Road To The Olympic Games

Figure Skating·Analysis

New records, new faces make for exciting times in figure skating

At the beginning of each skating season, the prospect of what might happen seems so clear. However, once the competitions start, the reality sets in and skater projections can sometimes go out the window.

Papadakis, Cizeron rewrite the record books while Gogolev leads the youth movement

Junior skating sensation Stephen Gogolev, 14, centre, placed second in the senior men's event, joins his fellow competitors as they applaud the crowd at the end of the exhibition gala event at the 2019 Canadian National Skating Championships in Saint John, N.B. on Jan. 20, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

At the beginning of each skating season, the prospect of what might happen seems so clear. However, once the competitions start, the reality sets in and my skater projections can sometimes go out the window.

A new set of rules and scoring parameters launched at the beginning of this season allowed more latitude in the evaluation of elements in all disciplines. This also meant that world record scores had to be re-set to reflect the changes, and previous records were relegated to the history books.

As events got underway, virtually every skater ended up in the record books, but once the top competitors started their seasons, the events and the records got a little more serious. The most serious of all? Ice dancers and four-time world champions and Olympic silver medallists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

With every outing this season, Papadakis and Cizeron established new world records in the rhythm and free dances and total scores on their way to capturing the 2019 world title. This winning streak culminated in another world record free dance score at the World Team Trophy and a record setting 30 perfect-10 scores in program components, out of a possible 45.

WATCH | Papadakis & Cizeron make history at worlds:

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron set a new world record free dance score of 135.82 points at the ISU World Team Trophy event in Fukuoka, Japan. 8:04

Papadakis and Cizeron have come as close to perfection as a dance team can get — they received 135.82 points for their free dance out of a possible 137.59 for their routine, as calculated under this season's rules. Truly remarkable.

There are some people who might attribute this to scoring inflation, but I would like to attribute this outstanding scoring streak to one simple thing: talent.

New wave has arrived

The next thing that took me by surprise this season that probably shouldn't have: youth over experience. Everywhere we looked this season, there were relative newcomers on the senior national and international stages making their presence felt.

In my opinion, many of the youngsters were not simply jumping their way on to the podiums, they had some skills to offer artistically as well.

Is this Stephen Gogolev the face of Canada's figure skating future? (File/The Associated Press)

In Canada, the name Stephen Gogolev jumps to mind. Gogolev, the Junior Grand Prix Final champion, took top spot in the senior men's short program at Canadian nationals and eventually claimed the national silver medal.

Although too young to compete at the recent world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, Gogolev has piqued international interest in a way that we haven't seen since a young Patrick Chan burst on to the international scene. Gogolev has that same kind of promise.

WATCH | Gogolev took early lead at nationals:

Stephen Gogolev edged Keegan Messing for the short program lead at the Canadian National Figure Skating Championships. 0:27

The same story of youthful exuberance winning over a measured body of work happened in the U.S., where 13-year-old Alysa Liu landed two triple Axels, a first for an American woman at nationals, on her way to becoming the youngest woman to claim the senior women's title. Interesting to note that this victory was over some women nearly twice her age.

Nowhere was the dominance of the adolescent phenom more apparent than in the ranks of the Russian senior women at their national championships.

Anna Shcherbakova, and Alexandra Trusova, were on the podium in first and second place, and ahead of Russian superstars Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva. The 2018 Olympic gold and silver medallists ended up in fifth and seventh place, respectively.

Neither young national medallist was eligible for worlds, but with quads in their arsenals, it has the making for interesting competition once they get there.

'Big ticket' jumps on the rise?

The women's competition has offered up another surprise: the number of 'big ticket' jumps like quads and triple Axels.

There were a couple of firsts this season. Russia's Alexandra Trusova landing a quad Lutz at a fall 2018 junior Grand Prix event, a jump that until then had only ever been performed by men and not even that often. In the senior ranks, Kazakhstan's Elizabet Tursynbaeva landed a quad Salchow on her way to collecting a silver medal at worlds.

Tursynbaeva's quad was a first for a woman in senior ISU competition.

WATCH | Tursynbaeva makes history at worlds:

Elizabet Tursynbaeva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the world championships when she opened her routine with a quad salchow. The 19-year-old Kazakh finished second with 224.76 points. 0:56

My prediction? I think quads and triple Axels will jump from anomaly status to become the norm for women in the not-too-distant future.

For me, figure skating has finally found its feet again. We no longer need to compare what's happening today to what took place in the past. Skaters are continuing to push the technical boundaries in all disciplines, all the while refining their artistic voices. It's an exciting time.

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