Skating Off-Season Weekly Roundup: Grand Prix Meeting Scheduled and Coaching Changes

ISU to determine Grand Prix assignments in June; two coaching changes for Russian skaters trying to regroup from season.

We are now a week into the official off-season, and certain organizations are already responding accordingly. U.S. Figure Skating and NBC, for instance, who gathered a bunch of Olympic hopefuls together for their usual summer-before Olympic promo photoshoot. They had a few things they haven’t had in the past, though, such as puppies, Sesame Street characters, and minions. The Twitter accounts for U.S. Figure Skating and NBC Olympics have some of the sillier highlights, and the more proper portrait photos are available on Getty Images.

The International Skating Union, meanwhile, is planning to get down to business about the upcoming Grand Prix-in two months, according to Swiss ISU judge David Molina:

It’s a typical enough time, but it would’ve been nice had it been a little earlier; sometimes is has been.

Besides that, the major news is week came out of Russia, and was all about the coaching changes. The first one was announced the last weekend: Russian ice dancers Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov have left Marina Zueva and Michigan for Alexander Zhulin in Moscow, though they will continue to working coaching legend Elena Tchaikovskaya. Back when Katsalapov was the next big thing with former partner Elena Ilinykh, Zhulin was the one who took them to their breakthrough, but they then left him, likely on pressure from the Russian federation. In one short Russian article, which mainly talks about his other big students Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev’s choice of choreographer, Zhulin describes already working on their programs with them, and it’s likely they’ve been with him for some time already.

It was already known they’d left Michigan for Russia after their season ended early, officially because Katsalapov needed treatment for an injury. Rumors are currently flying around that they actually left because Katsalapov was kicked out, possibly even for attacking Sinitsina when they were at the rink. All we know for sure about it, however, is that there are issues between them, since Tchaikovskaya confirmed that much early last month in a post-Worlds interview while refusing to give details, and that Katsalapov has a history of behavioral issues. A quote from the legendary Tatiana Tarasova translated by FS Gossips certainly bears that second detail out.

But the coaching move itself isn’t necessarily evidence of anything. The two of them did very badly this season, and ended it with the odds against them making the Olympics. That much alone has been the reason for many coaching changes.

Likely much simpler is the coaching change of Elena Radionova. Following a season where she failed to make the World team, she’s left former coach Inna Goncharenko for Elena Buyanova. Like Zhulin, Buyanova already has another top student: Maria Sotskova, who might prove Radionova’s direct rival for a spot on the Olympic team, but top students sharing coaches is very common practice in Russia. She too isn’t the favorite for a spot right now, but lately the Russian ladies field has been so volatile her chances of changing that, if this coaching change helps her, are pretty good.

For another Russian lady Olympic hopeful, things will be more difficult. We already knew 2015-2016 junior phenom Polina Tsurskaya was struggling with ligaments on her knee, and had needed surgery, but this week we got more details, as she’s now been diagnosed with a rare genetic predisposition to exotosis, or tumors on her joints. It’s not at all easy to try to have a skating career through that, though Tsurskaya’s going to try anyway.

We also got more information about the bone woes of Canadian pairs skater Eric Radford, about a month after he competed with Meagan Duhamel through them at Worlds. Turns out his problems and pain there originated from a herniated disc. He can recover from that, especially with the right treatment, over the summer, though he too will now be vulnerable to the problem coming back, until he has surgery. However, talking about the issue now, they also confirmed what most already expected, that the upcoming season will be their last. It looks like he’s just going to hope his back holds out for their career’s final stretch.

Meanwhile, the first high-profile skaters to announce a coaching change, Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko, are back on Facebook, now announcing their music for next season. They’re going with popular songs for their short dance, using the original versions of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Pitbull’s “Fireball,” but the Rhythms del Mundo version of Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved.” The tempo and rhythm of the last is suited to the required rumba pattern, and they may have chosen it just for that. The three songs are not ones that form a natural medley together, but that, sadly, is all too common a problem in short dances.

Their free dance music, Camille Saint-Seans Samson and Delilah, is a skating standard. It’s slightly risky for ice dancers these days, as most fans still remember well the free dance with which Meryl Davis & Charlie White had their breakthrough season. They may, of course, be using different music than “S’Apre Per Te Il Mio Cuopre” and the Bacchanale, but it’s unlikely; almost everyone who skates to this work uses those. Still, it suits them, and they certainly aren’t the first ice dancers of the decade to use it. They may be getting both programs from new coach Marina Zueva, who choreographed Davis & White’s program, and she’s usually known what she’s doing.

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