First look: Rostelecom Cup
Five things to watch for at the first Grand Prix of the season.
1. Evgenia looks to continue her golden streak
Evgenia Medvedeva, reigning two-time world champ, hasn’t lost a competition since 2015. She’ll undoubtedly be looking to keep that streak up all the way through PyeongChang. There’s no real reason why she should lose here at home, but if the sky falls down, she could face a challenge from fellow countrywoman Elena Radionova. Carolina Kostner, 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, who has had strong showings at early-season competitions could also pose a challenge.
Other top ladies to watch at Rostelecom are the Americans (Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell), Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan, and Wakaba Higuchi from Japan.
2. Yuzu vs Nathan
Who will take the gold in the first Big Six face-off of the Grand Prix Season? Yuzuru Hanyu, reigning two-time world champion and 2014 Olympic champion, broke a world record with his short program at Autumn Classic in September but struggled in his long. Quad God Nathan Chen has really upped his points components score, but hasn’t gone all out with his technical difficulty yet. Yuzuru Hanyu is almost certainly the favorite but anything is possible.
Can’t forget about Mikhail Kolyada either. He got close to breaking into the crowd of top men all of last season and he’ll have a home-country crowd behind him. Another man to watch, Denis Ten (2014 Olympic bronze medalist), is back off a summer ankle injury.
3. Battle of the Russian pairs’ teams
Russia’s two top pairs’ teams are the favorites at Rostelecom this year. Stolbova/Klimov are the reigning, three-time, Russian national champs but Tarasova/Morozov won Europeans last year and placed third at Worlds. Canada’s Seguin/Bilodeau are also a team to watch.
Overall it’s not the most intense pairs’ field.
4. Shibs’ debut
From their music to choreography, Maia and Alex Shibutani, always have some of the coolest programs in ice dance. We already saw most of the top ice dance teams debut their programs in September and October, so it will be interesting to see what the Shibutani siblings, reigning Worlds bronze medalists and U.S. Champs, bring to the table.
5. Jump watch
Mirai’s triple axel? Elizabet’s quad sal? How many quads will Nathan do? Mirai Nagasu has officially rotated three triple axels in international competition, but so far they’ve all been two-footed. Will Rostelecom see her land one clean? Only seven other women in history have done it.
Similarly, Elizabet Tursynbaeva has been showing off a nice quad salchow in practice. If she lands one in international competition she’ll become the first woman ever to do so at the senior level.
Nathan Chen has been easing into this season slowly. He did four quads in his long program at Japan Open, but his coach has been hinting at trying to up that number to seven by the end of the season. Nathan’s currently the only man with five quads (all except the axel) in his arsenal, so because of the rules about repeating jumps in a program, he’s the only one right now who could do seven. Things change in the blink of an eye in quad land though, so who knows. Last year he became the first man ever to land five clean quads in international competition and the first to attempt six (all were fully rotated but he fell on two). The other top men have responded to that five quad free skate by upping their planned quads as well. We already saw Shoma Uno land five in his long at Lombardia Trophy in September. Yuzu has also said he plans do five at some point this season.
You can watch Rostelecom Friday through Sunday on Ice Network or by scouring the internet for a stream. Here’s the schedule (times for the East Coast of the US):
7 a.m. Men’s short | 9 a.m. Short dance | 11:30 a.m. Pairs’ short | 1 p.m. Ladies’ short.
6:30 a.m. Men’s free | 8:45 a.m. Free dance | 10:35 a.m. Pairs’ free | 12:20 Ladies’ free
And here’s the lineup
Men: Nam Nguyen (Canada), Daniel Samohin (Israel), Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan), Denis Ten (Kazakhstan), Deniss Vasiljevs (Latvia), Dmitri Aliev (Russia), Mikhail Kolyada (Russia), Andrei Lazukin (Russia), Nathan Chen (US), Grant Hochstein (US), Misha Ge (Uzbekistan).
Ladies: Anastasia Galustyan (Armenia), Mae Bernice Meite (France), Nicole Schott (Germany), Carolina Kostner (Italy), Wakaba Higuchi (Japan), Kaori Sakamoto (Japan), Elizabet Tursynbaeva (Kazakstan), Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia), Valeriia Mikhailova (Russia), Elena Radionova (Russia), Mariah Bell (US), Mirai Nagasu (US).
Pairs: Ziegler/Kiefer (Austria), Seguin/Bilodeau (Canada), Marchei/Hotarek (Italy), Suto/Budreau-Audet (Japan), Astakhova/Rogonov (Russia), Stolbova/Klimov (Russia), Tarasova/Morozov (Russia), Castelli/Tran (US).
Dance: Gilles/Poirier (Canada), Kuzmichova/Sinicyn (Czech Republic), Lauriault/Le Gac (France), Guignard/Fabbri (Italy), Bobrova/Soloviev (Russia), Popova/Mozgov (Russia), Stepanova/Bukin (Russia), Agafonova/Ucar (Turkey), Parsons/Parsons (US), Shibutani/Shibutani (US).