2018 Rostelecom Cup Pairs Review: The Amazons Are Here

WHAT’S UP, WHAT’S UP, IT’S ROSTELECOM CUP! As a fan of Russian skaters, Rostelecom has always been one of my favorite Grand Prix events. You’re bound to see your favorite Russians either skating or sitting in the stands. This year, there was a great pairs lineup, and as always, there were some very crazy things, both good and bad.

First off, I vote we change the name of this discipline from “Pair Skating” to “Fierce Amazon Women of Legend, Saving the World and Looking Dang Good While Doing It”. I mean, seriously, these pair skaters are superheroes. Move over, Gal Gadot!

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Also, huge thank you to the camera crew who set it up so we had great shots of the side-by-side spins! It’s usually so hard to check the synchronization when they’re going so fast, but this time the cameras caught the skaters from the side, so I could see exactly what was going on.

My heart goes out to Deanna Stellato. This program is smoldering hot when they skate it clean; they have such a striking chemistry in this tango. She fell so hard on that throw I was honestly surprised she even got up, but then I remembered she’s Deanna Stellato and not just some mere mortal. I applaud them for still trying to keep the program going, but it was a little late. In the end they had to withdraw from the free because she was ill with food poisoning. Um, let’s just think about that for a second. She was attempting triple jumps while she had FOOD POISONING. Like, most people with food poisoning are puking into a sink, not doing elite level figure skating.

I guess Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc felt so bad for their countrymen that they couldn’t do a clean short program either. Everything was going so well – and then the throw simply did not happen. But two seconds later they were back in the game, selling the heck out of the program, and you could almost forget the mistake. The program is fun and brings back fond memories of Savchenko/Massot. But a little tip: I think Ashley should wear a gold or silver dress; the pink is a little light for her. In the FS, they put up a good fight, but you can never trust an American pair who appears to have good side-by-side jumps because it can’t last forever.

Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor have great elements, just not enough chemistry to pull off a program like “Never Tear Us Apart”. Harley needs to realize that he’s throwing a tiny girl with a heartbeat and breakable bones, not a baseball! He throws poor Ekaterina so hard it’s a miracle she doesn’t crack her head, but somehow she holds onto those jumps for dear life and looks good doing it. The free skate, however, was just a hot mess and sometimes these things happen. I definitely think they need to go back to the drawing board on some things.

Attention: Alisa Efimova finally landed her salchow and that’s all that matters in this world. The short program is still one of my favorites this season and it was great to see it close to clean. There are so many avant-garde programs out there but so few pairs who can actually pull it off, and Efimova/Korovin are one of them who can. I just wish Alexander could show a little more star power – buddy, your partner is outdoing you! Alas, no great short program goes unpunished, and she struggled with the side-by-side jumps in the free. But I’d rather not think about that.

If you read my blog post on the Grand Prix of Helsinki, you might remember how much I love Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer. (Hint: They’re the Austrian pair I wouldn’t shut up about!). The whole short program, minus a tiny bobble on the death spiral, was a dream. It’s beautiful in a quiet way. And then the FS. Oh good lord. Adele + clean jumps + beautiful costumes = very happy fangirl. They looked so good out there, I would’ve given them the bronze over Pavliuchenko/Khodykin. But the world ain’t meant to be fair. I was shocked to see Bruno Massot in the kiss-and-cry; I had no idea he was helping them! (I see now that they’ve been working with him since summer, but I missed the post).

So many Russian pairs split up before even skating a senior event. Why couldn’t this be the story of Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin? She is a beautiful fairy with loads of potential, but he looks big and clumsy on the ice. The short program is beautiful, but the FS has me scratching my head – what’s with the 500 music cuts, why is there no sparkle to the choreo, and was that a ringing phone? It wasn’t a great program when they were landing things at the Grand Prix of Helsinki, and it looked worse with the mistakes here. However, they’re getting the job done, so I guess I’ll just sit back and watch “Beauty and the Beast” do their thing.

Della Monica/Guarise looked SO good in the short! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them skate better. Even the side-by-side spins were perfect – they moved literally as one person. And Matteo deserves points just for being irresistibly charming – am I right? Props to them for laying down a fairly clean FS and making it to their first Grand Prix Final! I’ve said it before – I’m a huge fan of the Tristan and Iseult soundtrack and I’m a huge fan of this pair, so nothing but good things to say!

Tarasova/Morozov’s SP isn’t the masterpiece of the century, but they skated it so fast and sharp that I enjoyed it. They looked like they were having fun out there, or at least as much fun as you can have when you’re flying through the air like maniacs. One complaint: I don’t like Vladimir’s new shirt, it’s like a metallic candy wrapper and distracts from Evgenia’s stunning dress. So I was starting to think “Okay, we’ll have at least one nice drama-free pair!”. Then Evgenia literally split her chin open in the morning practice, got dragged off the ice to the hospital, and came back to compete. I was terrified out of my wits and just sat there completely numb, panicking. And then…they won. It wasn’t their best performance in their life, but it was more than good enough. The music is beautiful and their skating skills are first class. My only objection: why do the judges close their eyes when she has a bad landing on a throw jump? Her hands were clearly touching the ice on those throws, but the judges literally gave positive 2’s and 3’s as if she was landing it clean. But it’s nothing new, and since the girl literally got stitches a few hours before the event, I say “congratulations and please stay ahead of Zabiiako/Enbert as long as you can”.

Now I’m going to talk a little about the insane toughness of female pair skaters, and you’re going to listen. I’ve heard so many people say that Evgenia doesn’t have what it takes because she’s a smiley, happy girl and doesn’t make “diva” faces. But if you still think she’s not cut out for this sport after skating with a stitched chin, then I will give you a map to a very hot place. All of these skaters are warriors! You don’t need to have a game face to be a force. Okay, rant over, but I see a lot of unnecessary hate for this team, and I’m sick of it. If it’s something concrete, like how they get away with messy throw jumps, then you can call them out. But just hating a pair because they’re nice people? That’s twisted.

This leads me to point No. 2: what is wrong with this sport that we allow tiny women to throw themselves headfirst into constant danger and call it an art? (All while looking gorgeous!). I love pairs, but after this event I’m sorely tempted to talk to the ISU. Figure skating in general is a risky sport, but pairs in particular has been pushed to an insane level, and I’m not crazy about it.

Anyways, that’s my wrap-up on Pairs. Stay tuned for my recap on The Judges’ Table coming soon, and who knows, I might just drop a review of ladies’ if I’m in a good mood. Until next time, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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