Cup of Russia 2016

Elladj Balde from Canada is up first. First time I’m seeing him. He’s skating to “The Sound of Silence” but it’s a cover by Disturbed. I’ve never heard this version before.
It was such a clean, nice skate, but I couldn’t really engage because my folks just got home and were talking to me while I was trying to pay attention. He didn’t have any quads, but he had great smooth edges.
The music itself was moody and dark, but a really good cover.
76.36- a season’s best.

Mikhail Kolyada- first time I’m seeing him since he placed 4th in worlds.
Nightingale Tango is his music.
Other than slipping off the landing of his triple axel, that was brilliant. He had great charisma and performance and of course the crowd loved him. That hometown advantage never hurts. It really feels to me like the Russians when they perform at home they really put on a show. Unlike when they’re anywhere else competing.
Really nice quad combination at the start.
It was also nice to hear Tracy Wilson and John Coughlin applaud him as well and say how he could be the next Russian man to take Plushenko’s place to lead them to the next Olympics. They used the word consistency. And also mentioned he broke his ankle the year of his senior debut, so he came back a couple years later. He’s only 21- so hard to believe, as good as he is.
Then again Yuzuru is around the same age and he’s brilliant.
90.28- 48 technical 41 components… wow! great for him. Let’s see how Javi and Shoma and Max Aaron stack up with that.

But first…

Chafik Besseghier from France- “It’s a Man’s World” by Seal.
Great version of that song (but of course, Seal is great).
But wow… that was so clean and smooth. Started with a very strong quad-triple combination and was smooth sailing after that. He might be one to watch in the future… he’s got a great air about him on the ice. Maybe not as engaging as a performer as Mikhail was, but really like him a lot.
80.68

I missed Shoma’s first jumping pass so I feel like I was missing a lot and couldn’t get into the rest of the program. He put the hand down on his quad flip, I see in the replay. He did a quad combination where his second jump went a little array.
So this scoring should be interesting. He’ll probably lead, but I have seen him skate cleaner than this.
98.59- 54 technical, 44 components… wow! I’m not sure if I agree… he had two quads, but they weren’t clean quads. His first jump was 10 points, I saw that much when I got back in the room. I wonder what a clean quad flip would be worth.

I know Javi has two quads in his short program as well, so I think with a clean program, he’ll be the leader at the end of the short. That’s my guess.

Interesting that Tracy Wilson helps coach him and she’s also commentating.

Max Aaron is doing the same short program, but he has a great new free skate. I saw it at the Autumn Classic. Set to music from “The Lion King.”

And there’s also Alexei Bychenko- who could be a wild card. He snuck into the medals at last year’s Europeans [I had to double-check his Wikipedia page to be sure- didn’t remember if it was that or Worlds, but I remember it being silver and Yuzuru got silver at worlds].

The one thing that’s for sure in figure skating always… you never know what’s going to happen.

Up first- Javier Fernandez… yeah, now I can use his full name πŸ˜›
Malaguena is his music… I guess it’s Spanish?
It’s the same music he skated to last year. I’m kinda disappointed about that :/ same program practically with the exception of his costume, which is all black. Nothing remarkable- almost like his costume was at the cleaners and that was the next best option.
He fell out of his second jump on the opening combination and then he popped his quad salchow into a triple. So this isn’t going to be a great score for him compared to what his best usually is. But he has the points possible in his free skate to make up for that. I know that from experience with him.
91.55… he still got a really good score. 45 technical, 46 components. I figured he had more than enough in the second mark to even things out for him.

Max Aaron… he’s a different skater every time I see him so there’s no way of knowing until he performs how it’ll go. I hope it’s good.
That was rough… he fell off his quad and had to add the combination jump in the second half of the program off a lutz jump. He also had rough entries into his spins. The whole time I was with him, coaching him and telling him to hold it together.
It feels like after his Skate America performance last year- something just clicked. The artistry doesn’t always agree with me. But just as a person, I like him a lot and hope for him to succeed.
And of course he recently replied to me on Twitter when I saw that I look forward to seeing a clean version of his free program… but even without that, I have been on his side. Maybe because he’s the most inconsistent of the American men and he’s one that always has a quad.
What- he’s training a quad axel?! oh man, be careful, Max. I know for a fact that the triple axel can be very dangerous.
73.64… ouch… 37 on both marks. and he’s in 6th place. That’s going to be HARD to make up to get on the podium, but it’ll be a victory for me if he has a nice clean free skate and really capitalizes on the emotion and nostalgia of it.

Alexei Bychenko is last to go in this broadcast.
Wow- that silver medal has done a lot for his confidence. He really performed well. Great strong jumps. Performed well to the music and engaged with the crowd. That was a lot of fun πŸ˜€ I just hope that he’s rewarded in the scores.
86.81- 4th
46 technical 40 presentation
he could skate away with a medal potentially…

Shoma is fist, Javi and then Mikhail… those names will be tough to beat. That’s probably one of the strongest top threes you could ask for.

And just like that, it’s over.
I already really can’t wait for the free skate… and it’s a whole 2 days away 😦
with the exception of Max Aaron (which is unfortunate), this is one of the best short programs I’ve seen with the guys. A lot of really strong skating.

Now we’re onto the ladies… and they’re already profiling the three Russians competing. Could this be a podium sweep? We shall see.
First time I’m seeing Yulia this season- REALLY hoping she has a strong score.

Yura Matsuda from Japan- first time I’m seeing her.
A nice senior debut. The artistry has a while to go yet, but good jumps overall.
John Coughlin is loving that she did two edge jumps into combination- I agree- very difficult. nearly everyone likes to do a toe loop as the second jump in combination
61.57- mostly because she had an under rotated 2nd jump in her combination.

Yulia Lipnitskaya
that’s the best I’ve seen her since Sochi.
my mind blew up when they said she’s 18. really? it feels like she was just 15. the Sochi Olympics really are getting further away. The jumps were so clean and smooth and she really looked happy and composed there. she was so mature at 15, but now her age matches that maturity and that’s grown as well.
the new coach has made a world of difference for sure. Skated to a really nice French piece.
69.25- 36/32
and she’s smiling in the kiss and cry. I don’t think I’d ever seen her smile. She’s always so serious.
so cute that someone in the stands was holding up a big ass stuffed panda and patiently waited until it was okay to lower it to her.

Man, I hope she can hold on to win this thing. She’s had such a tough time since Sochi and I want her to regain that path she set on before the growing pains and such happened.

Anna Pogorilaya- she’s a different skater every time I see her.
And this is the best I’d seen her EVER. Wow- she really got into this choreography. And they just reminded me that Misha Ge choreographed it πŸ˜€ that’s brilliant choreography! OMG! She really owned this music (she said in interview that “Scent of a Woman” was one of her favorite movies and it had a lot of great tango elements).
Again, wow…
73.93
39/34

Yeah, we definitely have potential for a Russian sweep here.
Elena Radionova has yet to go. There’s also a Chinese skater and Kazakhstan skater coming up.

Zijun Li
really good jumps- really well done. the artistry has a little while to go, I think. and she needs to perform better to the crowd. But she did have a really impressive one-handed Biellmann spin.
63.89- 3rd place at the moment.
Aw- and she’s by herself in the kiss and cry.

Courtney Hicks
interesting- she’s skating to the “Maleficent” soundtrack. I just recently saw that. my feeling about it… it’s complicated.
the same goes with Courtney. She’s good in her jumps- very strong. but I just can’t connect with her on an emotional level. just doesn’t click with me for whatever reason. maybe she doesn’t perform nearly enough to the audience
63.68- 4th place
35 technical 28 components… that second mark doesn’t surprise me at all. It explains my lack of connection.

Elena Radionova
other than a small stumble on her axel, that was another strong skate for her. Not as big a fan of the choreography or the overall performance compare to the other Russians before her. but she’ll probably complete the podium with one skater left to go.
They kept showing Evgenia Medvedeva in the stands. Apparently the two of them are good friends off the ice. But of course they joke that she’s scoping out the competition cuz Elena was the only person who beat her last year.
71.93
37/34… darn, I thought for sure she would be 3rd. that’s where I’d place her personally, just based on my feeling of the performance itself

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
her family is from Kazakhstan but she’s originally from Moscow.
yikes… she had that double axel at the end where she almost landed but then fell badly on it. otherwise, she was very clean. Strong performance overall and with the speed of “I got rhythm” that’s not easy.
they said she can do a quad and quads aren’t allowed in the women’s short program… why not? if they can do them, they should be given that option
they said she trains with Yuzuru and Javi, so of course Brian Orser is her coach… that certainly explains why she’s so talented
64.31- 4th place… man, if not for that fall, she’d have bumped Yulia to 4th.

Another great competition… there must be something in the water or the ice in Moscow because it agreed with almost everybody. such strong skating.

We have that possibility still alive for the Russian sweep. There’s a 2 point difference between first and second and second and third. 5 points between third and fourth.
So it will be down to the free skate to see how everyone places.

Oh man, so excited already… it’s going to be 10pm on Sunday and knowing NBC sports network, they might push it back for some other sports event. So it could complicate things for me since I get up at 5:30am for work.

Free Skates

They are already showing up on YouTube, so I think I will watch a couple before watching a movie tonight. Starting with probably Max Aaron. I don’t know if he can make up the ground he needs to get on the podium, but I’ll be happy if he just has a clean free skate.

It wasn’t perfect. I could see some triples that might have become doubles. He traveled on the spins. But he did the most important part of standing on his feet and hitting the jumps. It looked he even loosened up and started to smile because he hit most of them with no major mistakes. In my head, I just kept urging him on in the second half- come on, Max, keep going, you got this…
this “Lion King” program works for his skating style so well- mostly because no one else has used this music before so he can make it his own more easily.
235.58 overall- I saw he was chasing a technical score of 83.14. He got 85 for technical and 76 for components. Which is to be expected because artistry isn’t his strong suit. But happy for him to get a season’s best out of it and at least first place for the current time. That’d have been a great score 10 years ago, but nowadays… not so much.

I want to hurry and do Shoma and Javi. But I’d like to see everyone that I saw last night. It’s only fair. Especially with a field so strong.

Elladj Balde from Canada
what is with the “Blood Diamond” soundtrack? It’s not that special…
he did bring some great emotion to it with his acting, though, so definitely commend him for that. another clean skate, great smooth edges. Funny enough, he’s going after Max Aaron and he’s chasing his technical score, but it won’t touch it. But in artistry, I think he’s got him beat.
He beat him by one point in artistry, but overall, it’s not enough to overtake him. I think because he doesn’t have any quads… or maybe he just had the one in the beginning. I’m not sure. The commentary’s in Russian πŸ˜›
225.45 overall

Next, Chafik Besseghier from France.
And I saw Elizaveta in the stands. Interesting to see all the Russian athletes supporting figure skating as viewers. Plushenko I’m sure would be here as well if he wasn’t on tour with Kings on Ice. [His first performance “Storm” in Riga looked stronger than I’d seen him in a while, although his jumps still aren’t fully recovered yet… he did do a triple axel in a warm-up today, which was impressive!]

Anyway back to Cup of Russia…
Wow- he’s chasing a technical score of 88.57… Shoma, Javi or Mikhail are all capable of putting of a score like that. But the way the commentators kept talking about Alexei Bychenko, it could be his score as well.
Anyway, he traveled on one of his spins and he put his hand down on a couple of his jumps. But the crowd really got behind him, clapping in time with his music. Not strong technically like the others, but gave a very genuine performance I appreciated.
223.98- 5th place as of this point. 70/73 for his marks.

And I’m gonna have to wait until later to watch the final four I need to watch.

I have a little bit of a headache and I’m already kinda tired. So unless I really catch up with sleep with the turning the clocks back, it might be good that I’m doing this now instead of Sunday night. I need all the sleep I can get to make up for the week where I only get 6 hours a night.

Okay- going to watch Mikhail Kolyada next.
Well, he’s definitely not the one with the high technical score.
Not quite sure what happened, but after he slipped off the edge of one of his jumps, the rest of his program kinda fell apart. It was the final minute or so. Like he lost character and couldn’t quite hold it together. Definitely saw his disappointment at the end, which sucks. Maybe he just felt the pressure of potentially medaling and couldn’t cope…
wow, they gave him a good boost for his components score. 83. I mean, some people could complain it’s Russian bias IN Russia, but I really don’t care because I felt the character he was portraying. 72 is his technical, so that might not bold well for him.
245.30- and he’s in 2nd place.

So what it looks like… I’m guessing that Alexei Bychenko is the current leader. I’m going to find out right after this. But it looks like Mikhail is going to finish 4th… which sucks because he’s in his home country and I know he wanted to do better for them.

It looks like Alexei is performing to some Italian music. Don’t quite recognize the name- Pagliacci… wait… I think I know the music. I just never saw it spelled out before. It’s the ‘crying clown’ opera.
And he’s 28. I had a feeling he was one of the older guys in the field.
Yep, it’s him. He’s chasing Max Aaron’s technical score.
Whoa… he had a turn-about in one of his jumps, but the technical content of that was AMAZING. He had two quads at the top of it back-to-back. He got very much into the music.
Where is he coming from? All of a sudden, he’s one of the best skaters in the world. Peaking really late in his career. But considering Plushenko managed a silver medal at age 27, I don’t think I can rule out the possibility that Alexei could get a medal in the next Olympics. He really is that good. Although he kinda needs other skaters with 3-4 quads to make a lot of mistakes. If he was competing against Yuzuru and Javi, it’d be a different story.
255.52- in addition to that high technical score, he got 80 for components. There are some areas he can improve, I think, in that artistry, but that emotion, he has down so well.

I did say he could be a wild card and it looks like he’s going to medal. It’s just figuring out which color with Shoma and Javi still to go.

First, Shoma.
Whoa- even with one fall, he surpassed Alexei 3/4 into the program. He really committed to this character and held it for the entire time. I think I heard the commentators just say “thank you for a great program”- Spasibo was in there somewhere. Phew… Javi will have to be immaculate to beat that.
And Yuzuru is going to have to watch out… because I think he has competition. Luckily, with the Japanese skaters so strong, they’re going to ensure the top number of entries into the big competitions so both of them will be able to make it.
But it looks like Shoma is showing up with much more to prove after coming in a disappointing place at Worlds. I think 7th.
WHOA- 96 technical, 91 components score. I don’t think I’d seen such close marks for a free skate for a high scoring one.
285.07… phew, I was just going to say if he broke 300… Yuzuru will really have something to worry about.

Right now, Javi has a really tall mountain to climb to win and with that short program as it was, it seems like he’s got a long way to go.
He is doing a medley- I see three songs here. Trouble, Fever and Jailhouse Rock. Well, who better in this sport right now to cover Elvis?
There were a few nit-picks I could make, but he didn’t have any falls the entire time. I don’t know how many quads he had, but it almost didn’t seem fair πŸ˜› And honestly, I didn’t care. That charisma just held onto me the entire time and refused to let go. And the fact that the Russian audience was clapping in time with the music and supporting him- that really says it all.
His technical score was over 100 by the time the program ended.
whoa, omg! 105 technical 95 components. They said he needed 193 in the free skate to win. And he beat that by 8 points.
I was expecting him to break 300, but not quite. If his short program was perfect, then he would have.
Total score- 292.98.

Yeah, I had a good feeling that Javier Fernandez had the technical merit and artistry to make up for a bad short program. So these results really aren’t that surprising.
But Alexei was definitely out of nowhere.

I remember looking him up on YouTube because his name looked Russian. Then I found he was from Israel and he didn’t skate well in the competition I was watching. So I didn’t think too much at the time.
Now… he is peaking late in his career, but at a perfect time with the next Olympics 16 months away… so hard to believe. I remember looking forward to them right after Sochi- just waiting for Plushenko to get back on his feet, on the ice and to heal so I could see him compete again.
Now it’s less likely that’s going to happen… I’ll hang on, of course, to see what he will end up doing. My feelings on it are mixed. I want him to, but I also don’t want to risk another career-ending injury.

But Cup of Russia is definitely one of my favorite competitions I’d seen in a long time from the senior men. Moscow has the best atmosphere, I think.

Now for the ladies…

and I can’t wait. I have to see how Yulia Lipnitskaya performs first.
“Kill Bill”… interesting… kinda eerie music, though
well, it had a mix of music, not just the one section that kinda gives me the chills. There were two songs “Goodnight Moon” and “Bang Bang My Baby Shot me Down”. But during that second song, something happened. She went to do an axel and did a single. Took a while to recover, but she tried a second jump and it did the same thing.
I think she’s injured. Maybe one of her ankles. So a lot of time was spent between her regaining focus, going to the judges and her coach to figure whether or not to finish. She eventually finished, but there was nothing to do. She fell on her last jump, struggled with her spins.
It was hard to watch and my heart broke for me. Of course it’s hard for me not to have flashbacks to the withdrawal at Sochi. One that couldn’t be negotiated or re-tried.
So she’s in 10th place.
148.46
they gave her a nice buff for components score- one probably Russian bias, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.
I just really hope she can get better in time for Russian Nationals, which will determine if she’ll skate at Europeans and Worlds.

And of course YouTube just spoiled for me who did win when I scrolled down through the comments and the video was on the opposite side. Not that I didn’t see that coming anyway… but I hate when they put in the title who wins πŸ™„

Okay, who can I watch after that…
I guess Courtney Hicks
“Hunchback of Notre Dame”… I wonder if that’s the original or the Disney version… Disney
Wow, I almost didn’t want that to end. Something is still kinda missing for me with the emotional connection, but she did skate really well and there were lots of great moments.
182.92- she had the technical score Yulia was chasing before the trouble happened (according to the comments, it’s a knee injury she had)

Zijun Li
that was really pretty to watch. not many mistakes, but also not a lot of emotion.
181.83

Yura Matsuda
177.65
another solid program from her, but the artistry also needs to develop more.

And that just leaves me with Elena and Anna… and I kinda know how this is going to pan out, but I’ll still watch anyway…

Elena Radionova
she’s skating to a Puccini opera
I got to thinking about how they compared her skating to Evgenia’s last season and how Elena’s edges aren’t as smooth and the artistry doesn’t lead to as high performance scores as they could be. I’m seeing a little bit of that. Some under rotations. She had to put a combination in the second half of the program. And she had a fall. But she seemed happy with her performance overall by the end.
195.60
I don’t know if I agree with that. It seemed like her components score got buffed up to cushion the blow of a lesser technical score.
I think Courtney should have been still ahead of her.
The comments section is mixed- most agree with me, but others still like her.

I’m kinda on the fence. I like Elena, but not as much as some of the other Russian women.
Sadly, the ones I really like aren’t doing well enough to get in the medals.

Last- Anna Pogorilaya- and if last night was an indication, this should be a stellar performance.
Misha’s choreography- again- has done wonders for her. Lots of confidence and elegance and that made for such a nice performance. No suspense of course… thanks a lot YouTube
215.21- 70 on both marks…

yeah, she’s improved so much since the first time I saw her. Although it helps that she no longer has that “Firebird” program.
I hate that music- I’d never seen a skater perform to it well. Or at least their artistry- combined with that music, I find nothing inspiring about it.

Such a great competition… I just wish that they could have shown it on NBC at a proper time with Johnny and Tara’s commentary. That’s the only thing that would have made it even better.

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