Russia kicks off the national championships of the Big Four of figure skating this week, followed closely by Japan a day later. And in all four disciplines in Saransk this week, it will be a story of redemption for the gold medal favorites. Just how redemptive this competition ends up for them here could be an indication of how the rest of their season turns. Three of the four depending champs are back, with the exception of Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev, who are not skating this season.
Russian Figure Skating Championships predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #RN2019
Ladies Top 10 Predictions
GOLD Alina Zagitova
SILVER Evgenia Medvedeva
BRONZE Alena Kostornaia
4. Alexandra Trusova
5. Sofia Samodurova
6. Anastasiia Gubanova
7. Anna Shcherbakova
8. Stanislava Konstantinova
9. Anna Tarusina
10. Polina Tsurskaya
I might as well throw darts blindfolded with this one. As has been the case for the past few seasons, the ladies’ field at Russian Nationals is so incredibly deep that it’s altogether possible that rising juniors will take some of the top spots, leaving skaters who could very well end up at Europeans and Worlds later this season completely off the podium. The one wrinkle in this competition is the absence of Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who withdrew from the event after coming down with pneumonia last week.
On paper, Alina Zagitova looks to be the favorite to repeat this week. But her confidence this season has not been sky-high, with some inconsistency and some nerves taking over in this post-Olympic year. She took silver at Grand Prix Final just days ago, and she will be looking over her shoulder not only at some of her training mates who are technically stronger, but also at a familiar rival. Evgenia Medvedeva comes in on the heels of a season of change. She uprooted her life and now trains with Brian Orser in Canada; and it’s been an adjustment. Might it be time for her to find her stride? I’m thinking this is the week for it.
Last year, Alena Kostornaia made a huge splash with bronze at nationals. This year, she comes in after defeating Alexandra Trusova at the Junior Grand Prix Final with two stunning skates. Kostornaia is all quality, and she could carry that all the way to another medal this week - and if others aren’t careful, potentially gold.
Men Top 10 Predictions
GOLD Dmitri Aliev
SILVER Mikhail Kolyada
BRONZE Sergei Voronov
4. Alexander Samarin
5. Maxim Kovtun
6. Andrei Lazukin
7. Artur Dmitriev
8. Roman Savosin
9. Anton Shulepov
10. Egor Murashov
Update (12/19): Sergei Voronov has withdrawn with injury
It’s anyone’s guess for the men. None of the top guys have produced results consistently enough that makes one a favorite over another. But it’s altogether possible that Dmitri Aliev finds his way and wins his first Russian title here this week. Russian Nationals was where he really started putting down strong skates last season. But if everyone is clean, Mikhail Kolyada is the only one who beats Aliev - strong technical content and all-around skating, Kolyada is looking for a three-peat.
But again, it’s the usual suspects who are trying to find their way to the podium - and to a spot on the Europeans team. Sergei Voronov had a solid Grand Prix that led to yet another appearance in the Final (the only Russian man to qualify for that Final). But he has not had a strong history at nationals over the past few years. He last won the Russian title a full decade ago, if you can believe that. Alexander Samarin, last year’s silver medalist, is an unpredictable one who can find himself on the podium again. And then there’s the wildcard, three-time Russian champion Maxim Kovtun - he returns after a lot of time away with injuries.
Pairs Top 5 Predictions
GOLD Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov
SILVER Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert
BRONZE Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov
5. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin
There is an argument to be made that it’s actually Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert who has the momentum coming into Russian Nationals, despite their errors at the Grand Prix Final. But on paper, it is Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov who is the stronger pair - a couple of solid skates could really turn their season around. After barely missing the Grand Prix Final, Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii is my bet for bronze - in their first full international season, they are already full-package skaters. And they will stand out head-to-head among the rest of the field.
Dance Top 5 Predictions
GOLD Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin
SILVER Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov
BRONZE Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro
4. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin
5. Betina Popova/Sergey Mozgov
The Grand Prix Final has proven to be a momentum shifter in ice dance for many seasons, and it will certainly be interesting to see if that momentum shift has happened for the two top teams here. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin, expected to fight for the title, missed out on the podium altogether at the Final, whereas Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov skated much more cleanly to grab the silver there. This competition will be determined by levels and components, so may the cleaner team win.