The Palavela Sports Palace in Turin hosted many competitions important for figure skating - the 2005 European Championship, the 2006 Olympic Games, and the 2010 World Cup. In the coming days, this series will be replenished with the final of the Grand Prix of the 2019/20 season, which will go down in history with the fact that for the first time the supertrio Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaya will simultaneously compete for medals in adult competitions.
Earlier, three young students of Eteri Tutberidze, who once and for all changed the face of female figure skating, met either at junior starts or at national ones. Many remember their rivalry at the Russian Championship in Saransk, when they won all the prizes. Almost a year passed, and each of the young skaters took a big step towards their first adult title.
Shcherbakova even then performed the most valuable jump among the skaters conquered - the quadruple lutz. It brings more points than any two triple cascades. The champion of Russia is so confident in performing the element that this season she decided not to be limited to one attempt, although even men usually do not risk repeating it in one program. At the stage in the United States, Shcherbakova made four Lutz twice - in solo and cascade, and became the second in figure skating after Nathan Chen, who succeeded in principle.
Trusova also decided that at the adult level it is necessary to take the number of jumps. Her free program to the music from “Game of Thrones” can no longer do without four attempts to perform quadruple jumps - salchow, lutz and two sheepskin coats in a cascade, one of which is in the second half of the rental. So far, she was able to assemble all the elements of Trusov only at an unofficial tournament in Japan.
In Turin, fans will again expect from the world record holder that she will do all her quadruple jumps cleanly. Apparently, for the sake of this, Trusova decided to put aside the learning of the triple axel - another element of the ultra-si category. After winning the Grand Prix stage in Moscow, the 15-year-old skater made trixel in training. This jump would help her significantly complicate the short program, but in Turin, Trusova does not plan to take such a risk.
But this jump was taken into service by Alena Kostornaya. For a long time, she lost in technology to her classmates, and even the purity of skating, intricate choreography, quick spins and ideal simpler jumps did not help to eliminate the backlog. But now, having a triple axel available, Kostornaya is already threatening Trusova’s world record, set thanks to three quadruple jumps. At the stage in Japan, a 16-year-old athlete could well beat him, if not for one torn axel.
That performance by Kostornaya made it clear that quadruple jumps are not yet a 100% guarantee of victory, since there are many other ways to earn valuable points. This is what gives additional intrigue to the Grand Prix finals - a tournament in which, in the last three cases, the gold went to the athlete who was better prepared technically. At first it was an incredibly jumping Evgenia Medvedeva, then - transferred all the jumps to the second half of Alina Zagitova's programs, and last season - a Japanese monopoly triple axel Rika Kihira.
However, in order to defend the title, Kihira just decided to closely engage in quadruple jumps and even before the Grand Prix home stage she learned salchow in four turns. For a skater from the category of adults, who also refused a triple lutz due to injury, this is really a feat. True, it has not yet been possible to fulfill the salchow at the official start, but the Japanese athlete must include a new jump in her program for the Grand Prix finals.
If Kihira nevertheless fulfills the quadruple salchow, he will confuse all the cards to the students of Tutberidze, who may well lose the chance to take the entire podium three together. After all, the Japanese woman is already able to bypass Shcherbakova thanks to the components, and with the four salchows she is already getting close to Kostornaya and Trusova - the difference between them will be already scored points, and not a dozen, as before.
The two remaining participants in the Grand Prix finals do not have to hope for high places. Alina Zagitova has only one trump card - high components and interestingly delivered programs, but in this direction she is close to the limit and is no longer able to make big leaps. Although she was able to win the World Cup, when Kihira and Elizabeth Tursynbaeva, who performed the four-man salkhov, walked in the rivals, since then Zagitova again began to make a lot of mistakes in jumping and almost lost her signature cascade of Lutz - Rittberger.
Now it’s already impossible for the Olympic champion to fight with “quadists” and “trixelists”. Zagitova is very close to being left without a medal in international competitions for the second time in her adult career, and for the first time - even with perfect skiing. Although the upcoming competitions in Turin will be an unprecedented holiday for fans, the most experienced student of Tutberidze may not have a place in it.
The sixth participant in the Grand Prix finals was Brady Tennell. She will be the only skater who won only one medal in the normal stages of the series. Like Zagitova, she does not have either quadruple jumps or a triple axel in the arsenal. In a technical assessment, the American is inferior to many girls who could not get into the finals, and in terms of average scores for components, she outruns only Trusov and Shcherbakov. Together with Zagitova, she will have to fight for the right to avoid the last place in Turin, and the Russian woman will be a favorite in this fight.