Home Figure Skating News Menshov wins Gold at Russian Nationals

Menshov wins Gold at Russian Nationals

by Anna Kondakova
Anna Kondakova

Konstantin Menshov performs to Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson at the 2011 Russian Figure Skating Championships.

The Men’s Long program competition proved to be as prone to dramatic rises and falls as the short program yesterday, and once again, only a few skaters were able to deliver all planned content without mistakes.

Despite the difficulties, the competition was an intense one with the fate of the title in the air up until the penultimate competitor. Overnight leader Konstantin Menshov won, while Artur Gachinski rose from ninth place to capture the silver. Zhan Bush edged the rivals for the bronze.

Menshov, a veteran skater with a rather short international resume, delivered what could be described as his typical routine. He had an impressive opening which featured a a quad toe loop – double toe loop combination, a triple Lutz, and another quad toe loop (the only attempts on that jump today). He followed up with an Axel (which he popped into double), another double jump, and then a stumble out of a triple loop.

The 27-year-old managed to pull himself together and land a triple toe loop – double toe loop – double toe loop combination, but as he has unexpectedly turned a triple loop attempt into a combination jump, he received no credit for his final planned double Axel – double toe loop combination.

“I do not know what has come over me,” he said. “I was falling out of the landing curve on the loop and I decided to add another jump to it. When I went on to skate the program as planned, it never occurred to me to worry about the number of combination jumps. Now I know better.”

The student from St. Petersburg said that the coach was angry with him for making such a stupid mistake.

“He actually berated me for it,” he explained, “but only while the cameras [in the kiss’n’cry area] were off and before he saw the marks.”

The skater himself is also not satisfied with the performance.

“I am upset that I was not able to skate a clean program,” Menshov lamented. “This is something I worked really hard on since Cup of Russia [in October]. The practices were short, but intense. I did a run through of the short program in the mornings and a run through of the long program in the evenings. I skated both programs clean, I know that I am capable of it, but I was not able to do it today.”

Menshov believes it was largely due a burden of being in the lead.

“I was nervous, that is true,” he admitted. “I kept thinking that I have a chance to win the title. While I was waiting for my turn to skate, I saw one guy after another leave the ice, happy and relaxed now what the Championships were over for them, and I sat there and I thought ‘and I still have to skate to those 4.5 minutes’. Then things started so well. I landed the quads, I got excited, I started to think ‘yes, I have done it’ and I made mistakes.”

This is something Menshov realizes he needs to work on for the European Championships in Bern.

“I know that I have to approach it with calm,” he noted. “I have to learn to be able to present the program well and still stay focused and skate clean like I do in practices.”

The student of Evgeni Rukavitsin once again had an elaborate storyline behind his program to Michael Jackson music.

“It begins with me breaking out of jail,” he said. “I tear the handcuffs off, I escape. Then I go to an island… I don’t know which exactly, but it is a happy place. Birds are singing and I am relaxed and enjoy myself. And the last part is, well, just Michael Jackson.”

It has been a long road for the skater, who finished 17th at the 2001 Russian Nationals Championships, and the success has not yet sunk in.

“I have not fully realized it yet,” he admitted at the press conference. “It was hard to skate. An enormous responsibility and a lot of pressure – especially skating next to last. I had no time to think it over.”

Gachinski delivered a courageous, but inconsistent program to Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Bolt. He opened the routine with a high triple toe loop and triple Axel – double toe loop – double toe loop combination, but popped the next Axel into a single. The student of Alexei Mishin produced two more clean triples (loop and Lutz), but his flip received an edge call and he put both hands down on the landing of the second Lutz which he was barely able to add a single toe to.

Artistically, his routine was also hit-and-miss. The 17-year-old only got into character during the choreographed in-between moves and step sequences, while his setups for the jumps were so focused that they looked much more like a run-through in practice than a competitive performance. However, after a hard fall and injury he sustained a day before, it was a job well done and he earned 146.53 (65.03/81.50). With 211.28 in total, he was able to pull up to the second place overall.

“It is a big surprise,” Gachinski said at the press conference. “After the ninth in the short, it is quite a comeback. A pleasant surprise of course. The leg is ok right now. I got a painkilling shot right before the competition. Today I had a very hard practice. I was only able to skate for 10-15 minutes. I was barely able to do crossovers. I will undergo an in-depth examination once I get back to St. Petersburg.”

The skater admits that he thought about withdrawing from the event.

“During the medical break yesterday, the thought had crossed my mind,” he revealed, “but I had three minutes to pull myself together and the coach told me to continue, so I did. I do not think I was trying to prove anything to anyone. I just wanted to see it through.”

The 2010 Russian Junior Champion has changed the storyline behind his routine.

“Yes, since the Cup of Russia, we had changed the concept of the program,” Gachinski explained. “Now I am Pierrot, only I am really not. As the program goes on, I realize that I no longer want to be Pierrot – that I want to be upbeat and funny. So it is no longer based on Shotakovich’s music.
I had a feeling that the previous version did not work well with the judges.”

Sergei Voronov managed to recover from a disastrous performance in the short program to deliver a clean long to the music of Rachmaninov. The student of Nikolai Morozov only did a triple toe loop as the opening jump, and did not attempt any flips or Lutzes in his routine. However, he landed two triple Axels, two triple loops, and a triple Salchow.

Despite entering two international events this fall, it was the first time that the 23-year-old skated his new long program in competition (he withdrew after the short program before). The most impressive quality about his program was the continuous non-stop movement, but his power is not yet up to the levels he displayed at his best. He scored 144.57 (69.21/75.36) for the free and sky-rocketed through the standings with 204.71 points overall – only to lose the bronze by 0.27 points.

Even in the field as wide open as the one in Saransk, few could have predicted a medal for Bush. The student of Alexei Urmanov skated a very competent program, landing a triple Axel and six more triple jumps – only popping a final flip into a double.

“I am very upset about the mistake,” he said afterwards. “Even though the flip is put really late in the program, I have always landed it in the past. I would not have changed the outcome anyway, but still it’s a pity.”

The Junior Grand Prix Final participant earned 135.93 (64.65/71.28) points, and with a total score of 204.98, was able to capture the bronze.

“It was a decent job,” he said at the press conference. “At least Urmanov was happy, which is good. He is a strict taskmaster, but he is a great professional and I always try to do what he tells me to do. Often it is not easy, but this is something you have to live with.”

The skater is often compared to Evgeni Plushenko both in his appearance and in his skating style.

“Yes, thank you, I am aware of it,” he replied when asked about it at the press conference. “In fact for a while I considered making a sign and sticking it on my back ‘Yes, I look like Plushenko. No, I am not his brother’,” he joked.”Pretty much everyone who meets me tells me about it. Generally I pretend to be surprised.”

The 17-yeard old, however, denies any attempts to copy a decorated compatriot.

“No, I do not re-watch his programs,” he said. “If anything, I watch Alexei Yagudin. He is the one I was always looking up to. Together with my coach, we have tried to work on it [not looking like Plushenko]. We changed the haircut. It did not work. Now all that is left is a plastic surgery.”

Fellow Junior Grand Prix Final competitor Gordei Gorshkov was once again unable to rotate his triple Axel attempt, and slipped to sixth place in overall standings despite finishing fifth in the long program. He landed four triple jumps in the first half of his program, but was only able to land a clean triple loop in the second half. He scored 133.52 (61.80/72.72) points and had 203.50 overall.

Ivan Tretiakov, who was third after the short program, slipped to fifth place overall (204.54) after struggling with the landings on the majority of his jumps. Without a strong technical content, his routine to Charade fell flat and he only received 132.49 (61.99/70.50) points.

The last skater to score above 200 points in total was Artur Dmitriev. The runner up after the short program was the first to skate in the final warm up group, but the pressure proved to be too much for the 2010 Junior National Championships silver medalist. He two-footed the landing of his opening triple Axel and went on to make mistakes on the other jumping passes as well. In the end, he only received full credit for a triple toe loop and triple Salchow towards the end of the program. His second triple Lutz received no points as it was a third repeated jump of ‘three or more rotations’. He received 202.72 points in total to finish seventh.

Maxim Kovtun, who was sixth after short program, popped his opening triple Axel into a single, and slipped to 11th place overall.

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