Cup of China overflows with surprises
'Nothing happened as expected' at figure skating event
Watching the Cup of China Grand Prix over the weekend was one of those events where nothing happened as expected. The good news is that it means that there isn’t a skater anywhere who should be taking things for granted this competitive season.
Women: Carolina Kostner, as 2012 world champion and current world silver medallist, was my pick to take gold at this event. Instead, she won bronze. She was good, with two second-place programs, but not good enough against a pair of Russian teenagers.
The leader after the short program was 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova, whose free program — with four successful triple jumps — still had enough errors to drop her to second place overall.
The surprise of the event for me was Anna Pogorilaya, 15, the 2013 World Junior bronze medallist who leapfrogged from third after the short program to first overall.
Men: The men’s event was difficult to predict although it seemed reasonable that Denis Ten, the 2013 world silver medallist from Kazakhstan, would prevail. This was not to be as Ten faltered in the short and was lukewarm in the free; he finished off the podium in fourth place.
The names you need to remember are Han Yan, of China, who took the title after the lead in the short, and Maxim Kovtun, the 19-year-old silver medallist, who is from Russia.
I like that Kovtun is back on my radar, especially since he included two quad Salchows in his free program. Previously, Kovtun got my hopes up when he was fifth at the 2013 European championships — only to leave me disappointed after a 17th-place finish at Worlds one month later. His first silver Grand Prix medal is a step in the right direction.
Ice dance: I thought Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, the 2013 World bronze medallists, would have the lock on the title. The Russians settled for silver, however, after the two-time European champions from France, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, proved they want a podium finish in Sochi.
The French team made some errors in the Finnstep section of their short dance, putting them in second place before the free dance. The thing is with a technical error, it is totally fixable. Technical errors mean more practice is required. This isn’t always the case when a free program isn’t well received due to concept or choreography. If Pechalat and Bourzat's free program had been left wanting it wouldn’t have signalled a need for more practice but rather a potential and complete overhaul. By comparison, improving the Finnstep short dance section is easier.
Pairs: I have to hand it to Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, of Germany, as skaters who can do what needs doing in order to win. They have the strongest pedigree of all of the current pairs, with four world and European titles, an Olympic bronze medal and many others.
They tossed a throw triple Axel in at the 2013 Worlds in order to clinch the silver medal. It’s a high risk move, worth a lot of points, and when done past the mid-point of a free program is worth a 10 per cent bonus.
It appears as if the triple Axel has made it in again this season. It wasn’t perfect; their skating overall earned them the title. Their biggest rivals were the 2010 Olympic silver medallists and two-time World champions from China, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, who settled for silver on home ice.