The Russian National Figure Skating Champions kicked off with nine dance teams performing Tango Romantica for the Compulsory Dance (CD).
As expected, current World Champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) easily won this segment of the event with 45.17 (22.00/23.17) points. The students of Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponossov have not competed at all since their triumph in Los Angeles last spring, but they looked as if they have not missed a beat. The couple was smooth and confident throughout, and gave a commanding and expressive performance.
“We were very eager to show our programs to the audience and judges,” commented Domnina afterwards. “Finally we got out. We have really missed competing”
“We are lacking competitive practice a bit,” added Shabalin. “We skated well, but we do have a room for improvement. All our programs are 100% ready, but the question is whenever we will be able to skate them 100%”.
Behind the leaders three teams are in close competition for the all-important second place – the spot which would secure the second place team a chance to compete at both the European Figure Skating Championships and the Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Skating last, 2007 World Junior Champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Moscow (MOS) edged out Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB) after delivering a very expressive tango and posting a 37.61 (18.66/18.95) point score. The students of Svetlana Alexeeva and Elena Kustarova took their success in stride.
“We always had strong compulsory dances – even back when we were competing in Juniors,” said Soloviev in the mixed zone. “We skated well and achieved good results, but we have to put all of it behind us now and concentrate on skating good in the Original Dance (OD) and Free Dance (FD).”
“The OD turned out to be our weakest link so far this season,” added Bobrova. “For some reason it did not go well with the judges. We made some changes, prepared new costumes, and we hope to dance it so well tomorrow that the audience will jump to their feet and dance alongside with us.”
Sitting in the third place are Riazanova and Tkachenko. The new couple is coached by Alexi Gorshkov in Odintsovo. They finished a disappointing sixth at the Rostelecom Cup Grand Prix event, but the team has had time to improve a great deal since then. They scored 36.68 (18.13/18.55) points for their rather aggressive interpretation of the dance which had excellent flow and power, but lacked the unison of those teams, which placed ahead.
“We are satisfied with our performance,” said Riazanova.
“Our main changes since the Grand Prix event (Cup of Russia) was fixing a hook,” joked Tkachenko, referring to their mishap in Moscow then Riazanova’s sleeve got caught by a hook on his costume. “We are no longer getting stuck.”
Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer (MOS) drew the second starting number for the CD and performed a nice and clean tango with strong edges and close positions in dance holds, however their speed and flow in the second pattern was not quite as strong as in the first. The 2009 Rostelecom Cup bronze medalists received 36.43 (18.01/18.42) points.
“We are happy with our performance,” said Rubleva, “but the result unfortunately is a bit unexpected. We realize that the difference is minimal, but it is still unpleasant. I don’t think we were affected by the early start number, though.”
A notch below the top four teams are Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Grachev (MOS) with 33.91 points, followed by Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov (MOS) (33.65), and Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov (MOS) (32.96).
Zlobina and Sitnikov, who moved to Moscow this year, made noticeable improvement in their skating skills and posted the highest technical score of the three couples. However their presentation marks kept them in the seventh place overall.
The event continues with the Ladies Short Programs.