I’m off to US Nationals tomorrow for the 20th reunion of my skating fan group–can’t wait!
Japanese Nationals took place in Saitama from Dec. 20-23. The huge thing to come out of these championships was the selection of the men’s team for Sochi. Yuzuru Hanyu, Tatsuki Machida, and Takahiko Kozuka won the medals, but Kozuka was not named to the Olympic or World teams. The third men’s spot will be filled by Daisuke Takahashi, who finished fifth. This is no doubt a nod to Takahashi’s great career, but it’s got to be heartbreaking for both Kozuka and Nobunari Oda, who was fourth. Kozuka had a really rough Grand Prix season, and Oda can’t keep track of his jumping passes, but it’s a rough go nevertheless. Oda has since announced his retirement. I personally love Takahashi’s skating, and am happy for him (I can’t forget seeing him live for the first time at 2005 Skate America in Atlantic City and being so excited). But I am sad for Kozuka who has such wonderful knees. Kozuka was named to the Four Continents team, and is the alternate for both Olympics and Worlds.
The ladies’ competition held surprises as well: after a hugely successful season in which she seemed to set herself apart from the pack, Mao Asada only managed a bronze at Nationals. Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami won the gold and silver. However, unlike the men, all three ladies’ medalists will be on the Olympic team. Asada was named in the second spot, and Murakami in the third spot.
Narumi Takahashi and her new partner Ryuichi Kihara will represent Japan in pairs, and Cathy Reed and Chris Reed in Ice Dance.
Russian Nationals took place from Dec. 24-27 in Sochi. Unlike Japanese Nationals (and US and Canadian Nationals, for that matter), Russian Nationals are not the primary selection competition; Russia’s team will not be selected until after Europeans. The European Championships will be in Budapest from January 15-19.
Russia only has one men’s spot in Sochi. Maxim Kovtun took the gold at Nationals over Evgeny Plushenko and Sergei Voronov. Plushenko has since said that he would skate in the team competition and not the men’s, but it’s unclear if the rules allow this. It would shock no one if Plushenko skated in the team event and then withdrew due to injury, leaving Kovtun to skate in the men’s; after all, this is the Russians (if I knew how to say “Rules were meant to be broken” in Russian, I would insert it here 😉 )!! However, the team won’t be named until after Euros.
Kovtun, Voronov, and 4th-place finisher Konstantin Menshov were named to the European team.
Russia’s baby ballerinas dominated the ladies’ podium, with Adelina Sotnikova, Julia Lipnitskaia, and Elena Radionova winning the medals. All three were named to the European squad.Other notables: Alena Leonova was fifth, Anna Pogorilaya was eighth, and defending champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was 10th. The fourth-place finisher, Alexandra Proklova, is 13 years old.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov did not defend their title at Russian Nationals, but they were named to the European team. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov won gold, Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov silver, Maria Vigalova/Egor Zakroev bronze. Volosozhar/Trankov, Stolbova/Klimov and Bazarova/Larionov will represent Russia at Euros.
Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev took gold in Ice Dance, followed by Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina/Ruslan Zhiganshin. Bobrova/Soloviev are not scheduled to skate at Euros, but will certainly be on the Olympic team. Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko round out Russia’s ice dancing team for Euros.