A couple of updates:
We got notice that Novoselov has been released from France and can now skate with Stolbova for Russia, so that’s happening. I guess we’ll see them at the test skates. And, the other new Russian team, Yatsenko/Parkman, are in fact, Belarussia. They’re skating for Belarus.
We also got confirmation that Yu/Zhang are still skating! So excited. It doesn’t look like they are jumping yet but I like the program! I love how committed she is even if they don’t do the full program.
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It’s my favourite time of the year! That’s right, it’s Russian Junior Pair time. We are going to take a look at the pair field at the Russian Junior Nationals and a few others besides, and check in on how the field has changed in the past year. In preparation for the most wonderful time of the year, I have been trying to get my teams and their faces and costumes and names and coaches straight. I think I’ve figured everyone out but even if I don’t remember all their names yet, there are so may promising Junior Pairs! The competition was seriously good. Out of eleven teams there were only two falls in the short program (one jump, one throw). The free wasn’t quite so impressive – we started to see some pair lady tendencies come through – but with just five falls out of 22 skaters (almost entirely on jumps) and no failed or dicey lifts or bizarre element mishaps, it was quite a treat!
The pairs we see saw on the Grand Prix we saw again here (for the most part) but represent just a small portion of the field – usually they are considered the best but Russia really maxed their chances of qualifying their teams to the final, giving double assignments to five teams, and leaving a number of up and coming teams without the chance to compete on the Grand Prix this season. Yet, with their performances here and in other competitions, hopefully we will see them in the future. Fingers crossed! We have to remember that the field is incredibly deep – you can see how competition breeds a robust field – and at the same time that there are no guarantees here. At the rate the field changes it’s unlikely that we will see many of these teams make it to Seniors, although we may see some of the skaters.
Aside: I have been trying to make sense of the Cup of Russia series and I am not making much headway. What is the difference between the MC and KMC classes? (Let’s be clear: I’m dependent on Google translate here.) Normally I would guess Senior and Junior but most teams seem to cross the lines very easily and compete in either class and switch from competition to competition. But mostly, I don’t understand how a team qualifies for Junior Nationals. There are so many teams that don’t make it. What do you have to do? Earn points, placements, complete an obstacle course? I want to know.
Note: Three teams did withdraw, two far enough in advance to allow for replacements, but the field ended up one team short because one team was forced to withdraw due to illness at the competition. I don’t know the reasons for the earlier withdrawals. I can only speculate injury but I don’t actually know.
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HOLY COW! Russian Nationals had a superb pairs competition. Everyone really came through with excellent performances and it was really interesting to see how some of these Russian teams fared against one another, although the results came out pretty much as I expected. Even for teams that did not place that well, or perhaps as well as they hoped, the skating was still good. Can we talk about the fact that all twelve teams achieved a level 3 or 4 on their twist in the short program, including Juniors? (In both programs, four teams got a level 4 on the twist. It wasn’t necessarily the same teams in both programs either. Can you guess which ones?) They would have demolished the competition at most other national pairs competitions. The level of skating all around was terrific.
And this is one discipline at Russian Nationals where it is much more difficult for the Juniors to edge out the Seniors. Everyone can do a great short program but the free program is a whole other story. The longer program really tests the endurance, especially with the added third lift. No one is so winded by a pairs free program as a Junior boy skating in a Senior competition… unless you’re Vladimir Morozov or Alexander Korovin.
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Following the Pyeongchang Olympics, where the Russians did not medal in the pairs event, just like in Vancouver in 2010 Russia, I’m sure there will be many questions in about WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR GREAT AND PROUD TRADITION? (much like in the U.S. over the ladies), just like after the Vancouver Olympics. It is, however, not all doom and gloom, in fact, far from it! In Russia there are so many young people involved in pairs compared to other countries. In the junior ranks, Russia dominates. Witness: (1) Russian pairs made up four of the six pairs in the Grand Prix Final this season; (2) Russia just swept the pairs podium at the World Junior Championships this past week with three teams new to the international junior circuit this season; (3) Russia reclaimed the junior gold medal at that competition since being out of that position since 2009! (I hadn’t realized it had been so long.) So, that had to feel good. However since 2009, they have still managed to win 10 junior pair medals at Worlds and have a team on the podium every year. Although this leads me to an interesting question: what happened to all those teams?
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