2019 Russian Nationals, Ladies’ Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

CAUTION: TOO MUCH TALENT FOR ONE EVENT

Since I started watching skating five years ago, Russian Nationals has always been one of my favorite events of the year. But this ladies’ competition was the most surprising, nerve-racking ladies’ event I’ve seen in a long time, and left me with a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions. Without further ado, here are my long and rambling thoughts.

Anna Shcherbakova:

Confession: Until this event, I had never seen a full performance of Anna Shcherbakova. In general, I don’t really watch juniors much. But I like what I’m seeing from her. She’s graceful, and her spins and spirals remind me so much of my darling Yulia Lipnitskaya that my heart hurt. Which is why I’m terrified for her.

It’s truly amazing that she has a quad lutz. But she’s incredibly tiny, and her current jumping technique is not going to survive puberty. There’s a huge difference between doing a quad at 14 when you’re a toothpick and doing a quad at 20 after your body has fully developed. I do think it’s possible for her to continue doing quads after puberty, but it won’t be easy. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had a triple axel when she was only 12 or 13, then couldn’t land it again for several years, and now she is starting to land them again. There will definitely be several years when Anna won’t be able to land those quads, and only time will tell if she’ll get them back. I do like her skating and it’d be a shame if we don’t get to see her develop as an athlete because she peaked too early. As for now, congratulations on winning Nationals, and good luck at Junior Worlds.

Alexandra Trusova:

Alexandra Trusova is a tiny spitfire. She doesn’t have the refinement of Shcherbakova or Kostornaia, but she’s fierce and she gets the job done. I would love to see her doing some kind of kick-butt programs like Tomb Raider or (wait for it)…The Hunger Games.

You knew that was coming.

Theoretically, if she can land both quads clean, she will be untouchable. But once again…puberty. I wish we lived in a world where we could celebrate the beginning of a long career, instead of betting on how long it’ll be until their glory is over. I wish we could just enjoy the awesome skating without worrying about their long-term health. But this is the direction the sport has gone, and I don’t like it.

Alena Kostornaia:

Alena Kostornaia is incredibly soft on her skates; she seems to float across the ice like she has wings. There’s just such an angelic purity to her skating that I can’t get enough of. She’s still very young, but she has a lovely musicality you don’t often see in juniors. If (and that is a big if) she can hold onto her jumps until seniors, I think she’ll be one of those skaters you can really enjoy watching.

I know people are talking about her training a triple axel, but I honestly don’t think she needs it. She earns high PCS and GOE on every element and almost won the whole event without it. The risk isn’t worth it, IMO.

Stanislava Konstantinova:

Okay, guys, say it with me: Stop hating Stanislava Konstantinova. Does she get away with underrotations when she shouldn’t? Yes. Is it her fault? No. Personally, I don’t mind her skating and am not opposed to seeing her on the team for Europeans. She’s not my favorite Russian lady, but she’s definitely not my least favorite. I just wish her free program was a little more creative.

Side note: her dresses this year are stunning. The black short program one is chic and classy, and the purple one for the free skate reminds me of iris petals.

Alina Zagitova:

My heart breaks for Alina. She’s trying her best, but she’s slipping. The short program was fine – a little tight, but solid. I know everyone was bashing the music cuts so hard at the beginning of the year, but I don’t think they’re that bad. Then…I don’t know what happened in the free skate, but she just looked so out of it. Between the growth spurts, the rise of juniors wielding quads, the pressure of being the Olympic champion, and oh yes the abusive coach, I think it’s pretty clear things are not the way they should be. I wasn’t a fan of her skating last year, but now I can’t help rooting for her to somehow rise above this.

Sofia Samodurova:

I love this girl! She has sparkle, flair, and she can jump – what’s not to love? Look, I sat through 18 short programs and 18 free skates (not to mention the 3794184815 Japanese ladies!), and Sofia was like a breath of fresh air. Can I just say how much I enjoy a ladies’ free skate that’s actually FUN? I think she was lowballed on TES, but it doesn’t matter – she’s going to Europeans!

I’m also thrilled to say that her jumps look solid – thanks Mishin for teaching a technique that she can grow with. They aren’t the highest jumps I’ve ever seen, but they’re consistent and she makes the rotation. She’s only 16, so there might still be some body changes, but I have more faith in her jumps than the teensy-tiny girls who don’t have the proper technique.

Next season, I could really see her doing something playful and sassy like Chicago or even a Bollywood program. She completely breaks the mold and I can’t say enough good things about her.

Evgenia Medvedeva:

Evgenia heard my prayers and surprised me with a new short program to Tosca. It’s so much better than “Orange Colored Sky”; she looked much more like herself. Unfortunately, the jumps were still quite problematic. In the free skate, she fought back and while it’s definitely not what she was looking for, I think there was a lot she can be proud of.

I actually think it’s best that she’s not going to Europeans (and likely not Worlds). She needs time to adjust to this coaching change. Brian is completely reworking her technique, and those things don’t pay off overnight. Let’s just hope there’s still an opening in the sport by the time she’s ready. Hopefully she can follow the example of Tuktamysheva and stick around for a while.

And can I just say she has the best dresses of the event? She’s growing from an adorable young girl into a gorgeous woman, and I think her skating is evolving along with her.

Anna Tarusina:

Anna had two very solid skates here. I like her feisty SP, even though I’m puzzled why she is skating a tango in a blue dress (copying Piper Gilles, I guess?). I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of how the free skate goes from somber Concierto de Aranjuez to a wild Spanish street party, but she skated well, and her free skate dress is pretty so I won’t complain.

Anastasiia Gubanova:

Ever since my friend forced me to watch her iconic Romeo and Juliet program at 2016 JGPF, I’ve been a low key fan of this girl, and I’ll still never forgive the Russian fed for dropping her after one bad skate. She’s a beautiful skater, and while her programs this year aren’t quite as good as her Romeo and Juliet for me, I like what I’m seeing. If there’s any way she can get Grand Prix assignments next year, please make it happen.

Anastasia Gulyakova:

I like her because she reminds me of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (Mishin’s ladies for the win!). Her spins are very nice. But please, get rid of the lady wailing Malagueña in the short program – it sounds like Tatiana Tarasova having a freakout.

Viktoria Vasilieva:

She’s a good skater, has awesome spins, and she did very well here. I didn’t get any strong emotions from watching her – positive or negative. But there’s something about young girls skating to “I put a spell on you” that looks a little uncomfortable. Just sayin’.

Alena Leonova:

A few years ago, I used to think Alena was crazy to keep skating as the stampede of juniors came down on her. But she truly loves this sport and there’s something so beautiful in that. And she doesn’t look like some out-of-shape old lady dragging herself around the ice; she had two very strong performances and I think she can be very proud.

Anastasia Tarakanova:

The short program did not go well, but I admire her guts. I felt so bad for her in the kiss-and-cry – I don’t know what those coaches were saying to her, but it didn’t sound good. That’s why I was so proud when she pulled off such a good free skate! I like the moody, edgy version of Moonlight Sonata; way to go for reinventing a warhorse. My favorite moment was when she did the Sotnikova camel spin. A shame her PCS are so low though; the judges were stingy.

Polina Tsurskaya:

I feel so bad for Polina. Everything just looked off. What happened to the cool girl who was skating to Game of Thrones last year? It just seems like her heart isn’t in it anymore, and with all the health problems, I don’t blame her. But she has an incredible amount of talent and it breaks my heart to see her go like this.

Maria Talalaykina:

What a performer! Her layback and Biellmann spins are the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Usually I say that the road to hell is paved with Bollywood programs, but hers was fine, and how can you not love a free skate to The Greatest Showman? Well done.

Maria Sotskova:

Beautiful, graceful Maria of last year, what happened? I guess juggling skating and college isn’t quite working. It’s too bad because this year she was finally stepping out of her comfort zone and doing a fun SP. I hope she has success in the acting career she’s pursuing – she’d make a beautiful film star.

Elizaveta Nugumanova:

This girl is so elegant and beautiful to watch. Her spins are simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, the jumps in the FS had other ideas. I’m not a fan of the SP to “Smile”; in general, these kind of programs put me to sleep. But I like her and I hope I see more from her next season. Famous last words.

Daria Panenkova:

Dear Judges,

Stop robbing Daria at every competition.

Yes, I know she is going through puberty and struggled with some of the jumps, but there is no excuse for these lousy PCS! I delusionally hope she can get the jumps back in a few years, get the support from the fed she needs, and slay.

And enough from those nasty people who dared to fat-shame her – she’s not overweight, she just has a curvier body type and there’s nothing wrong with that. The mentality of figure skating lately is “be skinny enough to float in the air”, but we need to start saying “be strong enough to launch yourself up”. Think about that for a second.

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RAPID-FIRE HOT TAKES:

Favorite moment: Sofia Samodurova almost bursting into tears of relief after the FS score came up.

Skater crush of the event: They’re all gorgeous, but Konstantinova is 100% my type, don’t @ me.

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Best-Dressed Awards:

1. Medvedeva’s SP dress

2. Samodurova’s SP dress

3. Konstantinova’s FS dress

4. Medvedeva’s FS dress

5. Zagitova’s FS dress

—-

WRAP-UP:

Phew! That was probably the longest review I’ve ever written (18 skaters!), and I still haven’t shared my thoughts on the Japanese ladies! I’ll try my best to get that review up in a timely fashion – all while juggling Christmas! Lots of love to all my readers and followers on social media. I really appreciate all of you and your enthusiasm for figure skating. Happy holidays, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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