Here is the translation:
Thursday and Friday in the Ice center in a Moscow suburb of Odincevo and best Russian figure skaters presented their new season programs to be judged by their colleagues and the audience.
A working enterprise called "Test Skates" has from the beginning of time had extremely utilitarian purpose: to see the condition of the skaters who will yet again have to prove on the world arena that the Russian skating in the best in the world as they approach the competitive season.
There is, however, another side. The test skates are a treat for hundreds of Russian fans. It's a long awaited opportunity to see their favorites on the ice after a long, almost five-moth break. Judging from the number of spectators filling the ice palace for those two days, the holiday has succeeded.
First of all, it illustrated that we shouldn't expect much change in the composition of the team, if there will be any al all. First, though, let's talk about those behind the scenes.
MEN, WHERE ARE YOU?
Of the three skaters representing Russia at last year's European and World championships, only the three-time World champion Evgeny Plushenko skated at Odincevo. Ilya Klimkin is actively healing his leg injury, and the doctors forbid the skater from even putting on the skates during the whole healing process. Andrei Griazev came to Moscow, but did not talk the ice either due to back pain. Audience had to make due with the reactions of those who have seen the skater's programs at American Simsburry and say they are extremely interesting.
In a way, Plushenko also remind behind the scenes of Odincevo. The skater has spent most of the summer healing his knew (it was decided to skip the surgery that was recommended by both Russian and American doctors), and this led to the new programs looking half-baked.
So far, Plushenko has more than enough time. Evgeny has already declined the American Pro-Am, and will likely decline participation in Grand Prix. As his coach Alexei Mishin noted, The flights to Canada and then to Japan (those were the events Plushenko was planned for), then coming back to Moscow, and all of that in just two weeks -- is unjustifiable stress.
It's a solid decision. Though I think it's not a matter of flights so much as that the Canadian and Japanese events are in late October and early November, which is entirely too soon. It certainly makes no sense to show the wide audience the leader when he is still half-baked.
VOLCHKOVA? SLUTSKAYA? SOKOLOVA?
All three lady skaters presented the audience with an unexpected surprise. Primarily - Victoria Volchkova, whose career was pronounced finished a year ago, when Vika looked really pathetic on the ice. But after the skater switched coaches in the middle of last season, leaving Elena Tchaikovskaya to skate with Marina Kudryavtseva, things improved considerably. Volchkova started this season by winning the Russian jumping championship, thus proving she no longer has any problems with technique.
The choreography also turned out well. Vika went to American twice to have Nikolai Morozov create both her programs.
"I guess I just had back luck before", said Volchkova after the skate. "Besides, Morozov helped me with many details. Most important, he created not just good programs, but ones that I have incredible fun skating. You understand, I think, that when you like a grogram, you work differently on it.
"I had the impression that when you went to Kudryavtseva in late January, you didn't really believe you could achieve much."
"First, I didn't even hope to go to Worlds; I fully realized I had nothing to show there. We started from the basics -- the simple jumps, the spins, the regular pirouettes. I had to get back all the technical feelings I'd lost. I almost succeeded for the Worlds. Now, I succeeded in reaching a whole new level. I felt I was ready even before the Russian jump championships. During practices, I didn't err on any elements. And I almost did not worry. I failed to do the combo, but we work intensively on it. The costumes are all that's left -- Natalia Bolshakova, a world famous figure skating fashion designer, is working on them. So I will be all dressed up for the Grand Prix events in Japan and China."
"Did the new rules make things harder?"
"More interesting, rather. You're constant thinking on what to add. Before, you could choreograph places where you just stand there waving your arms; now you have to fill it with in-betweens. It's difficult, because before we never paid adequate attention to in-betweens. Now we have no choice. So I have to work more, learn new moves. Most important is that I now enjoy coming in to train. Even when something is not working."
Elena Sokolova made an unusual choreography decision. Instead of going to her regular choreographer Anna Kapranov, she asked the dance coach Alexander Zhulin for her. The result is two Classical programs -- "Don Quixote" and "Juliet". Sokolova planned used the former for her free skate. It so happened, though, that Julia Soldatova also took this music, and already created her free skate to it while Sokolova skated with Tom Collins tour.
"Zhulin suggested leaving 'Don Quixote for the short," recalls Sokolova "He immediately added that I now look so elegant on the ice, that I'd be perfect for Juliet. Artur Dmitriev, who then helped Zhulin with Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, also concurred. What woman could resist such sweet talk? We started looking for music immediately. We listed to a myriad of recordings, and I was surprised to realize that Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet' is far less overused in skating that Prokofiev's version. That's how we came to make the final choice."
"What prompted you to go to Zhulin?"
"I was certain that the dancer would create the most interesting footwork. First, the footwork is highly valued now. Second, experience shows that 'dance' quality of footwork and spirals increases the program value as a whole. I think last season many skaters did not fully realize the importance of footwork and in-betweens. They thought jumps were far more important. Now that it's clear that all elements are equally important, we have to make up the lost time."
Sokolova's less than impressive performance in Odincevo (she made noticeable errors in both programs) is primarily explained by the skater having switched boots just two weeks ago. The old ones that Lena used for three seasons were stolen together with the car – a brand new "Devyatka."
"We even asked on the Internet for the skates to be returned," said the skater. "The car – who cares! I had so much pain breaking into those old skates, I developped a phobia -- it was scary to think of breaking into new ones. Now, though, I have no choice, I had to switch boots whether I wanted to or not. I guess that makes the whole process easier."
Irina Slutskaya, appearing on the ice in wonderful costumes and wonderful condition, was a real sensation. She stayed with the same free program. The short was created by Vycheslav Vojtuk, as of yet a relatively unknown choreographer, former actor of the Ice Theater.
"I am famous not just for staying with the same coach, but also for always going to different choreographers," laughed Slutskaya. "Each one usually has his own style, and this create unique and always interesting programs. Working with Igor Bobrin last season was great, but I wanted a new image. Vojtuk suggested this music, and we all agreed that the program could be fun. It is certainly half-baked, but I like how the work is going. I think we can improve it yet."
"I know the program doesn't yet have a name, but could you explain the concept?"
"To show the image of a woman in NEP time (Ptichka: NEP is New Economic Policy, a brief period if 1920's when the Communist government allowed a lot of free enterprise to flourish. This led to spectacular momentary wealth, and corruption just as spectacular.). The very era when the women start acting more freely, wear different closing, basically making the first step to what we now call feminism."
"Why did you choose not change the free program?"
"I really like the old one, and I almost never got to skate it. I can't say it remained the same, as we changed a lot. I plan to travel a bit with Bobrin's theater, in part to perfect the program. I have unlimited respect for Igor. He's many-faceted, interesting, has wild energy and wild ideas. It's always easy to work with him. I am lucky to have worked with Igor and Natasha Bestemianova. So I am always glad to accept their invitations."
If it weren't for Julia Soldatova, the girls' quarter could be called idyllic. The athlete who last year earned the right to represent the country through her placement at nationals but never got the right to represent Russian at Europeans and Worlds, she will certainly fight hard for the place in the leading trio. Therefore, one of those four skaters won't make the team. We also have Tatiana Basova. The latter, though, will have a hard time: during the last year Tanya has grown, become heavier, it has adverse effect on her performance.
KINGS AND ENTOURAGE
European and World champions Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin have single-handedly and deservedly taken on the roles of first violins in pair skating. The 2000 World champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov did not take part in the skate -- Masha injured her back at a recent practice. Moskvina's two teams, Obertas/ Slavnov and Borzenkova/ Chuviliav could at best be in the close entourage of royalty, but certainly don't deserve their thrones.
Totmianina and Marinin became the only ones of the three teams to present two new programs -- "Ave Maria" and "Sheherezade". Lori Nicols, most famous for the successful "West Side Story" (Ptichka: I am sure she means Love Story...) of the Salt Lake City Olympic champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, choreographed the programs. According to Tatiana and Maxim, the main different in Nicol's work from Guiseppe Arena who did the skaters' programs before, is that the Canadian from the beginning tries to make the program look the best regardless of where on ice the skaters are. Arena, on the other hand, worked as if he were on stage. Though certainly he opened up the new depths in the skaters.
Moskvina's teams prepared for the season with a similar plan. The changed the short programs, and while leaving the old music of the free compositions, entirely changed the content.
"The new rules forced us to re-examine everything we've done so far," explained Moskvina. "We had to change spirals, in-betweens, lifts, footwork, and try to raise everything to level 3 difficulty. This proved a long process. Also, Obertas ans Slavnov spent along time learning a quadruple twist. We didn't have time to also change the music. So we decided to concentrate on the elements for this season, and in the next, Olympic season we'll create the programs that will be absolutely new in all aspects.
"There is a lot of talk now that the new rules will seriously figure skating as a whole. In your opinion, will they also change the established placements in your sport?"
"We are yet to see and understand it. It was too early to come to conclusions last year. By now, the experiment has become reality. I think everyone is interested in how it will turn out. So we can't wait for the first international competition where Obertas and Slavnov will compete along with Totmianina/ Marinin and Petrova/ Tikhonov. For now, I just want the kids to do their programs well. Only then will we look at specific placement goals."
THE QUEEN'S NEW DRESS
Tatiana Navka's free program dress wasn't ready for the beginning of new season. The image, though, took its place. Not the playful "Pink Panther", but extremely dramatic Puccini’s "Tosca" that Alexander Zhulin created for his champion wife and her partner Roman Kostomarov. For a time, the coach himself transformed from a loving husband into a true despot.
"I am tired of hearing that all I am doing in my programs is exploit my wife's beauty. So I decided to make the new program as difficult as possible. I did all the steps and transitions myself with them. I invited a specialist from 'Cirque de Soleil' to perfect the lifts. Artur Dmitriev helped with in-betweens. You see, when I skated, we didn't pay much attention on in-betweens. I think I'd fall trying to repeat the steps that Tania and Roma are doing. And I certainly wouldn't be able to explain how to train for those elements. Artur, though, suggested some details, and we were off.
I did, though, have to change my own psychology. Before, I pitied the athletes. I would lessen the load when I saw it was too much. Not just for my main team, by the way. For instance, last year I did both programs for Frenchman Frederick Dambie. Overall it wasn't bad, but after the season, when I had a chance to examine all performances, I concluded the footwork wasn't convincing. So I decided to let my athletes work as hard as they have to until they get everything I envisioned. From what I can judge, they got everything."
Last year's Russian nationals medallists Oskana Domnina/ Maxim Shabalin and Svetlana Kulikova/ Vitaly Novikov are following a similar path: maximum difficulty, speed, many lifts and in-betweens. However, if the World champions have to defend their positions, the other two teams must break through to the top. We should see how possible that is going to be in just a couple of months.