The Cup of Russia proved that the skating this season still has as many questions as it does answers.
One thing is for sure, though. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's interpretation of Carmen
for their free dance was as thrilling in Moscow as the one I have been replaying in my mind since seeing it at Skate Canada.
My favourite moment of the whole competition was seeing the camera capture coaching legend Mme. Tatiana Tarasova on her feet at the end of Virtue and Moir's performance
. It confirms for me what I already believe: this is performance art combined with athleticism at its highest level.
Looking down the road, I think that Virtue and Moir's Carmen free dance will be remembered in this generation like the Torvill and Dean masterpiece Bolero was in theirs.
My vote for gutsiest performance goes to ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani.
The Shibutanis had to stop skating part way through their free dance when Alex seemed to have suffered an injury. The rules say that the competitors have three minutes to resume skating in the case of a medical situation. The Shibutanis finished their free dance and remarkably without showing too much pain or noticeably compromising their choreography.
) posted about her brother Alex after the event on her Twitter feed:
"Thank you for your concern. Alex has a strained quadricep. He did his best to fight through a severe muscle spasm that occurred in our FD," she tweeted.
In the women's event, I would have thought the contenders would have been three Grand Prix bronze medallists in Kiira Korpi, Kanako Murakami and Adelina Sotnikova.
I have been led down the garden path before by placing my faith in Korpi who does have a reputation of not always competing well under pressure. Not to mention the fact that Kiira has also been plagued by injuries (like the foot and hip ones that kept her out of the 2012 Worlds).
Putting it all together
At the end of the day, Korpi put it all together. She earned the title with a season's best in the free and a trip to the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia in December.
The most interesting part of the women's event was who else stepped up on to the podium. Agnes Zawadzki is the American national bronze medallist who took third in Moscow, but her teammate Gracie Gold taking the silver was maybe the biggest surprise of all for me.
Gold is the American junior champion who followed that up with a silver medal at her Junior Worlds debut in 2012. There was a lot of hype surrounding her coming into the Grand Prix, but based on her seventh place finish at Skate Canada, I assumed it would take her at least a season of experience as a senior to get a feel for competing. Apparently, she is a quick study as her personal best score and lead after the short and subsequent medal would illustrate.
In the men's event, I had a similar thought. Based on his performances at the Japan Open and then his silver medal at Skate Canada, I thought it would take a bit more time for Patrick Chan to get his groove back. He was solid in the short and then followed it up with the same in the free. Is there room to improve? Yes. Was it great to see Chan back in good competition form? Also yes.
If I could have had my way, I would have loved seeing a bit more consistency between the short and the free programs for the men. For example, Takahiko Kozuka captured the silver on the strength of two third-place performances while Nobunari Oda's second place free skate wasn't enough to overcome an eighth place finish in the short.
Bronze medallist Michal Brezina was lucky this time. His sixth place finish in the short and fourth in the free gave him a slim 1.16 point margin which was enough for a medal.
It would have been very surprising to not have Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov take the pairs title. What was rather shocking was how many mistakes they made along the way. But, the Rostelecom Cup title was not in jeopardy because they are head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
It won't be this easy three weeks from now when they face off against the four-time World champions from Germany Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the Grand Prix Final. It's clear that Volosozhar and Trankov have some work to do.
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