Dmitriy Kozlovskiy

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Grand Prix Final pairs’ preview: Russian revival or China’s run to Beijing?

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It’s been six years since mighty Russia last won a world title in pairs’ figure skating, five years since its last Olympic crown and three since Russians topped a Grand Prix Final podium. And last season, Russia failed to win the European title for the first time in eight years.

“They were kind of left with no one,” after 2014 Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov stepped away, and subsequent teams failed to consistently win at the highest level, said Johnny Weir, NBC Sports analyst and noted aficionado of all things Russia.

That can change leading into the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, perhaps beginning at this week’s Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy. It’s the most exclusive event in skating featuring the world’s top six teams. It’s near the midpoint of the Olympic cycle, prime time for new blood to circulate.

Enter Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy. They are 17 and 19 years old, respectively, and own the world’s highest score this season after sweeping their Grand Prix Series starts. Russia qualified three pairs into the Final, all with an average age in the teens.

They represent what Russia hopes is a new era. Olympics and world championships came and went with Germans, Canadians and Chinese relegating the likes of Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov to silver or bronze medals.

“So [Russia] were left with these junior teams who aren’t always reliable,” Weir said. “When you’re a junior skater, you’re still finding your legs and learning how to compete at a high level. You aren’t always as reliable as a seasoned veteran. What I think is so exciting about the young teams coming up is that they’ve all shown they can carry the torch for Russia. It’s an exciting place for Russia to be, especially not far away from the next Olympic Games.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL PREVIEWS: Nathan Chen | Yuzuru Hanyu | Alysa Liu
Women | Pairs | TV/Stream Schedule | Entrants

Boikova and Kozlovskiy could become the youngest pairs’ champions in Grand Prix Final history, and the youngest at any global competition of this caliber since the legendary Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov at the 1987 World Championships.

Weir likes Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, who went undefeated on the junior circuit last season and won their senior Grand Prix debut in November.

“They have a nice, powerful way of performing, very St. Petersburg, if I can put it that way and people will understand,” he said. “There’s a very big difference, artistically, between Moscow school of skating and St. Petersburg school of skating. That power and that presence is definitely evident.”

Standing in their way are Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, undefeated since taking silver at the PyeongChang Olympics despite missing the 2018 Grand Prix season due to Sui’s stress fracture in her right foot.

Sui and Han also swept their Grand Prix starts with a higher average score than Boikova and Kozlovskiy. Weir and fellow NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski said they are the favorites this week.

“Sui and Han are in a class of their own,” Lipinski said. “They set themselves apart in their consistency and their maturity. Going up against these youngsters, I think it’s clear that the chemistry they’ve developed over the years together and that the confidence they have in their skating is superior to anyone else in the field. Obviously, people can be competitive with them at the final, but they would have to have major errors.

“Clearly, they have one goal, and that’s to win Beijing [2022 Olympics], which I think they’re on the road to.”

But the sheer depth of Russian pairs’ could win out by the Winter Games. Russia qualified the top four pairs into each of the last two Junior Grand Prix Finals, plus earned every medal at the last two junior worlds.

“Russia could technically be looking at [2022 Olympic] sweeps in ladies and, possibly, pairs, should these junior teams that have just come up continue to develop,” Weir said.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years, though Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier became the first Americans to earn medals in both of their Grand Prix starts since 2015.

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, wins Skate Canada with 3 quadruple jumps

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Russian Alexandra Trusova, 15, landed three quadruple jumps en route to winning her senior Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada on Saturday.

Trusova overtook short-program leader Rika Kihira of Japan and South Korean You Young, who each erred on their toughest jumps, triple Axels.

Trusova, despite falling on her first of four quads, tallied the world’s highest scores this season for the free skate (166.62 points) and total (241.02), bettering her own marks from last month.

She beat the 17-year-old Kihira by 10.68, with the 15-year-old You taking bronze in her senior Grand Prix debut. Trusova is the youngest Grand Prix winner since countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in 2011.

She became the second straight Russian 15-year-old to win in as many Grand Prix events this season after Anna Shcherbakova landed two quads herself at Skate America. This is the first time on the senior Grand Prix that women are landing clean quads as part of a revolution.

Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, skated fairly clean in both programs to finish fourth, the top skater in the non-quad/triple Axel division.

Tennell, after taking second at Skate America last week, has an outside shot at becoming the first U.S. woman to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since 2015. Her fate will not be decided until later in November.

Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva bounced back from an off short program to finish fifth. The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion last won on the top international level in November 2017.

The men’s free skate is later Saturday, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold. A full Skate Canada broadcast schedule is here.

Earlier in ice dance, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier snapped Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue‘s win streak of four Grand Prix events.

Gilles and Poirier erased a .63 deficit from the rhythm dance to win by 2.7 with 209.01 points, thanks to the world’s highest-scoring free dance on the early season. They earned their first Grand Prix title.

Hubbell and Donohue still qualified for a fifth straight Grand Prix Final, after winning Skate America last week.

The world’s top couple, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, make their Grand Prix season debut in France next week.

Russian teens Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy won the pairs’ title with 216.71 points, best in the world this season. They distanced Canadian champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro by 8.22.

Skate Canada Results
Women
1. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 241.01

2. Rika Kihira (JPN) — 230.33
3. You Young (KOR) — 217.49
4. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 211.31
5. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 209.62
6. Marin Honda (USA) — 179.26
7. Kim Yelim (KOR) — 176.93
8. Serafima Sakhanovich (RUS) — 175.97
9. Alexia Paganini (SUI) — 166.2
10. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 164.34
11. Alicia Pineault (CAN) — 161.37
12. Veronik Mallet (CAN) — 147.79

Pairs
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 216.71

2. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 208.49
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 202.29
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA) — 199.57
5. Liubov Ilyushechkina/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 192.47
6. Jessica Calanag/Brian Johnson (USA) — 181.54
7. Tang Feiyao/Yang Yongchao (CHN) — 170.57
8. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 164.66

Ice Dance
1. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 209.01
2. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 206.31
3. Lilah Fear/Lewis Gibson (GBR) — 195.35
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 194.77
5. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 180.64
6. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 177.53
7. Caroline Green/Michael Parsons (USA) — 173.82
8. Betina Popova/Sergey Mozgov (RUS) — 173.54
9. Sofia Evdokimova/Egor Bazin (RUS) — 167.39
10. Haley Sales/Nikolas Wamsteeker (CAN) — 164.27

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Tuktamysheva, armed with triple Axel, fights to compete with Russian teens

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Rika Kihira leads Skate Canada over 15-year-olds

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Japanese Rika Kihira leads Skate Canada after the women’s short program, topping a pair of 15-year-olds in their senior Grand Prix debuts going into Saturday’s free skate.

Kihira, who swept her three Grand Prix starts in her first senior season last year but was fourth at worlds, already had the world’s top short program score this season. She bettered it Friday with her trademark triple Axel and 81.35 points, taking a 3.13-point lead over South Korean You Young.

“The quality of my triple Axel and my triple loop was good, like in practice, but in some parts of the program I was nervous and I didn’t do my spins so well,” Kihira said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU).

NBC Sports Gold live streams all of the free programs on Saturday. A full broadcast schedule is here.

You became the 11th woman to land a triple Axel in international competition, according to skating media.

Another young teen, Russian Alexandra Trusova, is in third. Trusova landed four quadruple jumps in her most recent free skate but attempted none Friday as they are not permitted in short programs.

Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, is in fourth place. If Tennell can get on the podium, she will have a decent chance at becoming the first U.S. woman to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final since 2015. She took silver at Skate America last week.

Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva stands sixth, 15.33 behind. She stumbled out of a double Axel landing and then fell and slid into the boards on a triple Lutz.

“Doesn’t make any sense, does it?” coach Brian Orser said in the kiss-and-cry, generating no reaction from Medvedeva before the score came up.

Medvedeva last won on the top international level in November 2017 at the tail end of a two-year win streak.

Later Friday, Yuzuru Hanyu landed two quads en route to the world’s top short program score this season — 109.6 — and a 20.55-point lead over American Camden Pulkinen. Hanyu scored 6.89 points higher than Nathan Chen did at Skate America, though they will not go head-to-head until the Grand Prix Final at the earliest.

“It was not so great, but I felt I did my best today,” Hanyu said, according to the ISU. “I felt calm today, but I am not sure if my calmness led to me being more focused.”

Earlier in ice dance, two-time world medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue began their march toward a fifth straight Grand Prix win and a spot in the Grand Prix Final.

Hubbell and Donohue topped the rhythm dance with 83.21 points, 1.76 off their world-leading score from Skate America last week. They lead Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier by .63 going into Saturday’s free dance.

World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France make their Grand Prix season debut in France next week.

In pairs, Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy took the lead in the short program with 76.45 points, best in the world this season. The teenagers topped Canadian champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro by .95 and relegated three-time world medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov to third.

Skate Canada
Women’s Short
1. Rika Kihira (JPN) — 81.35
2. You Young (KOR) — 78.22
3. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 74.40
4. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 72.92
5. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 63.94
6. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 62.89
7. Serafima Sakhanovich (RUS) — 62.63
8. Kim Yelim (KOR) — 61.23
9. Alexia Paganini (SUI) — 60.68
10. Marin Honda (USA) — 59.2
11. Alicia Pineault (CAN) — 57.59
12. Veronik Mallet (CAN) — 51.9

Men’s Short
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 109.6
2. Camden Pulkinen (USA) — 89.05
3. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 84.08
4. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) — 84.01
5. Keiji Tanaka (JPN) — 80.11
6. Andrei Lazukin (RUS) — 78.99
7. Julian Zhi Jie Yee (MAS) — 75.64
8. Nicolas Nadeau (CAN) — 75.22
9. Matteo Rizzo (ITA) — 70.12
10. Paul Fentz (GER) — 66.32
11. Roman Sadovsky (CAN) — 65.29
12. Brendan Kerry (AUS) — 56.75

Pairs’ Short
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.45
2. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 75.5
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 73.57
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA) — 71.28
5. Liubov Ilyushechkina/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 68.62
6. Jessica Calanag/Brian Johnson (USA) — 62.54
7. Tang Feiyao/Yang Yongchao (CHN) — 62.35
8. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 56.09

Rhythm Dance
1. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 83.21
2. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 82.58
3. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 79.52
4. Lilah Fear/Lewis Gibson (GBR) — 76.67
5. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 72.77
6. Betina Popova/Sergey Mozgov (RUS) — 71.44
7. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 70.50
8. Caroline Green/Michael Parsons (USA) — 69
9. Sofia Evdokimova/Egor Bazin (RUS) — 67.2
10. Haley Sales/Nikolas Wamsteeker (CAN) — 63.06

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tuktamysheva, armed with triple Axel, fights to compete with Russian teens

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