Happy 2017! Here's a bonus analysis for you as we await the busy few months ahead that are Canadian Nationals, US Nationals, Europeans, Four Continents, Asian Winter Games, World Championships, and World Team Trophy! And, of course, by "bonus" I mean I was going to post this last week but waited until the new year to spread the joy.
As has been the case for the past few years, the ladies event had a super set of often difficult, sometimes dazzling programs. Evgenia Medvedeva won as expected, but Alina Zagitova stole the show as the first-time ringer. Mikhail Kolyada cemented his status as the top Russian man, and a couple of veteran teams won gold in pairs and dance. Here's a look back at what stood out from Russian Nationals.
All of ninth at least year's Russian Junior Championships, Zagitova has been one of the surprises of the season, rolling through the Junior Grand Prix and winning the Final there, and then skating two squeaky clean programs at Russian Nationals to take the silver behind Medvedeva. She did it with confidence and a rarely-seen triple lutz-triple loop. At 14 years and just over 7 months, she is not eligible for Europeans or Worlds this year, but she will be next year. And you better believe she will come into next season ready to disrupt.
More PCS woes
It's basically reverse of the story we saw at Japan Nationals. Whereas in Japan, we saw component scores not marked as high as they should've been for Marin Honda, in Russia, we saw component scores marked higher than they should've been for Maria Sotskova. Sotskova had the third highest PCS of the ladies free skate, above the likes of Elena Radionova and just a point below Anna Pogorilaya.
Compare that to a month ago at Grand Prix Final, where Sotskova and Pogorilaya skated very similar free skates and Pogorilaya was over three points ahead in components. (Radionova had multiple mistakes in hers at GPF, which doesn't provide an apples-to-apples comparison.) If you look at the two programs as skated at Russian Nationals, it's tough to see how they can be as close to each other in performance, composition, and skating skills as they were. The end result was Sotskova taking bronze over Pogorilaya by four points, which could have been avoided with Pogorilaya - skating on an injured knee - not making underrotation errors.
Stolbova/Klimov checks one off
It was not their best showing in the free skate, but Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov had a successful first stab at competition this season. And considering their injury issues, we didn't expect 100% from them - they watered down their side-by-sides in the free skate and made a few errors - but it was good enough to keep them just ahead of Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, who skated their best short program ever to lead but had enough errors and base value reductions in the free to fall to silver.
One thing that Stolbova/Klimov's short program loss does highlight is their weakness. And it's not so much a weakness of theirs as it's the relative strengths of others. Their strength is in their basics, the complexity of their programs, and their side-by-sides. But of the top pairs in the world, their triple twist barely registers and their throws are not as huge and airy as the others'. (It's important to note that they did give their throws an extra umph earlier last season but it threw off their timing.) And so that's to say that they have even less room for error than the other pairs, and that will be a recurring narrative from now through the Olympics as the top pairs reconvene.
Seventh place wasn't what three-time and defending champ Maxim Kovtun was looking for in the short. For the past couple of seasons, he has made it a habit to land a quad and then let the rest of his program implode. But his free skate was the strongest he's had in recent memory, and it salvaged his Nationals with a bronze medal. Now on to Europeans, where he will be looking to salvage his season with a strong skate to make his case for one of the two Worlds spots for the Russian men.