The cutting edge by Emma Pritchett

The 2019-2020 season is one that you won’t want to miss. No, I am not talking about football, soccer, basketball, or any sport that people tend to watch. I’m talking about international figure skating; the sport that people only pay attention to every four years, and one I used to only watch every Olympics until I got sucked in. 

Let’s take a moment to recount some of the drama from last season. Each country is allowed a certain number of entries in each event depending on how high their skaters placed the year before. Some countries get one spot, others get three. Each nation is required to submit their entries about a month out from worlds. Team Russia took forever to pick who would be on their world team. They had three spots to fill, and they submitted seven entries. They didn’t announce the final decision of who would skate until just under two weeks before the competition. The 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova skated like crap at every competition except for worlds, where she somehow won (though in my opinion, she skates like a robot, and Evgenia Medvedeva should have won the Olympics just sayin’). When Zagitova came in second at Europeans to fellow Russian Sofia Samodurova, she behaved like a child at the medal ceremony. She refused to smile when awarded her medal and had RBF the whole time. While there was drama last season, this season will be a bloodbath. As it is, I’m not even sure Alina and Evgenia will make the Russian world team this year, let alone get medals there. 

As if one teenager from Japan who could jump two clean triple Axels (3A) in a program wasn’t enough, this season, three young Russians move up to the Senior level. These girls will change everything. Two of these girls can jump quads, which, in ladies skating, is groundbreaking. Anna Shcherbakova can jump a quad Lutz (4Ltz). Alexandra Trusova can jump four different types of quads, including a 4 Ltz, a quad toe loop (4T), a qual Salchow (4S), and a quad flip (4F). At the World Championships last March, Elizabet Tursynbaeva (Kazakhstan), who trains with Eteri Tutberidze, the same coach of the Russian girls I mentioned before, became the first senior woman to land a quad sal in an international competition. That was a huge deal, however, a woman who can jump four different types of quads is unheard of. 

The last girl, Alena Kostornaia, does not jump quads but is still a threat because of her artistry. Alena is one of those skaters who interprets the music beautifully and executes every element with grace. The returning seniors will have to watch their backs this season. 

Although the Grand Prix hasn’t started yet, many skaters have competed at small international competitions around the world. At the AutumnClassic International a few weeks ago Evgenia Medvedeva and Japan’s Rika Kihira both completed clean skates in the short program and the free program. Kihira performed two 3As in her free program which made her tech score much higher than Medvedeva, but Medvedeva had the highest component scores in both programs of the competition. 

Personally, I am a big fan of Medvedeva’s music choices for her programs this year. Her short program this season is choreographed to Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 (Redemption) by Muse. The music suits her skating style, but I have mixed feelings about the catsuit costume. Her free program is set to excerpts of songs from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. When she announced that her music would be to this song, Medvedeva said that she had been waiting years to skate to this, she felt that she needed to reach the maturity to interpret and become this character. However, I felt that although her programs were beautiful at the Autumn Classic, they were still a little rough. But, she still has time to polish them, so I am confident she will perfect them by the time her first Grand Prix assignment comes along. 

While I am not certain the Zagitova or Medvedeva will make the Russian world team, I absolutely believe that Alexandra Trusova will make the team. Recently, Trusova made her mark at the 2019 CS Ondrej Nepal’s Memorial. Trusova landed three clean quads in her free program! She kicked the program off with a 4Ltz, then a 4T+3T, and 4T. She became the first senior lady to land a quad toe in an international competition, land a quad in combination, and the first to cleanly land three fully rotated quads in one program. She set world records in both the free program and total score. Trusova is definitely one to watch this season!

However, Trusova is not the only one jumping quads at the senior level. Anna Shcherbakova became the first woman to land a fully rotated 4Ltz at a recent competition! Shcherbakova has a good chance of making the world team if she can land her quad more consistently than she did last season. Otherwise, I’d rather see the spot go to someone who doesn’t rely on their tech score to get good scores. In my opinion, Shcherbakova skates a lot like Zagitova–very robotic and she looks uncomfortable. 

Quads or no quads, the Russian ladies are a force to be reckoned with. The American ladies, and pretty much everyone, need to up their game if they want to compete with these Russian prodigies.