The 2021 Russian Cup Final was officially the culmination of the Russian Cup series which began in September, but in reality, became a final face-off between two or three skaters fighting for one of the last tickets to the World championships in a few weeks. It’s worth noting that skaters won’t be competing under the Russian flag at Worlds due to the CAS decision in response to Russian doping, so they will instead be competing as the *checks notes* “Figure Skating Federation of Russia.” Totally different.
So, who will be representing the Russian skating team that definitely isn’t Russia?
|Anna Shcherbakova||Mikhail Kolyada||Tarsova/Morozov||Stepanova/Bukin|
|Alexandra Trusova||Evgeni Semenenko||Boikova/|
Men – Troika Troubles
Our three contenders here were 2020 European champion Dmitri Aliev, national silver medalist Makar Ignatov, and national bronze medalist Mark Kondratiuk, all of whom struggled mightily throughout the competition. All had major mistakes in the short program and, in an event where they were being hyped as potential world contenders, all ended up in the bottom four after the first segment.
The so-called “troika”–a term more recently and famously used by Russian media to refer to the powerhouse trio of women skaters Alena Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova, and Alexandra Trusova–continued to struggle in the free skate with falls, steps out of jumps, pops, and repetitions that severely hampered their tech scores.
In the end, Aliev finished highest of the three and walked away with a bronze medal, but it wasn’t enough. Instead, the final Worlds assignment has been given to this event’s winner, Evgeni Semenenko. The seventeen-year-old wasn’t really seen as a contender here after finishing eleventh at senior nationals, but two strong skates this weekend coupled with his junior national title earlier in the month gave him the best case to get the spot.
Semenenko is a relative unknown internationally and will probably get scored lower at Worlds than he has domestically, so he will need to put together two squeaky-clean programs to help the Russian team secure the three Olympic men’s spots they’re aiming for.
Although disappointing for Aliev, ending his season now will hopefully give him an opportunity to recover for next season after a year battling coronavirus and other assorted injuries. The loss can hopefully also inspire the other men who missed out to work on improving their consistency if they hope to fight for an Olympic berth next season, however many end up being available.
Women – Still in the Game
Despite a packed field with all of the top juniors, the real fight here was between Alena Kostornaia and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva for the third spot at Worlds. After the first segment, Tuktamysheva had the clear advantage. Despite a few stumbles in her short program, a botched combination from Kostornaia was enough to build a seven-point gap heading into the free.
Mentally, Tuktamysheva appeared to have the edge as well. Kostornaia has had a very rough season, switching coaches at the last minute, facing a bevy of worrying health problems, and even changing both of her programs before this event. The mistake in her short program seemed to really shake her confidence, with tears in the Kiss and Cry and saying she had no chance the next day.
Luckily, she proved herself wrong. Kostornaia delivered a mostly clean free skate and seemed much more sure of herself on the ice. It was clear that she is still suffering from some lingering effects of coronavirus, lacking energy in the step sequence and breathing heavily at the end of her program, but her reaction was much more positive, seeming content with what she had accomplished, if not overjoyed.
Tuktamysheva, on the other hand, was so excited with her free skate performance that she stumbled on the final spin of her program after going in with too much energy. The twenty-four-year-old stepped out of her second triple Axel, but otherwise skated a very strong program and got the nod for the Worlds team, meaning she will return to the World Championships for the first time since winning the event six years ago.
Best of the Rest
In pairs, Mishina/Galliamov won as expected, but Pavliuchenko/Khodykin put up a stellar free skate that really could have put them in contention for the Worlds spot if Mishina/Galliamov had collapsed. Luckily Mishina/Galliamov had a strong skate as well to clinch their Worlds assignment, so we were treated to two outstanding performances from two very promising young teams.
Meanwhile, Sinitsina and Katsalapov easily won the ice dance competition, returning to their free dance from last season which won them the European title, which suggests that they’re making a serious run at winning the World Championship in the absence of Papadakis and Cizeron.
With Russian Cup Final ending and the final opportunities for skaters to achieve technical minimums wrapped up, we’re getting very close to having a full Worlds lineup confirmed, and just in time since the official entry deadline is the day of writing, March 1st. Stay tuned here for full previews of the World Championships starting March 24th.