A scandalous ending
GPF has ended with Russians winning gold in all four disciplines in the Junior event. Furthermore, Russian juniors swept the podium in pairs skating. Pairs skating was also the only discipline where our senior skaters managed to capture medals: Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov got the gold, and Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov settled for the silver.
Pairs skating was the closing event at the Grand Prix Final, and it turned to be scandalous.
World vice-champions Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov earned 131.09 points for their free program - 0.37 less than Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov got for the brilliant performance they delivered right before that. Thus, the final standings were as planned in this discipline.The only annoying 'detail' was that Russia's first team didn't just have an unsuccessful skate. They had a rather spectacular meltdown.
That Trankov was on the edge of breakdown was obvious already during the warm-up. He tried several times a triple Salchow - the opening jump in the free program, but kept popping it.
He didn't pop it, though, during the actual skate, and athletes and coaches in the stands heaved a sigh of relief.
But right after the beginning of the second part of the program, Maxim fell on triple toe loop, and then lost his balance on the entry into the throw, and the pair missed the element completely.
His fall was so bad - on his back - that it took him a while to get on his feet. When he managed, the athletes had to skate from one end of the rink to another, and only then resumed the performance. In such case, judges' scores have to reflect not only the missed element, but also the interruption of the program. But they turned a blind eye to that. As well as to the fact that there wasn't any actual choreography in such skate.
Nevertheless, Volosozhar/Trankov's overall result was the second best that evening. And as for the components score, it was the very best.
The athletes themselves, of course, are not to be blamed for such scoring. But the judges did them no favor. Because the final sum looked in this situation like a mark of shame: made people think that Bazarova/Larionov were robbed of the deserved win. That such "handouts" in figure skating must be repayed sooner or later. And that Russia doesn't really have any first pair. All she has is reasonably good skaters who lose their game when the competition gets more or less tough. That was that happened at the Grand Prix in Moscow, where Volosozhar/Trankov were made champions despite missing all the key elements in the free program.
The excuses like the one that the athletes and their coach Nina Mozer offered after the event - that the level of difficulty of the program prevents from skating it clean, do not sound very convincing. At the very least because free program of the Canadians Meagan Duhamel/ Eric Radford, who skated in the same competition, included unique for pair skating side-by-side triple Lutz, and 3-2-3 combination with two throws in the second part of the program.
Duhamel and Radford brought to memory times when Canada suddenly presented competitive product a year before Olympics. It happened in 1993, when Isabel Brassuer and Lloyd Eisler became the World champions, the history repeated in 2001 with Jamie Sale/David Pelletier. In other words, there is enough pairs skating traditions in Canada to make it count.
In Sochi, Megan and Eric clearly lacked cleanliness, but made it up for with difficulty. They didn't make top three due to quite a silly mistake: the pair lost rhythm on a lift entry. But when Eric, holding his partner in his hands like a weightlifter, managed to lift her up, Viktor Kudryavtsev, who was sitting beside me, gasped: "What a guy! What a character!"
So it will hardly be a surprise if this team makes top three already at the World championship in March - the less so that the championship will take place in Canada.
Bazarova and Larionov, unlike their decorated compatriots, didn't make mistakes in Sochi. One could call them a flawless pair, if not for Vera's injury, that didn't let her skate full force during the first half of the season. I think no one really knows how much strength she has left and whether it will be enough to gain top shape or keep the shape they already have. In all fairness, the athletes should be given a bye at Russian National Championship. Let them rest, recover, gain strength for the European Championships. Treat them like Russia's first pair that they are, which is quite obvious at this point.
Ice dance brought a shock as well. At the moment when it became clear that Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev have a chance for the bronze medal, Dmitri fell on the step sequence. For the first time in his life and in front of Russian president. The high guest had partly caused the fall, it seemed: his presence added an excitement and a desire to go all out in the dance. It went according to rather vulgar proverb: 'wide steps tears pants' - the ice dancer finished the program with torn trouser leg. After the skate, coach Alexander Zhulin was a universal catastrophe and cosmic sadness embodied, despite the fact that the result wasn't that bad. In Sochi, everybody could see that Bobrova/Soloviev's program is a hit and highly competitive from any point of view. As for falls, even the greater used to fall in ice dance. Like the World champion Scott Moir and the ex-World champion Charlie White.
Much sadder was the fact that even in the face of such a huge mistake of Bobrova/Soloviev, second Russian team, Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov finished behind them.
Speaking of the winners, in Sochi Moir with his partner Tessa Virtue had not much better minutes that those who finished off the podium. To be defeated by training mates Meruyl Davis and Charlie White was painful, and even more so because the Canadians had lost both in the short and in the free dance.
Marina Zoueva, coach of both teams, looked slightly discouraged.
"To tell the truth, I thought that Tessa and Scott were better in the free dance, - she said in the mixed zone. - I don't understand the scores difference."
The French Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who finished third, lost almost ten points to the second place. It looks like the former coach of both Canadian and American teams, Igor Shpilband, was right, when he said that no one would be able to close the gap to the leaders a year before the Olympics.