Figure skaters start being selected for Olympics in Beijing. What’s happening in national championships?

The most difficult situation is, of course, in Russia

If there is a sport that has suffered from the consequences of the pandemic the most, it is figure skating. Competitions have been cancelled and postponed here for the third season in a row. This time, the Grand Prix final where the world’s best skaters were going to meet offline was affected. The next similar tournament is the Olympics in Beijing, since both the European Championships and the championship of four continents are still continental events. But figure skaters will have to qualify for these competitions, and the selection process will mainly take place through national championships. Read in a report of Realnoe Vremya’s sports staff about where the championships have already been held and where they are due to be hosted.

What awaits us at the Russian Championships

Like the previous pre-Olympic Russian Championships, this year’s edition will take place in Saint Petersburg too. Without exaggeration, our championships are going to be the most interesting ones because of the stiff competition it is almost impossible to guess a winner in all events. There is going to be a serious fight for the third place where we will likely see surprises. Bronze medals don’t guarantee being chosen for the Olympics but put the owners into a special position.

Before the season started, we had predicted that Tuktamysheva could seriously hope for a ticket to Beijing, while the whole world is talking about this now. And not thanks to Yelizaveta’s good performances or allegedly our special attitude to her but thanks to the theory of probability and stability Tuktamysheva is showing and her rivals from Eteri Tutberidze’s team lack. As for pairs, just Daria Pavlyuchenko and Denis Khodykhin can join the podium. In the men’s skating, everything is so predictable that it is senseless to make forecasts.

A more unexpected result can be seen in ice dance. During test performances, we also paid attention to the fact that Ilya Averbukh named Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro were not the only duet aiming for the title of the country’s third pair. Then, it seemed to be a cliché, but in reality this is what happened. Zagorski and Guerreiro pulled out of Grand Prix legs, Tiffani had had meningitis, while Jonathan started to prepare for his career without competitions. The pair said they would perform at the Russian Championships, but without even one competition in the season they unlikely can count to reach the main tournament.

It isn’t yet known who strong Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin’s positions are, though we think that they have one of the most interesting programmes among all ice dance representatives. However, according to the scores of Grand Prix stages, not everybody agrees with us, particularly international judges don’t. Both the pairs Diana Davis with Gleb Smolkin and Anastasia Skoptsova with Kirill Alyoshin scored more in less prestigious competitions but were close to the score Stepanova and Bukin had.

Also, there is Anabelle Morozov and Andrey Bagin during whose test performances Averbukh said the third pair would probably change.

Where national championships have already been held

If Russia is going through the golden age of figure skating, figure skating is clearly in a crisis across Europe. After Carolina Kostner and Javier Hernández retired, there haven’t yet been found a sub for them. European figure skating lost the competition, not to mention the spectacle of national competitions. For instance, at the Italian Championships last week, winner of the tournament Lara Naki Gutmann wasn’t even close to the bar of 200 points.

Moreover, with the score of 187,43 she couldn’t be even in the top 10 of last year’s Russian Championships. Whereas her compatriot, above-mentioned Kostner once defeated Russians too. The state of affairs in the men’s singles in Italy is much better. Winner of the latest national Daniel Grassle and his opponent Matteo Rizzo can be considered as top European skaters. But on the global scale, they could be in the same top 10. In pairs and ice dance, Nicole Della Monica with Matteo Guarise and Charlène Gignard with Marco Fabbri who have won this year’s Italian Championships perform at quite a high level. But Gignard and Fabbri in ice dance even qualified for the Grand Prix final.

Ukraine and Germany also held their national competitions, but with more modest names and results. Former Russian skater Anastasia Shabotova who has still been fighting with a triple Axel can be noted on team Ukraine. However, the absence of the jump didn’t impede her from finishing first. In Germany, another former Russian skater Alisa Yefimova appeared. But it is a surprise because Yefimova used to compete in the Russian championships. It became known for the first time the athlete would compete for another country last September. The nuance is that the Russian Figure Skating Federation wasn’t really enthusiastic about this news, as Alisa competed for our country in international competitions and she had to go through a number of red-tape proceedings to change her sports citizenship. There is still no official information if the skater has changed the flag and if she can compete for Germany abroad.

Who will compete this week

A series of European national championships will go on this week. First of all, the French championships will be interesting for figure skating fans where one of the main candidates for the Olympic gold in ice dance Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron will be competing. Their victory at the national championships is undoubted, but it will be interesting to see the score they will win with and then compare it with the result of other candidates for the main Olympic award Viktoria Sinitsyna and Nikita Katsalapov a week later.

In the context of figure skating in France, we cannot help but mention the ice dance pair Adelina Galyaviyeva with Louis Thauron that announced about a month ago they would split because of the partner’s health issues. It is unknown if Adelina will continue her career, but there are still prerequisites this will happen. The figure skater dropped a hint on her Instagram account she was in the US. Perhaps, she is looking for a new partner.

In the men’s singles, several figure skaters including Kevin Aymoz and Adam Xiao Him Fa will compete for the first place. Precisely Kevin raised his voice two years ago when the Grand Prix final was held for the last time, he won bronze there. After that, the athlete’s results got worse, during the same season he failed at the European Championships and didn’t even manage to quality for the free programme. While Adam cannot yet boast about his big accomplishments, but he has repeatedly defeated his opponents, including this season.

Other noticeable representatives of the men’s singles will compete in a tournament that will be hosted in Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia, where four countries’ united championships are about to start — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Don’t yet scrunch up your face, by the way, Czechia will compete in the team event at the Olympics in Beijing. The teams of the other above-mentioned countries will be smaller, but in the competition in Slovakia, one can keep an eye on Vladimir Samoylov who obtained Polish sports citizenship in summer and is famous for having all quads under his belt except for the Axel. Or, for instance, the favourite of the European audience Michal Březina.

If there will be other top championships

There will be other championships where our real rivals will compete, the tournament will be in Japan, simultaneously with the Russian nationals. There is a chance we won’t see Yuzuru Hanyu there who hasn’t yet performed this season and withdrew from Grand Prix legs because of an injury. Figure skaters who train abroad also have problems. Due to strict restrictions in Japan where, by the way, the Grand Prix final was going to be held, Stéphane Lambiel and Brian Orser who coach Shoma Uno and Rika Kihira have entrance issues. We won’t get bored during the New Year holidays, it when another two top national championships will take place: in the US and Canada. The list of competitors of the US competition is known, it is interesting 29-year-old Artur Dmitriyev who used to compete with the Russian flag will perform there. His transfer became known only this season, but there weren’t problems because the figure skater has not competed in tournaments at all for several years.

Some countries in general cancelled their nationals or cannot hold them for a number of reasons. China refused to host the championships, and the figure skating tournament has been cancelled in the country for the third time. At the same time, they announced who would compete at the Olympics in pairs and ice dance, while Chinese single skaters will have go through an additional selection process. Georgia will have online performances instead of the championships. The country will participate in the Olympic team event for the first time. And if the competitors in ice dance and men’s singles are clear, in the pairs and ladies’ singles everything can turned out quite unexpectedly. Karina Safina with Luka Berulava and Anastasia Metyolkina with Daniil Parkman can win the tickets, while the latter have just recently won their teammates. Alina Urushadze and also our former figure skater Anastasia Gubanova will perform to win the right to travel to Beijing. And at the moment, it seems everything is in favour of Anastasia. But will this be fair to Urushadze who has been competing for Georgia for many years unlike Gubanova?

Guzyal Yakubova