It's holiday tradition! The Russian Figure Skating Championships will be greeting us this week from St. Petersburg. Even without two-time champ Evgenia Medvedeva in the field, it is going to be a very exciting event in all disciplines. Even though the team for the Olympics will likely not be announced after this competition, it will definitely give us a good sense of who the locks and the maybes will be going into Europeans. Here's a look at how I think the competition will pan out this week.
Russian Championships schedule
- Thursday, December 21, 2017
- Men's short: 3:00 a.m. PT / 6:00 a.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. St. Petersburg / 8:00 p.m. Tokyo
- Pairs short: 5:50 a.m. PT / 8:50 a.m. ET / 4:50 p.m. St. Petersburg / 10:50 p.m. Tokyo
- Short dance: 9:30 a.m. PT / 12:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. St. Petersburg / 2:30 a.m. (12/22) Tokyo
- Friday, December 22, 2017
- Ladies short: 3:00 a.m. PT / 6:00 a.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. St. Petersburg / 8:00 p.m. Tokyo
- Men's free: 5:50 a.m. PT / 8:50 a.m. ET / 4:50 p.m. St. Petersburg / 10:50 p.m. Tokyo
- Free dance: 9:10 a.m. PT / 12:10 p.m. ET / 8:10 p.m. St. Petersburg / 2:10 a.m. (12/23) Tokyo
- Saturday, December 23, 2017
- Pairs free: 4:00 a.m. PT / 7:00 a.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. St. Petersburg / 9:00 p.m. Tokyo
- Ladies free: 6:35 a.m. PT / 9:35 a.m. ET / 5:35 p.m. St. Petersburg / 11:35 p.m. Tokyo
Russian Nationals Predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #RN2018
MEN Top 5 predictions
GOLD Mikhail Kolyada
SILVER Sergei Voronov
BRONZE Alexander Samarin
4. Dmitri Aliev
5. Andrei Lazukin
There's no doubt that Mikhail Kolyada comes in as the heavy favorite for the gold and for one of the two Olympic spots. He has had the strongest season of all of the Russian men and has the best shot at an Olympic medal. But that second spot should come down to two names - Sergei Voronov, having his career-best season at the right time, and Alexander Samarin, last year's silver medalist with upgraded technical content.
Voronov will likely continue to be consistent, with the quad toe as his hardest element, and is the more all-around skater out of the two. But Samarin comes in with more difficult programs, which could be his ticket to the Olympics. Watch for the component marks for Voronov and Samarin. If Voronov gains a margin here, as he should, he could offset the difficulty difference. But if their components are around the same, that will spell a lot of trouble for Voronov's (likely final) chances at making the Olympic team.
LADIES Top 10 predictions
GOLD Alina Zagitova
SILVER Elena Radionova
BRONZE Maria Sotskova
4. Polina Tsurskaya
5. Alena Kostornaia
6. Serafima Sakhanovich
7. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
8. Alisa Fedichkina
9. Valeriia Mikhailova
10. Stanislava Konstantinova
UPDATE (12/20): Alisa Fedichkina has withdrawn with a groin injury
No Medvedeva, and no Anna Pogorilaya either. Medvedeva is still recovering from her foot injury, though she noted that she is pain free now and training again; Pogorilaya ended her season earlier with a back injury that has plagued her all season.
That said, the field is still packed. By my count, there are at least 12 skaters who could possibly finish in the top six. Alina Zagitova comes in as the odds-on favorite. And though she has been undefeated this season, she has yet to put down two clean programs (her ability to rack up points has saved her in all cases).
But as with many other battles for Olympic spots, the battle for the third spot here will be of most interest. With Medvedeva and Zagitova basically locks for the Olympics, you have a slew of contenders, including Maria Sotskova, Elena Radionova, Polina Tsurskaya, and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. Of these names, Sotskova has had the steadiest season, including a recent silver at the Grand Prix Final. But Radionova is the sentimental favorite in a lot of ways. If she can somehow find two clean skates this week - and you bet she'll will herself to it -, she would make a very strong case for herself to make the team.
And every year, a hot shot junior comes on and spoils it for the rest of them. Zagitova, Radionova, and Tsurskaya have all done it in the past few years. Watch for Alena Kostornaia this week as the next in line.
PAIRS Top 5 predictions
GOLD Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov
SILVER Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov
BRONZE Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert
4. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov
5. Apollinariia Panfilova/Dmitry Rylov
A bit of a bold prediction, for sure. But never underestimate what a clean Stolbova/Klimov can do, especially at an event they have won three times, including four years ago, when they went on to win silver at the Sochi Olympics. Tarasova/Morozov are coming off an uncharacteristically sloppy Grand Prix Final, finishing just behind Stolbova/Klimov with the errors they made in the free skate. It wouldn't surprise me one bit of Stolbova/Klimov finally put two clean programs together this week.
But more intriguing is the fight for bronze - and that third spot on the Olympic team. Zabiiako/Enbert and Astakhova/Rogonov have been neck-and-neck over the past couple of seasons. But it was Zabiiako/Enbert who prevailed (and by a good margin) in their most recent meeting at Golden Spin. I'd count on Zabiiako/Enberts reliability this week.
DANCE Top 5 predictions
GOLD Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev
SILVER Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin
BRONZE Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov
4. Tiffany Zahorski/Jonathan Guerreiro
5. Betina Popova/Sergey Mozgov
Perhaps the most clear-cut event of the whole competition, ice dance will be a continued reign of Bobrova/Soloviev (they are looking for their 7th title) and the continued rise of Stepanova/Bukin (they were the other Russian team to medal at both Grand Prix events this season). The question is how much of a fight Sinitsina/Katsalapov are going to put up for the silver medal. They have had a surge during the last two events leading up to Russian Nationals.