Rostelecom Cup: the girl with the butterflies

Leaving aside the controversy in the ice dancing event at Cup of Russia, here’s a subjective list of good and bad in Luzhniki arena in Moscow, at the end of the last week; a personal analysis of the last Grand Prix event of the Olympic season, before the Final, scheduled in Fukuoka, at the beginning of December.

by Florentina Tone

Carolina Kostner at  Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, at the beginning of her wonderful short program. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ponarina (

Carolina Kostner at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, at the beginning of her wonderful short program. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ponarina (

The girl with the butterflies or the butterfly itself? You already know that: I’m totally in love with Carolina’s short program, skated on “Humoresque” by Antonín Dvořák. I’m not sure if the Italian embodies a butterfly (among other butterflies) or she is, in fact, a girl enjoying her colorful garden – but I very much liked the sign she “sent” before her program: the Russian camera focused on a real butterfly in the arena, during Liza Tuktamysheva’s routine, a sort of preview of what followed.

Beautiful Carolina in Moscow, a week ago. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ponarina (

Beautiful Carolina in Moscow, a week ago. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ponarina (

Mirai’s comeback. This talented American is not ready yet to leave the competitive scene – and she’ll definitely fight for a spot in the US Olympic team. She showed her determination in Russia, where she was fourth after the short program, winning the bronze in the end.

A Romanian song at Cup of Russia. Well, this was a surprise: a very familiar piece of music in the arena hosting Rostelecom Cup, during the six-minutes warm-up for the ladies in group 2, before their short program. Agnes Zawadski, Elisaveta Tuktamysheva, Kanako Murakami, Julia Lipnitskaia and Carolina Kostner practicing their steps and jumps on “Vrei sa pleci, dar nu ma, nu ma iei. Nu ma, nu ma iei…”, belonging to Ozone. The song and the girls brought a smile on my face.

An uninspired choice of music for Kanako Murakami. This talented young Japanese should drastically change her short program; the music choice – a mixture of “Catgroove” by Parov Stelar, “Libella Swing” by Parov and “Stelar Swing Bop” – seems totally inappropriate for her style. She looks like a little boy running, rushing on the ice – an unpolished routine, lacking the sophistication from the last seasons; and I’m sure this is not the image she wants to portray during the Olympic season.

Julia Lipnitskaia wants to be an Olympian. And she’ll be one if she continues to skate as she did in Moscow, during her short program. Of course, Julia still doesn’t have the maturity and the skating skills of Asada/Kim/Kostner, but she’s on the right track, no doubt about it. And she has loads of ambition, that’s for sure – do you remember her face when she lost last year in Paris? She was furious on herself. Well, this time, in Moscow, Julia was prepared to fight – and her technical package placed her above Kostner in the short. On the other hand, the 15-year-old Russian skater still needs improvement when it comes to her program components. So, if you ask me, though I’m pretty sure Julia will be part of the Russian team in Sochi, she doesn’t have yet what it takes for an Olympic medal – I guess she’ll probably be more prepared for 2018 Korea.

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov: not ready yet. The lifts are great, the concept of both of their routines, wonderful – but, at this point, Vera and Yuri are not “wearing” their programs yet; the programs dominate them. She seems too focused, too preoccupied not to miss something – and you do that when you’re not ready, when you’re not at ease with your routines. They have the skills, they have the talent – and I’m sure they’ll improve as Olympics approach.

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov during their short program at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov during their short program at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris

When pair skating and ice dance meet: Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch. I’m a fan of their short program, that’s for sure. And I would have placed them above Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov in the short – but, then again, I’m not a judge. In fact, given their scores at Skate America (208.45 points), I actually had them as the main contenders for the gold in Moscow. In the end, they were third.

Aliona and Robin: is the pain really necessary? It really seems unfair that the Germans have to try the impossible – and by the impossible I mean the throw triple Axel – in order to have a shot at the Olympic gold in Sochi. How did they end up in the situation of having to attempt desperate measures to fill the gap between them and the Russians Volosozhar and Trankov? Their routines used to be very much appreciated by the judges in the last years – when did they lose that aura of intangibility? One thing is sure: as a long time admirer of the Germans, it was hard to see Aliona in pain, in the Kiss and Cry after their short program. And if the triple Axel isn’t there yet I guess they should dump it and stick to their (already) beautiful routines. Of course, this will mean they’ll give up the fight – but health should prevail. I’m sure that after Rostelecom Cup, Aliona, Robin and Ingo Steuer will reassess the entire situation.

Maxim Kovtun: his short program is ready for Sochi. I’ve always felt that Maxim was unlucky not to receive better scores at the first senior Grand Prix he attended: 81.84 points for the short program at Cup of China, a few weeks ago. In homeland Russia, the scores for the SP went through the roof: 92.53 points for a wonderful and determined routine, beautifully choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev, including not one, but two quadruple jumps (one in combination). His flamenco posture, the steps, Tatiana Tarasova embracing Elena Buianova – priceless. Of course, during his free skating, Maxim was exactly the opposite: the pressure, the fatigue, the expectations, the costly set of errors in the beginning (he only managed to hold one quad from those three attempted) turned Maxim into a shadow: his shoulders were down after every mistake; he seemed to have given up long before his program was finished. He lost the fight – and ended up on the second place mostly because of the advantage taken after the short. At the end of Maxim’ free skating, Mrs. Tarasova was still smiling – a sign that she knows how to handle the difficult moment of her student.

Javier Fernandez: those beautiful quads from the last season prove to be his nemesis now. I used to take Javier’s quads for granted. They were beautiful – and he was beautiful doing them. But at this point they seem to have left him – and in Moscow, as in Tokyo, a few weeks ago, the quads weren’t Javi’s allies. “So, that’s what…? Third? You’re lucky”, smiled Brian Orser, his coach, at the end of the Spaniard’ free program, and kicked him friendly on the chest. Indeed, Javier was lucky getting the bronze at Cup of Russia – the overall routine was rather unconvincing. And, unfortunately, Fernandez won’t be entering the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, at the beginning of December. If you ask me, the pause will do him good: at this point, he doesn’t seem prepared for the challenges of the Olympic season. He’ll stay home and work on the quads.

Once again, gold for Tatsuki Machida. The Japanese began the Grand Prix series with a gold medal (at Skate America, at the middle of October) and finished it with another one (in Moscow, at Rostelecom Cup). With those two trophies won, Machida successfully enters the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, alongside other two Japanese skaters: Yuzuru Hanyu and Daisuke Takahashi (recently replaced by another Japanese, the first alternate for the Final, Nobunari Oda; Daisuke Takahashi injured his right leg in practice). The British Eurosport commentator praised Machida for his artistry and power, adding, in a laugh, that “the Japanese are running away with the men’s figure skating”. He’s surely right – and I’m glad he is. The Japanese skaters are to die for – and I’m glad they’ve proved anyone still doubting they have an incredible artistry. Hats off to all of them; they’re extremely talented and their Nationals, at the end of December, will be a World-class event.

Guillaume Cizeron: shocked by his mistakes. To tell you the truth, I expect only good things coming in the future from these two super-talented French skaters, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. At Trophée Eric Bompard, two weeks ago, they were on my short list of highlights – and I would have expected the same thing to happen in Moscow. Well, in Luzhniki arena, Guillaume made some mistakes on the twizzles and didn’t seem to recover. He looked nervous and tense during the rest of the routine and, at the end, he couldn’t hold the final pose – and fell on his bottom. This set of mistakes was definitely a shock to him, to both of them. Bit in spite of the errors caused maybe by too much enthusiasm and freedom in skating, I wouldn’t want him to change a thing in this daring attitude on the ice; I wouldn’t want him skate more cautiously: they both look amazing and he has this wonderful freedom of movement. No way an isolated mistake should drastically change the way they’re approaching their programs.

The young and talented Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard

The young and talented Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard

Artur Gachinski: you really want him to succeed. Let me tell you just that: I’m not a particular fan of Artur’s way of skating, but I do wish all the best to this young skater who seem to have lost confidence in himself. After an enthusiastic bronze at the 2011 Worlds, Mishin’s student started to fall apart – and after every disappointing performance (and there are many of those…) he feels like he wants to point a gun at himself. His free program, on music from the movie “Anna Karenina”, looks really promising – but his skating is just not there. In the end, you hear the train’s whistle and you know Anna is dead – and you wish this young boy will wake up and pick his skating from where he left it in 2011.

Konstantin Menshov: I wouldn’t write him off. The truth is that the 30-year-old Russian has beautiful programs for the Olympic season – and shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to that single Olympic berth that Russia has in the men’s event next year, in Sochi. In Moscow, Menshov was fourth in the end (as it happened last year), receiving also a season best score for his performance: 223.03 points.

Ksenia Monko and Kiril Khaliavin: they are definitely a talent. To tell you the truth, the Russians trained by Alexander Zhulin were on my list of highlights of the ice dancing event in Moscow. Though she stuttered for a second in the short dance, Ksenia and Kiril skated with speed, power and enthusiasm, proving to the home crowd (and to those in front of the TV) they are a couple with a wonderful future. I loved the music for the free dance – a mixture of Rene Aubry and Gaetano Donizetti – and I’ll surely keep an eye on them in the forthcoming seasons.

Ksenia Monko and Kiril Khaliavin at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard, during their short dance

Ksenia Monko and Kiril Khaliavin at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard, during their short dance