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Rostelecom Cup Recap

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The Grand Prix kicked off this last weekend with the Rostelecom Cup. Skate America is usually the first Grand Prix event of the season, but not this year. Typically the lineup for the Rostelecom Cup is not very impressive, but this season was quite different.

Nathan Chen causes upset

Nathan Chen won his first Grand Prix gold at the Rostelecom Cup this last weekend. Nathan overcame Olympic Champion and two-time world champion, Yuzuru Hanyu who was clearly expected to win this event. Chen defeated Hanyu by 3 points.

For the first time Hanyu included the quad lutz in his free skate. Yuzuru had some issues with a few of his jumps, but he still won the free skate, but fell behind due to some errors in his short program.

Neither Chen nor Hanyu skated their absolute best. Chen has come a long way, but if he wants to continue to defeat Hanyu, he will have to learn how to take command of the ice and find a way to make a magical moment in his free skate. One of Yuzuru’s greatest strengths in his free skate is the way that his music builds and the way that he and the audience build with it. He knows how to create a memorable moment and that is something that Nathan will have to work on.

U.S. ladies struggle

The U.S. ladies did not fare all that well at the Rostelecom Cup. Mariah Bell was in seventh after the short, but fought hard in the free skate and finished sixth place.

Mirai Nagasu attempted a triple axel in both her short program and the free skate. She landed both triple axels, but they were judged under-rotated. It seems like the triple axel is almost becoming a distraction for her. After she lands it, she seems to struggle with the rest of her jumps. Nagasu is so focused on these difficult elements that it looks like she has almost checked out of the program and doesn’t sell her programs as well as we have seen her do in the past. Mirai is definitely paying a price for adding the triple axel. It’s too bad that so far it has not paid off. She finished in ninth place.

Carolina Kostner is officially back

When I first saw that Carolina Kostner was coming back after a two year suspension, I was definitely wondering what we would see with her. Carolina’s first few competitions back were far from impressive. This veteran climbed her way back and had a fabulous short program and free skate at the Rostelecom Cup. She surprised many by capturing the silver medal.

“I had some trouble in the warm up, I didn’t find my rhythm, but the break between the warm up and the performance helped me to calm down and get the energy level up again,” Kostner said in an ISU media release. “I can improve a lot of things but it is very special to begin my Grand Prix season with this performance.”

Evgenia Medvedeva proved that she is indeed human, when she fell on her double axel in the free skate. We have seen Evgenia fall less than a handful of times in competition, so it was almost shocking to witness. Regardless she won the event with a solid 16-point lead over Carolina.

Shibutani’s win first gold of the season

Maia and Alex Shibutani sailed to their first Grand Prix gold medal of the season. They unveiled their long-awaited short dance and free dance, which both received mixed reviews. The Shibutanis returned to Coldplay, but this time skating to “Paradise” in their free dance. Their free dance was very similar to their “Fix Me” by ColdPlay free dance from two seasons ago, but of course they added some new innovative lifts and choreography. They are fabulous technicians, but will need to skate with more abandon if they hope to catch some of the top teams.

Russian teams dominate pairs event

It was a Russian sweep on the pairs podium. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won gold, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov claimed the silver and Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov captured the bronze. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the event with a 20-point lead over their fellow Russian teammates, setting themselves apart as the top Russian team.

Tarasova and Morozov are a strong team, with fantastic elements, but their music choices sometimes confound me. They have a lot of potential and versatility, but I’m still uncertain if skating to “Candyman” by Christina Aguilera in their free skate is the best choice for the  Olympic Games. It will be interesting to see how this program is received as the season progresses.

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