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Sep 11, 2016

Russian Test Skates 2016: Ladies SPs

First impressions of the new ladies short programs at the Russian test skates this season! Please insert usual caveats when it comes to evaluating early-season performances at a non-competitive event . . .

Evgenia Medvedeva: I wish Ms. Medvedeva would expand her range beyond delicate, airy pianissimo programs in which she begins the program by miming some sort of emotional vulnerable backstory (this season, she appears to be reading a book, laughing, then skipping a few steps--anyone knows what this is supposed to represent? I'm guessing it's something about the prelapsarian state of childhood as is usual for Ilia Averbukh programs for ladies skaters), but she looks gorgeous performing these programs and the judges clearly lap it up, so I see why Ms. Medvedeva is shuffling the same cards again in hopes of another royal flush. The layout of the new SP is similar to last year's (spin, footwork, 3F-3T, etc.) but it's nice to see another program that doesn't begin with the more typical jumps-first layout. Also, Ms. Medvedeva is doing a diva spread eagle in her SP this season, which is clearly a plus. Jumps look a bit small but Ms. Medvedeva is still clearly capable of cranking those rotations out.  All in all, this is one Russian ladies skater who is determined not to flame out after one season of meteoric success.

Anna Pogorilaya: The first half of Ms. Pogorilaya's new Por una cabeza SP shows some promise, but her movements look somewhat legato for a tango program. Hate hate hate the awful beat track laid over the Por una cabeza music during the footwork sequence, which strangely fades out at several points during the second half of the program but only to inevitably return as a continued assault on our ears.

Julia Lipnitskaya: After the struggles of the past couple of years, I'm so happy to see that Julia Lipnitskaya has continued her upward trajectory under Alexei Urmanov! Solid jumps, cracking new spins, and Ms. Lipnitskaya's skating has matured--her movements are a lot less perfunctory than they were in the past. Unfortunately, the choreography and music of the program is somewhat generic and forgettable.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Mozart would surely be rolling in his grade if he could hear the awful muzak version of his Piano Concerto used in Ms. Tuktamysheva's SP this season, but thankfully Sochi is a long way away from Vienna. Anyway, skating to a Mozart classical piano concerto is an unexpected choice for the likes of Ms. Tuktamysheva, but her team clearly lost their nerve halfway through, as the Mozart segues into more typical music by the second half of the SP.

Elena Radionova: After the Titanic disaster (and no, I'm not talking about the ship), anything is an improvement. Seriously, however, Ms. Radionova's new Gershwin SP is excellent--love the opening choreography, and I think this is probably Ms. Radionova's best program since the JLo mashup from the 2014-2015 season. What could be a better testament to Ms. Radionova's abilities as a performer than the fact that she manages to infuse screechy violin music with some delightful playfulness and joy throughout? However, the struggle with the jumps as embodied by this performance looks to be a constant theme for Ms. Radionova this season.

Adelina Sotnikova: Shockingly, Ms. Sotnikova actually landed all her jumps, albeit without a triple-triple. Perhaps we should not be too surprised, given that Ms. Sotnikova looks clearly more toned up than previous, less successful outings during the summer. Overall skating looks generally improved, and I like the confidence and sharpness of her movements throughout. The music of this SP is very polarizing and seems somewhat difficult to skate to, but I think it could actually be an interestingly intense program with some improvements in the choreography (for example, better timing the 2A so Ms. Sotnikova lands the 2A at the climax of the crescendo of olé!s). Stamina--a problem Ms. Sotnikova had last season--is still lacking given the noticeable decline in speed towards the end of the program. Given the sheer depth of Russian ladies skating right now, I don't see Ms. Sotnikova making either the European or World ladies teams at this point, but with the Russian ladies, who knows. I certainly expected Elizaveta Tuktamysheva on the European and World ladies teams up until mid-December 2015 last season.

Maria Sotskova: Ms. Sotskova has always been a long-limbed skater, but it looks like she's grown at least a foot since last season. This in theory makes for a very striking image on the ice, but the overall impression is marred by the fact that Ms. Sotskova is clearly still lacking in speed throughout the program--not only do her basic skating skills need more work, but even some of her spins look painfully slow in this performance. If Ms. Sotskova wants to make a mark in the senior ranks this season, speed is the #1 thing she needs to work on. Anyway, this SP seems a bit generic right now, not quite as dynamic as her Black Magic Woman SP last season.

Alena Leonova: It's difficult to tell from the low-quality video, but is Alena Leonova trying to portray . . . Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad while skating to Bjork?!?!?! If that is indeed the case, I am going to ironically love the heck out of this SP (!!). OMG.


  1. I do not understand the praise Pogorilaya is getting among fans now. Yes, she skates fast and has a striking presence on the ice. But she does not interpret the music and rushes through her programs. Watching her Por Una Cabeza SP, I was reminded of Miki Ando. She just skates through the music and her skating is not smooth. Due to the heavy emphasis on jumps and speed nowadays, I feel the artistic bar has been lowered considerably imo. Both Adelina and Julia L. had more substance in their skating than the top Russian skaters now.

  2. @Anonymous, 7:37AM

    Anna Pogorilaya is much more palatable to watch live than on screen--I can personally attest to that after attending Boston Worlds! Anyway, Ms. Pogorilaya isn't the most musically nuanced skater but she can definitely look good with the right material. IMO, the LP looks promising; the SP is a mistake.

    1. I watched Pogorilaya's SP at worlds on screen and I think that's probably the best skate I've seen from her. I remembered really surprised watching her because I had never seen her performing with that much commitment. Before that my impression on her was the same as the other anon.