by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The ladies competition at the 2020 Cup of Russia promised a very high level because of the big number of excellent teenage ladies scheduled to compete; but the real competition kept this promise because only the top three gave really world class performances.
The winner with 223.39 points was none of the teenage ladies but 23-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from St. Petersburg. She had been European and World Champion in 2015, but has never competed in European or World Championships since. When she saw that she has no more chance of winning in her country because of the teenagers with quads, she learnt the triple Axel at the age of 21 years, landed it in many competitions and has mastered the quad toe loop for half a year, but this jump until now only in practice. For nine years, she has been training with Alexei Mishin.
She opened her short program to the Adagio from the ballet “Spartacus“ by Aram Khatchaturian with a very good triple Axel, but stumbled on the triple flip which she had planned in a combination with the triple toe loop. Later the performed a good triple Lutz and added a double toe loop, therefore she had a combination. The three spins and the step sequence were good, but had no very high speed. Her components had an average of 8.7 and she sat second with four points behind Alena Kostornaia.
“The mistake was unexpected, because the combination has been working well,” Tuktamysheva commented. “But something was off in the warm-up and I started to think about the technique too much. It is better to switch off your mind and trust your body. Overall I am pleased with the performance. It was one of the best short programs this season so far if you don’t count the mistake on the flip. During the quarantine, we trained online with our choreographer and paid a lot of attention to physical training. So we were in a good shape when practices were finally allowed. Now, I need to keep up and show my best at Russian Nationals.”
The first element in her Japanese-style free program to “Chronicles of a Mischievous Bird” by Bkhima Iunusov was a good combination of triple Axel and double toe loop, followed by a second triple Axel with step-out. Five other very good triples followed, including a combination of double Axel, triple toe loop and double toe loop plus first class spins and steps. Her speed was higher than in previous years because of her good shape. Her components were around 8.9.
Later she explained, “I was not confident of victory as the competition was very strong. It was a nice surprise and a nice ending to this Grand Prix. It was a great atmosphere and great support. The music keeps building and it is such a rare chance now to perform in front of an audience. This music choice was spontaneous. We didn’t plan to use Japanese tunes. Yuri Smekalov, the choreographer of this program, suggested this music. We found it very creative and deep. It's not easy to find inspiration nowadays. I applaud all the athletes who keep skating and showing their best. It's hard to stay motivated when there's so much uncertainty. My quad toe loop is not stable yet, but I plan to get it ready for Russian Nationals.“
Reigning European Champion Alena Kostornaia (17) left coach Eteri Tutberidze in July 2020 and now works with Evgeni Plushenko. She took the lead in a flawless short program to two music pieces of U.S. singer Billie Eilish (“No Time to Die“ and “You Should See Me in a Crown“). The elegant skater executed seven excellent elements, including a double (but no longer a triple) Axel. GOEs of +4 dominated and her components reached 9.4.
She said, “I really like Billie Eilsh, her voice and the ideas in her music. I already skated to her song “Lovely“ and I wanted to try something else. The songs we chose for this season fit me even better. We're planning to include the triple Axel in future competitions. I hope to show my best at Russian Nationals. I really like training with Evgeni (Plushenko). It’s a different approach to practices than I had before, it’s calmer.”
An outstanding double Axel was her first element in the free skate to three music pieces of Abel Korzeniowski, choreographed by Canadian Shae-Lynn Bourne. Only four triple jumps and two spins were very good, but the Lutz a bit under-rotated, the second flip and the Salchow under-rotated and one spin only had a basic level, therefore she dropped to second place with 220.78 points. She commented, “I knew that Lisa (Tuktamysheva) had skated very well as I watched her while I was waiting at the boards for my turn. Obviously you need jumps like the triple Axel and quads to compete at the highest level so it is in my plans. I tried to show everything but I forgot some details in my program. I need more practice to fix it. I wanted to work with Shae-Lynn Bourne for a long time, and I was so happy when I found out that it’s possible, even just online. I really enjoyed working with her. We also had practices on the ice via video call. It was unusual for me to train in English language, I had to learn names of the steps. I really needed this experience.“
The bronze medal for Anastasiia Guliakova (199.03 points), a student of Alexei Mishin and seventh at Russian Nationals a year ago, was a surprise. In the short program to “Indiana Jones and the Arabian Nights“ by The Piano Guys and to “Sheherezade“ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov she performed six very good elements, only her triple Lutz was nearly under-rotated. In the free program to two music pieces by Lola Blanc, only two triple jumps were clean, but four others more or less under-rotated. “When I saw my score“, she commented, “I did not think it would be enough to be on the podium. So I am very happy now.”
“Quad Queen“ Alexandra Trusova (16), who was the favorite of this competition, did not win any medal but had to settle for fourth place with 198.93 points. Like Kostornaia she went from the Tutberidze school to Plushenko in the summer. This former Olympic champion was an excellent skater but still is a beginner as a coach because he seems not to have prepared two of his students (Trusova and Kovalev) mentally for the Grand Prix. In the short, Trusova missed the triple Axel which was downgraded and the triple flip was near an under-rotation. The other five elements were very good. She said, “I really like training with Evgeni and the whole team. The atmosphere is very friendly. And I also like training with the kids. I'm the oldest athlete in the group and it's so fun to practice with the little ones.“
For the free, she had announced four quads, but fell on the quad Salchow, fell on the quad Lutz, fell on the toe loop and near the end also on a triple Lutz. Her second quad toe loop was shaky and under-rotated. Only three triples were convincing and therefore she dropped to fourth place. Her points for performance were too high after all these mistakes.
Elizaveta Nugumanova came as an alternate for world champion Evgenia Medvedeva who had returned from Brian Orser to Eteri Tutberidze in the summer, but suffers from a back injury now. Nugumanova is a former Mishin student, now trains with Evgeni Rukavitsin and came on fifth position with 191.52 points. Six short program elements were excellent, but the second loop in her unusual combination of two triple loops was under-rotated. In the free, four triples were clean, but two had no full rotation.
Eva-Lotta Kiibus from Estonia placed sixth, earning 186.00 points. She had won the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September. She began her short program with a very good combination of two triple toe loops, but fell on the triple Lutz. In her free, six of her seven triple jumps were more or less clean. The 2019 European Champion Sofia Samodurova, another Mishin student, is seventh with 184.81 points. Her short program was almost faultless. In the free, she performed only three good triple jumps, but missed a Lutz and popped a flip. Viktoria Safonova from Belarus finished on eighth place with 184.57 points. After a good but not spectacular short program, five triple jumps in the free were good, but she popped a Lutz.
Ekaterina Ryabova from Azerbaijan, another Plushenko student came ninth with 167.85 points. She made technical mistakes in her short program and under-rotated no less than five jumps in the free. Alina Urushadze from Georgia ended up on tenth and last place with 150.68 points. In her short program, two jumps did not work, in her free even five.
European silver medalist Anna Shcherbakova withdrew before the short program citing illness. Anastasia Galustyan from Armenia withdrew because of back problems after a short program with three almost under-rotated jumping elements. Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova pauses this season, but performed in the Exhibition Gala.