Five down, one left to go. The Grand Prix Series is drawing to a close this season, and a number of the spots for the Final have already been decided. But Rostelecom Cup last weekend was more than just about the road to the Grand Prix Final - there were some storylines coming in and going out of the event. From Olympic champions to comebacks to skaters on the rise - a look at what happened in Moscow this past weekend.
Rostelecom Cup play-by-play/videos
Short: PAIRS | LADIES | DANCE | MEN
Free: PAIRS | LADIES | DANCE | MEN
Decidedly up and down for Hanyu and Zagitova
Yuzuru Hanyu and Alina Zagitova both won, as expected, in Moscow and grabbed spots for the Grand Prix Final. But if you looked at their trajectories, there were certainly some things about that competition that they would rather not have had to deal with.
For Zagitova, it was more minor. But the fact is that, for the second competition in a row, some of her jumps just didn’t look to have the spring that they did last year. As she did in Helsinki two weeks before, she got underrotation calls for a couple of jumps in the free skate, something that was pretty rare for her in the past few seasons. Admittedly, it is unfair for the expectations of Zagitova to be of perfection time in and time out. But if there is anything her competitors have sensed from these two Grand Prix events, it’s that Zagitova has left the door open a bit.
For Hanyu, the short-term future is a bit uncertain. After a glorious short program, Hanyu reinjured his right ankle the morning of the free skates on a quad loop attempt. He skated on that injured ankle and won the event easily, despite mistakes on the axel, his best jump. He was on crutches after the free skate to accept his gold medal, and after the competition, there was talk that his injury would take about three weeks of rest, which, incidentally, is the gap between Rostelecom and the Grand Prix Final.
It would seem unnecessarily risky for Hanyu to compete at the Final given the prognosis. The risk was worth it last year given the enormity of the Olympics, but looking ahead, he’s still go Japan Nationals, Four Continents, and Worlds to contend with. But one thing we know is that when Hanyu sets his mind to something, he goes for it 100%.
Evaluating the comeback
I’m heartbroken to withdraw from tonight’s free skate. It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture. Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition...(part 1)— Gracie Gold (@GraceEGold) November 17, 2018
A huge story coming in was the return of Gracie Gold, who had not competed since January 2017, when she took sixth at the US Championships. Having been making her return in earnest only for the past six months or so, Gold admitted herself that it was like going back to the basics and relearning how to skate again.
Her short program last Friday in Moscow was a lot of nerves. Not being at all confident in her training and being the first competition back in almost two years, Gold was tentative over assertive. And after a career-low short program score in the 30s, she tried to take that experience in stride, but in the end, she likely decided that her confidence couldn’t take another poor performance in the free skate, and she made the decision to withdraw.
Now less than two months to Nationals, how much can and will Gracie Gold motivate herself to get back to even have a glimpse of her prior brilliance? This event could have been motivating or enervating.
Names on the rise
And finally, a shoutout (or a few shoutouts) to some of the names on the rise who continued to ascend this past weekend. Here’s a rundown of who impressed:
Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise: First Grand Prix Final berth after taking silver in Moscow, they showed some of their most confident skating ever (see: short program) and continue their push as a World podium dark horse this season.
Alexia Paganini: Making her Grand Prix debut, there was no hesitation from her. She skated the two programs of her life and shattered personal best scores left and right to take a surprise fourth.
Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin: Spain has never won a Grand Prix medal in ice dance until this past weekend. Hurtado/Khaliavin made that history happen.
Morisi Kvitelashvili and Kazuki Tomono: Both erratically inconsistent, but both with loads of potential, they earned their first career GP medals with solid programs, beating out the likes of Mikhail Kolyada and Keegan Messing.
Sofia Samodurova: A second Grand Prix medal for Samodurova really sets her up for an outside chance to sneak in a grab a surprise Europeans spot (and potentially Worlds spot) at Russian Nationals.
Eunsoo Lim: Still getting used to her new training with Rafael Arutyunyan, Lim earned her first Grand Prix medal and the first Grand Prix medal for South Korea since Yuna Kim Grand Prix Final win in 2009.
Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer: They continue to improve as a pair and grow in confidence. Much like Della Monica/Guarise, Ziegler/Kiefer skated two of the best programs of their lives in Moscow, grabbing fourth.
Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko: A first Grand Prix medal for the US junior champs - they set themselves up for quite the ice dance showdown at the US Championships coming up in January.