The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with Cup of Russia, the fifth of six qualifying events. The event was held Nov 23-26 at the Luzhniki Ice Arena in Moscow, Russia. Over 65 skaters from 20 different countries competed for points and monies totaling $180,000 in U.S. dollars. The points go toward qualification for the Grand Prix Final, to which the top six competitors in points standings from each discipline will be invited to compete for a total purse of $272,000 U.S. dollars. The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec 14-17, 2006, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Switzerland’s Sarah Meier captured her first senior Grand Prix gold, while Julia Sebestyen of Hungary rose from fifth place after the short to win the silver. Japan’s Yoshie Onda rose from sixth place after the short to win her second consecutive Cup of Russia bronze.
Sebestyen opened her routine to Schubert’s Serenade with a triple flip, but then put her hand down on the landing of a triple Lutz and did a three-turn before landing a double toeloop. The Hungarian Champion recovered to deliver a double Axel, a nice layback spin, and a good level four combination spin to earn 54.36 points for a first place finish after the short.
“I’m quite happy with my performance,” said the 25-year-old who was sixth at this event last year. “It’s getting better and better with each competition and the marks are getting higher.”
Russia’s Elena Sokolova delivered a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a triple loop, a level four spiral sequence, a double Axel, and a level four combination spin in her routine to Turandot by Puccini, placing second with 52.08 points.
“I wanted to do a triple-triple combination,” offered the 26-year-old, “but I was too close to the boards and decided to do a double. Otherwise I would have left the ice through the hole for the camera. It was better than at [Cup of China]. Not technically, but we’ve worked on the level of the elements. So basically, I’m pleased.”
Meier landed a solid triple Lutz-double toeloop combination in the opening of her routine to Concerto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo, but underrotated and stepped out of the landing on a triple flip. Despite the mistake, the Swiss National Champion landed a double Axel, executed two good spins and a level four spiral sequence, placing third in the short with 50.92 points.
“I don’t really know what happened on the flip,” said Meier. “Maybe I thought too much about it. It has been a long time since I made a mistake in the short program, but now it happened. Tomorrow in the free skating I’ll attack and I’ll show everything. I won’t play it safe. My only chance to make it to the Grand Prix Final is to win here.”
Arina Martinova of Russia landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but fell on a triple flip, placing fourth with 49.46 points.
Russia’s Victoria Volchkova finished fifth (47.50 points), while Japan’s Yoshie Onda and Aki Sawada were tied at sixth place with 45.56 points.
Meier, who stood in third after the short, skated to music from the soundtracks of Pride and Prejudice and Kikujiro for her long, nailing her opening triple Lutz-double toeloop-double loop combination, followed by a triple flip-double toeloop combination, and a triple flip. Despite doubling a Lutz, the two-time Olympian also delivered two double Axels, a triple Salchow-double toeloop combination, a level three straight line footwork sequence, and four level four spins, earning 108.25 points for a first place finish in the long and overall (159.17 points).
“I wanted to give everything today and I didn’t want to repeat yesterday’s mistake,” said the 22-year-old. “This competition was different for me because I came here as one of the favorites. I felt more pressure than before. People were paying more attention to me, but I still was able to skate well. I think this was a good practice for me for Europeans.”
Skating to music from The Red Violin soundtrack, Onda executed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, followed by a triple flip-double toeloop combination, and a triple Salchow. However, the Olympian fell on a triple loop and her double Axel-triple toeloop combination was graded as a sequence as she added steps in between the jumps. Despite the errors, the Japanese also produced a triple Lutz, a triple flip, as well as good footwork and spins to earn 98.04 points for a second place finish in the long. With a total of 143.60 points, the 23-year-old rose from sixth place to third overall to win the bronze.
“It wasn’t a hundred percent obviously,” said the 2005 Four Continents silver medalist, “and I hope to skate much better at Japanese Nationals. But it was a stepping stone.”
Sawada stood in seventh place after the short, but rallied back with a good skate which included a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip-double toeloop-double loop combination, a double Axel-double Axel sequence, as well as three more triple jumps. The Japanese Junior National Champion earned 96.38 points for third place finish in the long, and with a total of 142.04, moved up to fifth overall.
Finland’s Kiira Korpi, who stood in ninth after the short, delivered four triple jumps (three in combination in with doubles), but had problems with the triple flip – doubling one and singling another. The Finnish National bronze medalist placed fourth in the long (94.27 points) and rose to sixth overall with a total of 137.41 points.
Overnight leader Sebestyen doubled her first jump in a triple Salchow-double toeloop-double loop combination. The Hungarian also stepped out of the landing on a triple Lutz, and singled both a Lutz and an Axel to place fifth in the long with 92.39 points. With a total of 146.75 points, the 2006 Cup of China Champion slipped from first to second place overall.
“Somebody told me after last season that I would be first and second in my Grand Prix events and I didn’t believe it,” said the two-time Olympian. “I’m not really happy about my performance. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do. I did a good short program, but the free skating was better in China [Cup of China]. Now I just hope to skate well in both the short and free program next time.”
Sokolova was in second after the short. The two-time and reigning European silver medalist produced a triple toeloop-double-toeloop-double loop combination, but otherwise doubled three of her other jumps to place sixth (91.03 points) in the long. With a total of 143.11 points, the current Russian Champion missed the podium by less than half a point, placing fourth overall.
Teammates Martinova and Volchkova slipped to seventh and eighth place overall, respectively.
Meier pocketed 15 points to add to the 9 points she earned at Skate America for a total of 24 points. She will have to wait to see how the Japanese ladies fare next week at NHK Trophy to see if it’s enough to qualify for the Grand Prix Final (GPF).
Sebestyen had 15 points from her Cup of China win and earned 13 more (28 points total) at this event, ensuring a spot at the upcoming GPF.
Onda earned 11 points in Moscow to add to the 4 points from Skate Canada for a total of 15 points.
Sawada earned 11 points, but only had 3 points from Cup of China, for a total of 14 points.
Sokolova added 9 points from this event to the 4 points she earned at Cup of China for a total of 13 points.