The two times world champion Maksim Staviski analyzes Ilinyh/Katsalapov's skate in Moscow for r-sport for rsport.ru
The first thing that came to my attention was their improvement in the lifts. It was one of their weaknesses. Now it's not as if the lifts became too wonderful, but they are better. I mean the technique and the quality. All and all they look good, skate with a good amplitude and fast. The twizzles both in the SD and the FD were perfect. The steps were not perfect but not bad either. All the elements were done. They are a good team, you don't need to teach them gliding - they were born with it. They are very artistic and are project the right mood both in the SD and the FD. No question marks here.
Now to what I disliked: both in the SP and the LP the transitions are very easy. The positions are almost primitive. Both the SP and the LP are built like an exhibition number with the key points and the required elements integrated into the programmes. It's not only Morozov's approach -there are other coaches who do the same, but I think it's wrong. It's my personal point of view and you might disagree, but I think you must show your skating skills between the elements. Ilinyh/Katsalapov on the other hand use very simple positions - either hand to hand face to face or just hand to hand. I haven't seen any interesting position changes either. I think it might be the reason they can afford skating on the big amplitude and so freely, but IMO the professionals as they should be who are aiming for the top should show their technical levels between the elements as much as during the elements.
The fall during the LP just happened - it happens when the skater is completely ready for the competition, falls on the easiest steps and can't understand how did he end up on the ice.
But there were other things that were not quite clear. Their SD is an Uzbek dance. I don't mind the Uzbeks nor their dances - I actually checked on the internet - mainly it modest dances with hand moves and slight stomps. It is a bit of an Indian kind of dance. Where on earth did they dig a polka? How can you skate a polka and do the polka moves in an Uzbek dance? Of course, kudos for thinking out of the box, not taking the American or other well used polkas and trying to be creative. It's a positive thing. But frankly, I've never heard of a polka as an Uzbek dance and for me it just doesn't work.
I also think you should consider the skater's looks when creating a dance for them. Elena aside - she is dark haired, though her hear band is not quite Uzbek, but whatever. But what kind of an Uzbek is Nikita? He is a good looking Russian guy and looks nothing like an Uzbek. I think it's my opinion only, but it bothers me.
I also noticed that for the first 15 seconds of the dance they are skating apart. It's against the rules. 10 seconds are legal at the beginning of the programme, but skating not in the position is not encouraged. It is also written in the rules that it is not encouraged to skate hand in hand far from each other. You can open the rules and just read it. I think the 15 seconds apart is completely against the rules, which the judges overlooked. They also didn't notice the lift that lasted for more than 6.5 seconds while only 6 seconds are allowed. Yet it was counted as legal. Other than that the SD was clean. I think Nikita didn't have the first key point and the 4th key point - it's like getting two C mark at school. The choctaw was ok, though I thought there was a slight jump, but it's not clear on the video and that's something the judges should had watched int he replay. They were skating quite into the music, so nothing further about the SD.
Now about the FD. Just like in the SD the dismounts from the elements are lacking - they are not always deep enough, though there were no real mistakes. The elements were good, if it's not an A+ it's a solid B. In their spin lift they held for even longer than in the SD. Again, the judges haven't noticed that. I don't mind that - it's a Russian cup and the Russian pairs are treated differently, but they should pay attention to those things in the future. I think they were already notified on that.
As for the theme of the dance - am not blown by it. I'm not a person to speak poorly about the Americans, but the amount of dances depicting the American Dream is too much. The dance is well choreographed, they do everything they should, but it's just not my style. I just don't like it as much as, say, Virtue/Moir's `Carmen'. Or the last year or the 2 years ago Pechalat/Bourzat's programmes. Or Menshov's programmes.
To sum it up - it's a good young pair. They should work really hard and pay attention to their elements execution. As for their current level - I think it's uncomparable to the Canadians. I think they are in a different leagues. Virtue/Moir lost a bit in their technical ability after leaving Spilband, but as far as the skating and the choreography goes I think they are miles ahead of everyone. There isn't a single pair that could currently compete with them
In the end about what happened during Shibutani/Shibutani's FD. I didn't understand why the pair skated two parts of a dance and it was counted as one. If you watch the replay of the lift entrance in the first attempt and the second you'll see the entrances are different - he got his hands wrong. But he caught it on time and said his leg hurt, so they could restart. I would understand if there was a costume malfunction - the referee would have to stop the programme (Monko/Khaliavin lost a point when her hairband fell on the ice, yet they didn't stop the skate and did a whole dance). The Americans stopped, rested and continued to skate. Besides, when stopping the skate you first approach the referee, not the coach. For me it's a not worthy acting from the skater and illogical and a not correct behaviour of the referee.