A Russian lady stood on top of the podium at the Olympics last winter, but several of Adelina Sotnikova’s countrywomen are nipping at her heels, judging by the performances at Skate America last weekend in Chicago.
Russians Elena Radionova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva went 1-2, with Americans Gracie Gold and Samantha Cersario getting solid starts to their seasons in 3rd and 4th, respectively. Skate America is the official kickoff of the Grand Prix season, a series of 6 competitions where skaters rack up points in the hopes of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. I watched from the comfort of my couch, under a blanket and with some hot cocoa, ready to analyze.
15-year-old Elena Radionova ruled the event, not only nailing her programs but expertly playing to the cameras. While some skaters pretend not to see the camera in their face when they step off the ice, Radionova stared right into it after her short program and blew a kiss. She backed up her confident demeanor with triple-triple combinations in both programs and fantastic spins. Despite her commanding presence, I’d love to see her draw her arms in a bit more when she is skating. They look flailed out, which makes her look less in control of her movement than she actually is. See for yourself in her short program:
A visibly fatigued Tuktamisheva already has three gold medals to her name this season, but this one wasn’t meant to be hers. Like her Russian teammate, she also exuded confidence and played to the crowd in the long program, even throwing in a few winks. Her jumps aren’t huge, but they are very neat and she has great flow across the ice.
Gold had a solid, if imperfect, start to her season after a breakout Olympic season last year. She told Ice Network, “I just have to keep my head down and keep training. I need to build my confidence back up. I did have a great season with the U.S. Championships and the Olympics.”
With a few bobbles in both programs, she looked nervous—though that may have been amplified in contrast to the extreme confidence of her Russian competitors. Her long program is set to music from The Phantom of the Opera, including a vocal portion, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” I think I’ll dedicate a whole post to my thoughts on the new rule that allows lyrics, but I’m not sure about this cut. Commentator Johnny Weir called it “shrill” and his fellow analyst Terry Gannon also said he wasn’t a fan. Not only do I love when those two call a skating competition, but I think they might be right in this case. I’m not sure the slow, soft tone of this piece matches well with her powerful style. I’ll be interested to see how the program develops as the season goes on!
I’m a big fan of American Samantha Cesario, who skated two clean performances for a 4th place finish here. Her long program is the same as last year, set to Carmen. While I could do without another on-ice rendition of Carmen (nothing will top Evan Lysacek’s 2006 Olympic long program in my book), I saw this program in person at last year’s US Championships and really like her flair. I also love how she commits to every movement and every jumping pass.