The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with Cup of Russia, November 21-23, 2003. The fifth of six qualifying events took place at Luzhniki in Moscow, Russia.
Ukrainian Elena Liashenko won her second Grand Prix event of the season with a total score of 149.68 points. Italy’s Carolina Kostner jumped four places to grab the silver (her first senior Grand Prix medal) with 143.53 points, while Galina Maniachenko of Ukraine won the bronze (her first Grand Prix medal) with 139.84 points.
Irina Slutskaya of Russia was scheduled to compete, but withdrew as she has been ill for months. The 2002 Olympic silver medalist is still recovering from a combination of pneumonia, asthmatic bronchitis, and inflammation of the sac around her heart which kept her hospitalized for nearly two months. The 24-year-old hopes to be well enough to compete at the upcoming Russian nationals, European championships and world championships.
In the short, Liashenko was the last to skate of the 12 ladies. Still recovering from a groin ligament tear, the Ukrainian opened her performance to Otonal by Raul di Blasio with a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination. The Cup of China Champion slightly two-footed her triple flip and stepped out of the double Axel, earning a total of 53.80 points for her routine.
“I wasn’t nervous, but after the last competition (the Cup of China), I had some trouble with my jumps,” Liashenko explained. “I really had to pull myself together, I had to fight. It was also hard to skate last. It was a long wait, and I couldn’t relax.”
USA’s Beatrisa Liang landed a double Axel, triple Lutz-double toeloop and a triple flip in her Carmen program to score 53.40 points for a second place finish.
Skating to Funeral for a Friend by Elton John, Maniachenko hit a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but then fell on the flip. The Ukrainian recovered to produce a double Axel and a difficult straight line footwork all on one foot. The 22-year-old was awarded 51.02 points.
“I don’t know why I missed the flip,” the Ukrainian commented. “I only learned Tuesday that I was to come here. Originally, I wasn’t scheduled for a second Grand Prix event. So I’m not so well prepared.”
Canada’s Joannie Rochette was in fourth after the short, while Elena Sokolova of Russia doubled her triple loop to finish 5th.
In the free skate, Liashenko opened her program with a solid triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, followed by two triple flips (one in combination with double toeloop), a double Axel, and nice spins. The 27-year-old missed the triple toeloop and stepped out of the triple Salchow (in a sequence with double toeloop, which didn’t count as only two combinations/sequences are allowed). The Ukrainian scored 95.88 points for her performance to the Frida soundtrack, defending her overnight lead.
“To be honest, I don’t have any emotions left, I’m just tired,” Liashenko said. “I don’t even dare to think about it that in four days everything (the competition) will start from the beginning (at NHK Trophy in Japan). I have to go on and to continue to fight. When I went out to skate today, I told myself that I have to do everything what I can do. Not everything worked, I had hoped for more.”
Kostner delivered the best program of the evening, skating to selections of music performed by Vanessa Mae. The Italian hit a triple loop, a triple flip-double toeloop combination, a triple flip-triple toeloop, a triple Salchow, and skated with good speed. Although the 16-year-old fell in the straight line footwork and singled the Axel in two attempts, she received 98.15 points to win the free skate.
“I’m very happy about my performance,” Kostner said. “I’m especially happy that I’m here (in Moscow at this event) at all. Last year, I didn’t even think about competing in the senior Grand Prix. I didn’t expect this success.”
Skating to Musa Ler by Ara Gevorgian, Maniachenko produced three clean triple jumps (one in combination with a double toeloop) to earn 88.82 points, enough for the Ukrainian to win her first Grand Prix medal.
“I’m really surprised about this result. I think I was lucky,” Maniachenko commented. “I just can’t forgive myself for singling the Axel and doubling the Salchow. It’s my first Grand Prix medal, and I’m very pleased about it.”
Rochette held on to fourth place while Liang dropped four spots to fifth. Sokolova, who was in fifth after the short, dropped to ninth place overall.
Liashenko earned 12 points for this event and is schedule to compete for more next week at NHK Trophy. Kostner earned 9 points while Maniachenko earned 7.
Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia captured their third Grand Prix gold medal at this event with overall score of 225.79 points. Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto (USA) claimed the silver medal (209.17 points), while Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel, won the bronze (202.85 points).
The Compulsory Dance (CD) for the Cup of Russia was the Ravensburg Waltz, created by Angelika and Erich Buck from Ravensburg, Germany and Betty Callaway. Its first performance dates back to the 1973 (West) German Figure Skating Championships.
Navka and Kostomarov were in first, followed by Kati Winkler and René Lohse of Germany. Belbin and Agosto of the US finished third while Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski placed fourth.
The event continued with the Original Dance (OD), with the “Swing Combo” being the theme. The couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Blues, Jive, Rock’n’Roll, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and/or Swing.
Navka and Kostomarov strengthened their overnight lead in with a strong performance to a Blues and Swing. The Russian Champions produced a difficult side-by-side footwork line, mostly on one foot, and a rotational lift with changes of position for Navka, earning them a score of 66.25 points.
“With each competition, we lift this program on another level,” Navka told the press. “Today was the best performance so far. There is still something left to work on, but we’re pleased with today’s performance.”
Belbin and Agosto turned in a demanding dance to Jitterbug, Blues and Swing that included an interesting lift and a nice dance combination spin, as well as a good side-by-side footwork line. The 2002 World Junior Champions earned 62.80 points for this routine and pulled up one spot to finish second.
“Obviously the rhythms are a lot of fun to skate,” said Belbin. “As this is our third time performing this on the Grand Prix, we felt like we’re much more comfortable with the program, much more confident. We’re able to play with the character a lot more and to relay that to the audience and also to the judges. So we felt very
involved in the performance, and every time we do it, we feel more relaxed and we just keep having more and more fun with it.”
Winkler and Lohse entertained the crowd with a very characteristic interpretation of Swing, Blues and Jive. Their side-by-side footwork line was in exact unison, and their dance spin in an unusual low position. The judges awarded the German team 60.80 points, placing them in third.
“We always love to skate the Original Dance, we just love these rhythms,” Lohse explained. “Also in practice, we enjoy to skate to them. We’re happy with how we’ve performed the OD in our first Grand Prix event.”
Chait and Sakhnovski earned 59.12 points for their energetic Rock’n’Roll and Blues and maintained their fourth place position. The leading couples were separated by only a few points before heading into the final Free Dance (FD).
Navka and Kostomarov entertained the crowd with their playful interpretation of Pink Panther and Austin Powers. The European bronze medalist impressed the crowd with innovative lifts and fast twizzles, scoring 45.90 points for their elements, improving significantly on their previous personal best of 39.60 points. The judges awarded the Russian Champions 71.24 points for program components, and the team won with a total event score of 225.79 points.
“We’re very happy about the result (of the season so far),” Nakva said. “When we finished first at Skate Canada, it was something new and unusual for us, as Roman and I never were first (in an international event). Then we won the second and third time, and we got used to it. We don’t want to give up this spot on the podium anymore!” Kostomarov added, “After the Cup of China, we made some changes to our program. We changed two lifts. They were hard for us to do, but they were only level one or two.”
Belbin and Agosto danced to excerpts from the Westside Story. Their performance featured a nice rotational lift, a dance combination spin with difficult positions for both her and him, as well as intricate footwork, but Agosto stumbled on a twizzle. The 2002 World Junior Champions earned 42.50 points for their elements and 64.89 points for program components (total segment score 107.39 and total event score of 209.17 points).
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of our performance today,” Belbin commented. “Technically, we felt much more controlled with our elements than we have in the past with our elements. I think when we go home we’ll work specifically on a few things that we felt were a bit weaker here. Overall we enjoy performing this dance. I think the character is good for us. It’s a nice way to finish this competition in Russia.”
Chait and Sakhnovski put out a dynamic routine to Clowns from the Fellini soundtracks. The 2002 World bronze medalists completed fast-paced footwork and interesting lifts to score 104.84 points for their FD (41.10 element score/64.74 program component score). Though the team lost a small piece of their costume in mid-program, they continued without any problems. The Israelis accumulated a total event score 202.85 points, moving them up one place from fourth.
“It’s a good result for us,” said Chait. “We’re going now with a lot more confidence in our next competition. Of course, we have a lot more work to do before Europeans and Worlds.”
Winkler and Lohse turned in an inspiring program to a selection of modern dance music that they entitled Day and Night. However, the Germans didn’t execute
the required backwards twizzles correctly, and as a result, the twizzles were not counted. They slipped to fourth behind Chait and Sakhnovski with a total score of 201.71, distancing them from the bronze medalists by only 1.14 points.
Navka and Kostomarov earned 12 points for an overall total of 24, while Belbin and Agosto received 9 points. This was a non-scoring event for Chait and Sakhnovski, who will compete again at the NHK Trophy.
Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia captured the gold in the pairs event with a total score of 190.66 points. Close behind, China’s Pang Qing and Jian Tong won silver with 185.04 points, while their teammates, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, won the bronze with 180.28 points.
In the short program, Totmianina and Marinin delivered a strong performance to Variations on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninov. The current World silver medalists nailed a textbook throw triple loop, side-by-side triple toeloop and a double twist. Their side-by-side combination spin was well synchronized, but the one-armed lift appeared somewhat shaky. The team from St. Petersburg scored 36.80 points for their elements, beating their personal best of 35.20. They received a total segment score of 68.64 points.
Pang and Tong took the ice after the Russians, appearing a bit nervous. Pang stepped out of the landing of the side-by-side triple toeloop, but the 2002 Four Continent Champions reeled back to complete a throw triple loop, a difficult lift with many variations and a high double twist, but their side-by-side spin was executed far apart. The judges awarded them with 63.16 points for their performance to Illumination by Secret Garden, placing them in second.
Their teammates, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, skated to All Alone, a bluesy guitar piece by Joe Satriani. Their program featured an excellent side-by-side triple toeloop and a high double twist, but Dan Zhang two-footed the throw triple loop. With a total segment score of 58.38 points, last week’s Trophée Lalique winners were in third after the short.
Russia’s Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov struggled with the side-by-side triple toeloop, finishing fourth, followed by Canada’s Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin, who were fifth.
In the free skate, the Russians had to overcome a rough start when Totmianina went down on the side-by-side Salchow, but they recovered quickly to execute a triple twist, two excellent triple throw jumps (Salchow and loop), a side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, as well as two one-armed Lasso lifts. Totmianina and Marinin, who train in Chicago under coach Oleg Vasiliev, scored 122.02 points for their performance to John Barry’s Cotton Club.
“As we say, the walls are giving support,” Totmianina said, referring to competing in front of a home crowd, “but it also means a lot of responsibility. We hadn’t skated in Russia in a Grand Prix event in a while, and so we felt the responsibility. We didn’t want to disappoint the audience. So we were nervous, especially I was, and that’s why we had some small mistakes, but overall everything worked out.”
Pang and Tong’s classical routine to Variations on a Theme of Paganini opened with a triple toeloop-double Axel sequence, but they had to struggle for the landing of the second jump. The 2003 Skate America gold medalists also produced a high throw triple Salchow, a triple twist and difficult lifts, but Pang stumbled on the throw triple loop. The judges awarded them 121.88 points.
Their young teammates, Zhang and Zhang, turned in another highlight of the evening. The two-time World Junior Champions hit everything in their program to Gräfin Mariza by Emmerich Kalman: the huge triple twist, the side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, two triple throws, the side-by-side triple Salchow and three lifts with variations. The team earned the highest technical score of the evening (64.86 points), placing second in the free skate, but it was not enough overall, and they settled for the bronze.
Marcoux and Buntin moved up a spot to fourth place, while Obertas and Slavnov dropped to fifth.
All three medalists in this event have secured a spot for the upcoming Grand Prix Final. Totmianina and Marinin earned 12 points for a total of 21 overall. Pang and Tong earned 9 points (18 points total). This was a non-scoring event for Zhang and Zhang who already have a total of 19 points.
To the delight of his home crowd, reigning World Champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia won the gold with 231.25 points. China’s Chengjiang Li jumped his way from fifth to grasp the silver (210.94), while Frederic Dambier of France won the bronze (201.55). The 2003 World Junior Champion, Alexander Shubin of Russia, withdrew from the event due to injury.
In the short program, Plushenko was ninth of the eleven skaters to take the ice with his resplendent Tango and Flamenco routine. The reigning European Champion touched down with his hand on his quadruple toeloop (in combination with double toeloop), but came back to nail a high triple Axel and triple Lutz. The 21-year-old scored 80.35 points to take the lead.
“I’m not yet a hundred percent satisfied,” Plushenko told the press. “I’m not yet in top condition because of my meniscus injury. I couldn’t skate for one and a half months, and I’m now getting into shape.”
Abt’s dynamic performance to Yablochko (Russian Sailor Dance from the ballet “The Red Poppy”) by Reinold Glière included a triple Axel, triple Lutz and good spins, but he stepped out of the landing of his quadruple toeloop (in combination with the double toeloop). The Muscovite’s footwork sequences drew special applause from the audience and the judges awarded him 73.05 points.
“This is my first event since the Grand Prix Final,” the athlete said. He had missed the World Championships due to injury. “I was nervous, but I fulfilled the task that was given to me by my coach and myself.”
Weiss opted for a triple flip-triple toeloop combination instead of a quad combination, in his program to Henry V and also produced a triple Lutz and solid spins, but his triple Axel was wobbly. The American was awarded 71.55 points.
In the free skate, Plushenko missed his opening quadruple toeloop and singled his first Axel. He rallied back to complete a quadruple-triple toeloop-double loop combination as well as four clean triple jumps (one of which was a triple Axel-double toeloope combination) and good spins. Plushenko scored 150.90 points for his “Tribute to Vaclav Nizhinski” routine. The skater wasn’t completely satisfied with this performance.
“It’s been a while since I skated like this, but there are reasons,” he explained. He told the press about his meniscus injury that might require surgery. “We want to do the surgery in summer, if I last that long. Usually the leg doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it hurts. Here I caught a rut in the ice on my triple Lutz, I twisted my leg and I felt the pain.”
Chengjiang Li, who was fifth after the short program, skated a strong performance to The Legend of the Glass Mountain that featured a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, a quadruple Salchow, a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination, and two more triples. The 2001 Four Continents Champion fell on his triple Lutz and two-footed the second Axel in his dynamic program. With a total segment score of 145.17 points, Li sprang from fifth to second place overall.
Dambier skated to Moulin Rouge and produced a quadruple Salchow, a triple Salchow-triple toeloop combination, and five more triples including two Axels. But some of the jumps were shaky, and he stepped out of the triple flip. Dambier was ranked fourth in both short and long programs, but the 25-year-old pulled up to third overall, earning his first Grand Prix medal.
“I had a few good performances earlier this season, so (my skating at) the Trophée Lalique came as a big disappointment to me,” the Frenchman commented. “I told myself even if you make a few mistakes, you have to keep pushing. I feel I did that, and I’m very pleased with how this competition went for me.”
Weiss moved down one spot to fourth after falling on his first quad toeloop attempt and two-footing the second one. Switzerland’s Stéphane Lambiel skated the third-best free skate, moving from sixth to fifth place overall. Abt dropped from second to sixth after he doubled some jumps.
Plushenko got 12 points and qualified for the Grand Prix Final with the maximum of 24 points. Dambier has 8 points from his two events.
The NHK Trophy, the sixth and final qualifying Grand Prix event, will be held Nov 27-30, in Asahikawa, Japan.