Cup of Russia 2013

Free Dance

by Anna RYAN ©

23 November


Day 2, rather sadly, saw the continuation of the biased judging in favour of the Russian couples. It would seem that little has changed since the 2002 Olympic judging scandal. The New Code of Points appears to be just as easily manipulated as the old 6.0 judging system.


The couple to suffer most from the biased judging were the Canadians Weaver/ Poje who came into the competition as the favourites. Although they delivered a strong, smooth and beautifully composed Astor Piazzolla tango to win the FD, they had to settle for the silver medal overall. Their accurate interpretation showed they’d done their homework on what a tango should look like, it was well researched and true to the spirit of the dance. They didn’t stop for one moment. There were transitions in and out of every element, beautiful lifts and amazing expression from him. However, whilst he was totally believable, her lack of body tension and occasional smiles need work for this to be a truly believable tango. Despite the great performance, their skating generally seems to be more style than substance, which unfortunately leaves the impression that there is something missing.


In 2nd place in the FD, but gold medalists overall, Bobrova/ Soloviev delivered a frantic program set to the Four Seasons by Vivaldi and Lacrimosa by Mozart. Zhulin has used the tried and tested technique of speed and attack to hide their basic flaws. The potential is there, they are a good, well matched dance team, but today they were not in control. Her posture, which seemed to be improving last season, is now as bad as ever. The footwork is poor with Soloviev using his blades like an ice scraper.  Zhulin knew that they couldn’t compete with Ilinykh/Katsalapov with a purely classical program, so he has tried to make the program voidy by the addition of barking dogs and strange frantic movements with a lot of flailing arms. Sadly, it just comes across as a hot mess. They are not as good skaters as Weaver and Poje and do not deserve to have won here.

In 3rd place and 3rd overall were Chock/Bates skating to the very much over-used Les Miserables. They skated really well, with amazing unison on the twizzles and a beautiful dance spin. Sadly there was a disconnect between the dance and the music, which was much too big for them. The program was full of crossovers and was really empty, though she had the head and arm flinging nailed down. It was a bit frantic towards the end. Whilst being well executed, it was pretty bland and forgettable.


In 4th place and 4th overall,  were Riazanova/Tkachenko skating to another much over-used piece of music “The Phantom of the Opera”. Once again Riazanova/ Tkachenko have an FD that looks the same as all their previous FDs. They look like skaters from another long gone era, when drama and angst were the orders of the day. Maybe a coaching change to Krylova would be in order to bring their programs into the 21st century. They are so much better than this FD, which whilst well skated, was one of the easiest programs on the GP circuit this year. On a more positive note, it was good to see Riazanova in a colour other than black. They looked very disappointed in the K&C.


In 5th place and 5th overall, Monko/Khaliavin skated to a selection of music by Rene Aubry and Gaetano Donizetti. It was a great skate from them today, their best of the season. Whilst it was an open program, it was very entertaining, with their head, arms and faces always on the move. The transitions whilst not being very difficult were simple and effective.
It seems that Monko is constantly tweaking her costume between competitions. I was sad to see the voidy socks have disappeared.  They’ve called their semi-voidy program “Director’s Cut”, she plays an actress and he a director, throughout the program she tries to break free from him as he tries to control her. The concept isn’t as strong as Gilles/Poirier’s FD, but is still one of the more interesting FD’s of the season. Overall they skated well today and deserved their placement, if not the overly generous marks.


In a rather disappointing 6th place and 6th overall, were the Canadians Gilles/ Poirier. Their “Hitchcock” FD is something of a choreographic masterpiece, but programs like this unfortunately lose their wow factor after you’ve seen them once and the surprise element is gone. Despite this, their FD remains the standout program of the season, very entertaining. Though they didn’t skate as well as in Japan, in particular Paul messing up the twizzles, their PCS was lower than it should have been. They look really good, a sort of unique and quirky version of Weaver/Poje, but they could use more speed.


After their catastrophic SD, France’s Papadakis/ Cizeron managed to pull up a place in the FD to finish 7th overall. Their interesting and voidy program set to the “Woodkid – Iron” soundtrack was beautifully choreographed. With the disastrous SD fresh in their minds, they were understandably a little tentative and didn’t skate as well as in Paris last week. This was the 2nd most interesting program after the Canadians. As in the SD, they looked fabulous, with interesting costumes à la Jean-Paul Gaultier. With the maturity of their skating, it’s easy to forget how young they are. With their unique, relaxed style and wonderful performance quality they have a very bright future ahead of them. As Alban Preaubert commentated on Eurosport , they are yet another example of the excellent coaching work from the Zazoui stable. Lyon does seem to produce a seemingly endless stream of good dancers, all with their own unique style.


In last place and last place overall were the Ukranians, Heekin-Canedy/ Dun. Skating to yet another extremely over-used piece of music, the Tango of Roxanne, which was way too big for them. As if Tango of Roxanne isn’t bad enough, the dire vocals on this particular version added to the misery. There is not a lot to say on their skating other than they do not look the level to be skating in GP’s. 

Short dance

by Anna RYAN ©

22 November


It wasn’t that surprising to see a Russian couple winning the SD, given the home skating advantage, and the inevitable politics that will be going on behind the scenes to try to ensure at least one Russian couple makes it onto the podium in Sochi. However, what was surprising was the 5 points lead that the Russians, Bobrova/Solviev had over the Canadian team of Weaver/Poje.


Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (23/24), coached by Alexander Zhulin, are clearly on a countdown to Sochi, as they really upped their game today. They were very fast with great ice coverage but at the cost of being a little wild and out of control in places, especially Bobrova in the twizzles, for which they didn’t seem to be penalized. Their Finnstep to “Diamonds are a girls best friend” captured well the light, bouncy nature of the dance. They both sold the program well and looked like they were enjoying themselves, particularly Bobrova, who was beaming throughout. They received level 3 for both sequences of the Finnstep, the best levels of the day. In fact it was a quite tough technical panel, which was good to see after the inflated levels given in Skate Canada and Skate America.


In 2nd, Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (24/26) skating to music from 42nd street, gave a classy performance despite suffering from technical difficulties. Their Finnstep sequences were only judged to be level 1 and level 2 respectively and their curved lift, despite being very well executed, only received level 2. Kaitlyn’s dress was a gorgeous royal blue colour, but her hair was too flat on the sides. Sitting with Angelica Krylova in the K&C, it was hard to hide their disappointment at the score of 61.50, some 10 points lower than in Skate Canada.


In 3rd Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko (22/26) also benefited majorly from skating at home. It was an enjoyable performance, if a little slow overall. There were visible errors in the straight line step sequence, and he made errors in the 2nd set of twizzles, but their SD was otherwise well skated with a nice rotational lift with her on his shoulder.

It might have been better without the fake wink at the end from Riazanova ;)

In 4th, Madison Chock/Evan Bates (21/24) sold the hell out of their program. The prodigies of Igor Shpilband skated to “Hollywood” by Puppini Sisters  and “There's No Business Like Show Business” which seemed the perfect music for Chock, who never let her cheesy grin drop for a moment. The 30cm height difference is distracting and leads to some gripping and grabbing in places. He is a better dancer than Chock, and would benefit from having a taller partner. They skated well, yet for some reason it is quite boring, made worse by Chock’s irritating over acting.

In 5th were the 3rd Russian couple Ksenia Monko/Kirill Khaliavin (21/22), training mates of Bobrova/Solviev. This was a much better outing for them than at the French GP last weekend. Skating to “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy” and “Love” by Nat King Cole, they had lots of energy and were solid technically with nice level 2 & 3 Finnstep sequences. Monko stumbled at the end of their level 2 straight line step sequence, but despite their lack of height difference managed a level 4 on their rotational lift. Khaliavin draws your eye, he seems the more talented of the couple and would benefit from a shorter, less stocky partner.


In 6th were the Canadians, Piper Gilles/ Paul Poirier (21/22) coached by Carol and Jon Lane. They seemed faster across the ice then Monko/Khaliavin. So it must’ve been a huge disappointment to be behind them on both the TES and GOE. Their music by Caro Emerald, was fresh and not overused. In their 3rd season together, they finally seem to be looking more matched, both physically and technically.  She is strong on presentation and overall they are enjoyable to watch.


In 7th were the Ukrainian’s Siobhan Heekin-Canedy/Dmitri Dun (22/24). They had a messy skate and were by far the weakest couple, who benefited from mistakes by Papadakis/Cizeron. She made a big mistake in the level 2 twizzles and their level 2 & level 1 Finnstep series were badly skated, with both couples pulling apart from each other. Despite her winning smiles, they looked really out of place at this level of skating, which isn’t surprising when you consider that they were only 15th in the Nebelhorn Olympic qualifying competition. They were lucky that they had already secured their spot for Sochi at the 2013 World championships.



In last place, it was a disastrous outing for France’s Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (18/19).  It was a far cry from the superb performances they laid down in the Paris GP just one week ago. However, this could be explained by the fact that Papadakis’s skates didn’t turn up until the Thursday night, so she missed all the practice sessions. It also must be extremely tiring to do 2 major competitions in just 8 days.

Cizeron completely lost his balance in the twizzles after which he never fully recovered. They were off the music in the Finnstep and the pattern was poor. Cizeron also put his foot down in the one foot section of the circular step sequence. But the worst was yet to come, Cizeron managed to fall on the closing pose! They just didn’t appear to be present today, it was a hot mess. Let’s hope they can put this behind them and deliver a great FD.


On a more positive note, they are a stunning looking, well-matched couple, with great costumes and clearly a great future. What a eye candy it was to see them in the K&C with their stunning coach Romain Haguenauer.