In the Men’s event, Evgeni Plushenko of St. Petersburg (SPB) posted an unprecedented score of 100.09 (54.05/46.04) points (including +3.00 bonus for landing a clean quad-triple combination) to win the short program.
The 2006 Olympic Champion also produced a strong triple Axel, but turned out on the landing of a triple Lutz out of steps. He previously doubled the Lutz in his short program at the 2009 Rostelecom Cup in October.
“Today it was not my fault,” explained the skater at the post-event press conference. “After landing, my blade was caught in the tracing on the ice and I could not move freely to compensate for the rotational momentum. So I was just turned around and there was nothing I could have done. I have to say that the quality of the ice here is less than perfect. You could see puddles of water in the corners and besides the ice is somewhat brittle. But it’s a valuable practice for everyone. It means that in the better conditions we will be able to skate even better.”
Compared to his performance in October, the student of Alexei Mishin has improved the overall flow of his program to Concerto Aranjuez, as well as the speed of his spins. However, despite his record breaking score, Plushenko (who missed 1.5 weeks of training because of a meniscus injury) was rather modest in his assessment of himself.
“I think it was far from perfect,” Plushenko elaborated. “I am satisfied with what I was able to do given the circumstances, and I am very grateful to judges for awarding me a bonus. But I have merely done my job here today. I’m satisfied, but I know that I can and should do better. My goal is to skate clean. I know that it is not easy, but this is what I hope to do at the Olympics. What I did today is not the way I want to skate at the Games, but I guess it is good that I have some things to on work on in the near future.”
When asked about whether or not his victory at Nationals is a foregone conclusion, he admitted that he is fairly confident that he will be included in the National team for the European Championships and Olympic Games.
“As long as I’m healthy, I think we could safely say that I’m in,” said Plushenko. “My personal goal is to skate clean and to show good results, but I have to say that the other guys were also great today. If they could skate like that at the international level, I would be able to retire in peace. However, it begs the questions why have they not skated like that before? Perhaps I have shaken things up a bit by my comeback. But as I have said they did great. I especially want to single out Sergei Voronov. I’m very happy that my friend and formal rival Alexei Urmanov has such a student.”
Sergei Voronov (SPB), who struggled with consistency for the majority of last season and had a rather slow start of this season, drew the last starting number. His performance to the Skryabin’s Revolutionary Etude was one of the highlights of the event. The defending champion landed an excellent quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination (picking up additional +3.00 points for it), a triple Axel, and a triple flip. However, what set his skating in St. Petersburg apart from his previous performances, was the level of confidence and commitment which he demonstrated in every move. He received 95.64 (53.28/42.36) points and is the only skater who remains within reasonable distance of Plushenko’s score.
“It was hard to skate last,” confessed Voronov, “especially after my rivals had skated so well. But I was able to pull myself together and deliver 100%. I have not seen Plushenko’s performance, but the score speaks for itself. However, I did not concern myself with scores or placements. I knew my real task was to conquer my own nerves.”
Artem Borodulin of Moscow (MOS) is a distant third after an upbeat and engaging performance to Kalinka. He landed all his planned jumps, including a triple Axel, which often caused him troubles in the past. The skater earned 84.42 (44.53/39.89) points from the judges and an ovation from the audience throughout the program.
At the post event press conference the student of Elena Buyanova was very much down-to-earth. “I am very happy with the way I skated today,” said Borodulin, “but Sergei and Evgeni landed quad-triple combination, which is something I do not have yet. I’m working on it, but the success rate in practice is not good enough to include it into the program. So today they were better, but I think we did have a good competition here.”
Borodulin also admitted being impressed with Plushenko’s skating. “I saw him today and it was a thing of beauty. The jumps and the overall presentation. It was a pleasure to watch it.”
The most pleasant surprise of the evening was how Konstantin Menshov (SPB) was able to put together a clean and inspired program, finishing fourth with 80.66 (44.01/36.65) points.
In the past, the student of Evgeni Rukavitsin was known mostly for his inconsistency (he managed to finish 27th in the short program at the Winter Universiade last winter, before winning the long program to pull up to 7th place overall) and his skating earlier this year did not bode well for future success. However, the experienced skater’s performance in front of an enthusiastic home crowd was easily his best ever. Not only did he land all the jumps, including a quad toeloop-double toeloop combination (which earned him +2.00 bonus) and triple Axel, but he truly sold his playful routine, never breaking his rapport with the audience.
“The improvement you see today is the result of the work we started two years ago,” explained Menshov’s coach. “We have invited a new choreographer, Olga Glinka, and she completely changed the way he worked on the choreography and overall movement. But things like that do take time, so it’s only now that he is able to show off the difference in competition.”
Ivan Tretyakov (MOS) is currently fifth with 78.63 (42.03/36.60) points. The 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalist did not attempt a quad in his program to Toccata and Fugue, but he landed a solid triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination, and triple Lutz.
Denis Leushin (MOS) is a close sixth with 78.40 (41.15/37.25) points. He also landed a clean triple Axel, but underrotated the second jump in a triple loop-triple toeloop combination. In terms of choreography and presentation, he was among the best in the field.
Artem Grigoriev (MOS), who has missed most of the autumn due to injury, is seventh with 70.12 points.
The event continues tomorrow with the Ladies Long Program, the Original Dance, and the Pairs Short Program.