Because I have failed miserably at reliably getting out top-10 posts, I’m just going to stick with what I know I will actually get done. Thus, a ladies recap…again.
1. Anna Pogorilaya
Clearly, that world medal last year did wonders for Anna’s confidence-she has been skating like a champion ever since. So it wasn’t really a surprise that she blew away the competition at Rostelecom to take her third Grand Prix title. She started off with a foot-perfect performance of her “Por Una Cabeza” short, which I think is hands-down the best program she’s ever had, and followed up with a clean free skate. I’m not much of a fan of the free-it’s a little incoherent-but she definitely got the job done. The short program, on the other hand, is simply fabulous. It’s got the passion and fire she has sometimes lacked in the past and really shows her polish and maturity (the flawless execution of this particular short didn’t exactly hurt, either). At this point, I would say that Anna is the clear world #2. Evgenia’s still got the top spot locked up, but other possible contenders have not been making strong statements, and Anna has-which is exactly what she needs to do to build momentum leading into the Olympic season.
2. Elena Radionova
I feared the worst for Elena when I saw her messy programs at the Russian test skates, but, as she has done time and time again, Elena proved at this event that the reports of her metaphorical death were an exaggeration. She wasn’t perfect-she fell on a 3Lo in the free skate and a lot of her landings were sketchy-but she fought tooth and nail to stay on her feet, and it was enough for a silver medal. Her programs this year are, overall, pretty well-done; Elena’s “Porgy and Bess” SP is wonderfully sassy and spirited, showcasing her newfound maturity, and her “Turandot” FS, while unpolished, is a step up from her previous interpretations of classical music. She doesn’t really have the polish or subtlety for a piece like Turandot, but she does have passion, and no shortage of it. If she would just add some transitions, stand up straight, and tone down the “Oda O” a bit, it could be great. And she hasn’t lost her jumps, which is both surprising and incredibly impressive. She’s got grit to go around, that’s for sure. Her landings might not be pretty, but they’re landed and rotated, and that’s what really counts. Hopefully she can keep it together for the rest of the season.
3. Courtney Hicks
If there’s anything Courtney is good at, it’s capitalizing on other skaters’ meltdowns. She always seems to do best at Grand Prix events where at least one heavy favorite falters, which was exactly what happened here. She didn’t have a perfect competition, but it was good enough for bronze, and she stayed on her feet. Her “Maleficent” SP was one of the best I’ve seen her do. The FS (to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”-I sense a Disney theme here) wasn’t as clean, as some of the combinations didn’t have the correct number of rotations, but most of her jumps were clean, her spins have improved a lot, and the powerful music brought out her artistry nicely. Both of her programs this year really suit her, actually. Courtney’s huge jumps make it hard to predict how she’ll do at any given competition, but once in a while, they come together-and it’s surprising who she can beat when that happens.
4. Zijun Li
It’s getting to the point where it honestly scares me to watch Zijun skate, which is odd, because I actually love her skating. She just seems so…flimsy. She always looks winded, and I’m afraid her legs will snap every time she goes into a jump, but she has some really wonderful qualities. Although her speed and stamina are just as lacking as they were last season, Zijun managed a clean SP and a near-clean FS, both of which I really enjoyed. Her SP to a tango I forgot the name of featured a great 3T-3T and an enjoyable step sequence, although at some points I felt that the music overpowered her skating. Zijun’s FS, set to what I think I read is a popular Chinese love song, was a bit more her speed. Aside from a 3Lz popped into a double, her jumps were strong, the spins were great, and the program itself is beautiful. She could use a little more expression and passion, but it suits her elegant, delicate style, and I loved the choreography and use of spread eagles and Ina Bauers (which I always enjoy). Zijun has all the goods, but I have one, and only one, piece of advice for her coaching team: get this girl on a treadmill, stat! Her stamina is so weak that it’s seriously painful to watch her long programs. I don’t really know what the cause of that issue is, but it definitely needs to be addressed.
5. Elizabet Tursynbaeva
Elizabet suprised me with such a strong finish here: somewhat like Elena, I was really worried about her after a disastrous first competition at the U.S. International Classic, but that proved to be a fluke. I’d venture to say her form is even stronger now than it was last season. She nailed her jumps, and she’s really quite a lovely skater. Elizabet’s “I Got Rhythm” SP is fun and endearing, and her “Princess Mononoke” FS is beautiful, if only because of the gorgeous music. Girl is made for epic step sequences; in that department, she’s like a mini Mao Asada. The difficulty of her transitions and steps is one of my favorite things about her. I can even overlook her awful air position (nobody’s feet should be that crossed!). She’s got so much potential; only time will tell whether she’ll be able to deliver on it. Superficial note: her FS dress is incredible, and I want to wear a street-wearable version (longer skirt, less power mesh) to some kind of ritzy social event.
In Other News: Yulia Lipnitskaya finished last after a disastrous free skate in which an old injury seems to have flared up. She fell, popped two jumps, and didn’t do a choreographic step sequence after injuring her knee midway through the program. In addition to the jump mistakes, she got a 5-point deduction for “Interruption in Excess.” It was really hard to watch-best wishes for a full and complete recovery.