolova will be accompagnied by two rookies, Kristina Oblasova and Alima Gershkovitch. The Federation will ask for clearance for Julia Soldatova, but it seems unlikely that she will be eligible.

Together with Evgeni Plushenko, Ilia Klimkin and newcomer Andrei Griazev will compete in Budapest.

The pairs will be represented by Totmianina/Marinin, Petrova/Tikhonov and Obertas/Slavnov.

Navka/Kostomarov, Domnina/Schabalin and Kulikova/Novikov have been selected in the ice dancing event.

The Russian Federation will decide again about the team for the World Championships after the Europeans.

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