On Saturday, Kamila Valieva won the short program at the Grand Prix stage -under Russia in Moscow. The Sport correspondent looked at the Olympic champion's performance on the ice, then up close into her eyes and shared her impressions of how it all happened.
The main star of the sixth stage of the Russian Grand Prix, from all points of view – both sports and media – was Kamila Valieva. And the main intrigue of the tournament – again, without any exaggeration – is the question of how the Olympic champion suffered the shock of a painful defeat at the tournament in her native Kazan two weeks ago. And in the literal sense – after all, a fall on a quadruple sheepskin coat during the warm-up at that tournament even visually caused Valieva colossal pain.
Well, the mental pain was added by the catastrophically bad performance of the free program, which led to the fact that the figure skater found herself below the medal list. It was all there: an absurd fall instead of a spectacular ride on the ice, a miscalculation in the number of sequences, and an abandoned sequence of steps, during the execution of which the thought flashed: would Valieva stop ahead of time and leave the ice.
But it’s not for nothing that Kamila said almost the first thing to reporters on Saturday: she wants to run a marathon in this sport, not a sprint. To begin with, these words simply make me very happy and warm my soul – they mean that no matter how the events related to the doping case unfold in the near future, Valieva has the intention to fight fate if she suddenly turns out to be a villain. This is in a global sense. But this is precisely why the skater is not knocked out of the rut and the blows are local – and the Kazan stage of the Russian Grand Prix still has exactly this character.
This is unlikely to be the case – after all, only two weeks have passed, but even outwardly Valieva looked fresher and fitter on Saturday. Perhaps it's the eyes. In the mixed zone, a journalist always has the opportunity to look at them up close. And if in Kazan after the short program Kamila’s eyes were dull even after about the same number of points, then here they emitted sparkles and smiled as if on their own. There is a feeling that this is not only due to the fact that all the elements turned out clean – but due to something very pleasant.
Of course, the main thing is how Valieva will survive the free skate. In terms of physics, it cannot be compared with a short program, and according to the skater, her form is still not optimal. And not a single specialist here will give victory to the Olympic champion in advance, because her main rival, Sofya Muravyova, looks simply excellent. The Saturday skate of Evgeni Plushenko's student would have been sensationally good if not for the most offensive fall on the triple axel. The figure skater approached him so confidently that you unconditionally believe her words – during training she really succeeded in this ultra-si element.
But alas, it was a misfire. Not at all fatal, because even with this fall, Muravyova is only four and a half points behind Valieva – which is the difference between a successful triple axel and an unsuccessful one. Before the free program, Sophia did not reveal her cards. But she expressed hope that she would succeed in everything she had in mind. And if this happens, Camila will need a great skate to win.
Of the other girls, Ksenia Sinitsyna initially looked like a contender in the fight for gold; she skated absolutely brilliantly a week ago in Samara and deservedly won at that stage. Alas, a gross mistake on the very first jump in the short program almost definitely deprived her of this status. And it just spoiled the impression of the performance: after all, piano music, and especially Chopin, imposes a special responsibility on the skater. A fall here is akin to a pianist's falsehood.
But Sinitsina's intermediate sixth place gave her the opportunity to perform in the strongest group – and this preserves her chances of competing for at least bronze. In the meantime, Veronika Yametova has her sights set on the podium after Valieva and Muravyova, but not only that. Several figure skaters are quite closely ranked in the table, among which is the one who was brought onto the ice by the coaching staff with Adelina Sotnikova in the lineup. This athlete's name is Kamilla Nelyubova, and for her the Moscow tournament is the second in a row. In Samara, Nelyubova was seventh, but now she has every chance to please the Olympic champion, for whom this Russian Grand Prix series is a serious coaching debut.