It’s clear where the balance of power lies in singles figure skating in this post-Olympic year. Just look at the Skate America winners.
Elena Radionova, who was too young to compete at the Sochi Olympics, prevailed in a Russian one-two in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Sunday. U.S. champion Gracie Gold was third.
That came after Japan’s second-best skater authored the biggest men’s rout under the current scoring system in Skate America history on Saturday night.
Radionova, 15 and the two-time reigning World junior champion, surpassed countrywoman and short program leader Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in the free skate. Radionova totaled 195.47 points to Tuktamysheva’s 189.62. Gold came in third, well back with 179.38 points.
Gold was the top American at the Sochi Olympics (fourth) and World Championships in March (fifth). The 19-year-old is still seeking her first senior international victory. She’s made three podiums in Grand Prix events.
“I just feel I’m on the brink of breaking into that gold and silver medal,” Gold said, according to The Associated Press. “Everybody’s doing all the tricks. As soon as I can get back that confidence and just really go out there and attack it, I know I can break into the gold medal, silver medal, at the other competitions.”
She’ll probably have to beat a Russian or two to make that happen. No easy task. It’s a renaissance all should have seen coming, given the boost nations receive from hosting the Olympics and that Russia swept the women’s podium at the last two World Junior Championships. They also had two of the three medalists at the two Worlds before that.
“There are no more than three Russians per competition,” Gold said before Skate America, “so I’m not getting them all at the same time.”
That’s true and telling. Russia’s top two women from last season — Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and World Championships silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya — have yet to debut this season.
The other individual 2014 Olympic and Worlds medalists are not skating this season — the retired Yuna Kim and the break-taking Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner.
Next week at Skate Canada, U.S. Olympian Ashley Wagner will have her hands full with two other accomplished Russians who didn’t earn Sochi spots. She faces Alena Leonova, the 2012 World Championships silver medalist, and Anna Pogorilaya, fourth place at the 2014 World Championships.
The Japanese are the class of men’s skating with the reigning Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who hasn’t competed yet this season, and Tatsuki Machida, who became the first Skate America repeat champ in 13 years on Saturday.
They are not nearly as deep as Russia’s women, though Japan’s quantity of quality could be better judged after Skate Canada next week.
Takahiko Kozuka and Takahito Mura will skate against two-time reigning World bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain and Americans Max Aaron, Adam Rippon and Stephen Carriere in British Columbia.
Also Sunday, Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov won the pairs competition at Skate America, tallying 209.16 points including a throw quad salchow in their free skate.
Kavaguti and Smirnov were the top Russians at the Vancouver Olympics, where they were fourth, but missed most of last season due to Smirnov’s knee injury.
U.S. pairs were second (Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, 183.84), fourth (Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, 168.62) and fifth (Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, 160.04).