For its home Grand Prix event, Russia is bringing three of its best female skaters to the table. Russian ladies swept the podium at Rostelecom Cup / Cup of Russia four times in its 20 years of existence, most recently last year, when Elena Radionova, Evgenia Medvedeva, and Adelina Sotnikova took the top three spots. This week, the flags that fly at the end of the ladies' event may look very similar to the ones from last year. In no way is this a lock, though, because there are at least three skaters who also can contend for the podium if one or more of the Russian women falters.
2016 Rostelecom Cup Preview
Unofficial hashtag: #CoR16 #GPFigure
GOLD Anna Pogorilaya RUS - Ever since her season-redeeming bronze medal performance at Russian Nationals last year, Pogorilaya has been a different skater. Some even questioned her remaining on the World team after another set of Pogofalls(TM) that she took at Europeans, but she brushed all the doubters aside with a tremendous performance at Worlds that gave her the bronze. She comes into this season looking confident and really embracing her place as one of the best in the world. And she will take that all the way to the top of the podium this week.
SILVER Elena Radionova RUS - Rostelecom will be our first look at the 2015 World bronze medalist, whose surprise inconsistencies last season kept her from being at her best. But we saw her fight and her grit, both of which got her out of the competitive ladies' field in Russia and back to Worlds. We will see where her consistency and preparation are this week - it will certainly determine whether she will have a place on the podium.
BRONZE Julia Lipnitskaia RUS - The last time we saw Lipnitskaia skate was at Ondrej Nepela, where she put down a solid short but a messy free. She had to withdraw from Skate America after reaggravating an old injury, so it will be interesting to see where she stands here. One thing is for sure, she has rediscovered some of her old jumps - but perhaps her biggest obstacle at this point is her stamina through the free skate. It's possible that we will see her with a superb short only to be followed up with mistakes in the free.
4. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ - At the top of the list of potential spoilers of the Russian sweep is Tursynbaeva, who started her season completely out of sorts (and ill) with a 7th at US Classic. She recovered at Autumn Classic a couple weeks later to take the bronze, and it wouldn't be a surprise if she came back this week to really pose a strong challenge for the podium in Moscow. She has also been showing off quad salchows in training, so you better believe she's training hard.
5. Courtney Hicks USA - Normally, I'm a bit more bullish on Hicks' chances at the podium. After all, she beat both Mao Asada and Ashley Wagner last season at NHK Trophy to win the silver there. That said, I'm working with my one data point on her this season, which was a disappointing sixth at Finlandia Trophy where she didn't break 150 in total score. At her best, she's absolutely a podium contender.
6. Zijun Li CHN - LI has definitely seen her advance in the skating world stall over the past couple of seasons. Underrotations are partly to blame, but there's just not been a visible transformation in her skating since her 7th-place debut at Worlds in 2013.
7. Nicole Rajicova SVK - Coming off a career-best season where she finished 13th at Worlds, Rajicova is looking for that next step up. She added a triple toe-triple toe to her repertoire late last season, and will need it for a top half finish here. She started off her season with a fifth-place finish at Ondrej Nepela.
8. Yura Matsuda JPN - 12th at Japan Nationals last season, Matsuda started this season well with a win at Asian Open, though that was way early in the season. She also has an unorthodox combination to watch for - a double axel-triple toe-triple loop in her free skate.
9. Roberta Rodeghiero ITA - Ninth at Skate America two weeks ago, Rodeghiero will be looking to be more consistent this week. She definitely has the goods to be in the top six in Moscow this week.
10. Kanako Murakami JPN - A tenth place at Skate America was not the way the four-time Japanese medalist wanted to start. But it speaks to the issues she's been facing the past few seasons - lower difficulty and consistent underrotations. Tough to see her get too much higher this week.
11. Anastasia Galustyan ARM - Galustyan was ninth at Autumn Classic a few weeks ago. Rostelecom Cup will mark her Grand Prix debut.
12. Angelina Kuchvalska LAT - One of the more consistent skaters last season, Kuchvalska had a tough time even getting her jumps right in practice at Skate America.