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Russian skaters dream big before nationals

Tuktamisheva to compete against stacked ladies field

After a breakthrough Grand Prix season, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva is prepping for Saransk.
After a breakthrough Grand Prix season, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva is prepping for Saransk. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(12/22/2011) - Russian figure skaters are now intensively preparing for the country's main event -- the 2012 Russian Figure Skating Championships, which will be held from Dec. 25-28 in Saransk.

The results of the championships will be used to determine those skaters who will represent Russia at the 2012 European Championships in Sheffield, England, the 2012 World Junior Championships in Minsk, Belarus, and the 2012 World Championships in Nice, France.

Many strong skaters will contend for the Russian national team. The most intriguing will be the ladies competitions, which features a formidable set of competitors. Also, many fans are eagerly awaiting the comeback of Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion and a two-time Olympic silver medalist.

Despite his withdrawal from the Panin Memorial, at which Plushenko planned to compete, his coach Alexei Mishin confirmed to the Russian media that his student will participate at the national championships.

Reigning men's champion Konstantin Menshov has strong motivation to defend his title, despite an injury suffered during a training session on Monday.

"My preparation is going as planned," Menshov said. "The only disadvantage is that yesterday, while training, during the execution of a jump, I injured my back, so now all efforts are thrown at recuperation. My programs will be the same. We didn't change anything in them."

The biggest sensation of the Grand Prix Series this season, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who won 2011 Skate Canada and Trophée Eric Bompard, said that it will be a very important competition.

"I recently returned from Quebec, where I performed not very well, so I will try to realize all my potential in Saransk," Tuktamisheva said. "The Russian nationals is the one of the most important tournaments of the season, and I want very much to skate my best there. After that I will celebrate the New Year relaxed,.

"My preparation is going very well. We didn't make any changes in my programs, but maybe my coaches will change some details."

2011 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Alena Leonova wants to perform in Saransk with confidence, without thinking about the result.

"I'm preparing for competitions quietly and just working on the mistakes that were made in Canada. My coach and I changed a lot in my programs before the Grand Prix Final, so we will not add or change anything. For me, Russian nationals is the main competition of the season. I want to skate in Saransk well, confidently and not thinking about the final result."

Pairs skaters Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, who won the silver medal at Trophée Bompard, are working very hard on the programs' choreography.

"Our training for the championships is in full swing, as there's very little time remaining," they said. "We have a clear and concrete plan for our preparation. We are working on our elements and also on our choreography."

"The presentation and choreographic part of performances are very important to us. Russian nationals is the main event because its results will be used to determine skaters who will represent our national team at the international events. Our main expectations are to skate our programs clean, perform all we can do on the ice and show a worthy level of skating."

A "dark horse" in the coming ladies competition is Sofia Biryukova, the winner of the 2011 Finlandia Trophy. She already showed a high level of skating at the 2011 Rostelecom Cup, where she performed two clean, strong programs and finished fourth, just a few points behind Adelina Sotnikova, who took bronze.

"My preparation is going as usual. For several days, I trained without my coach because she was in Quebec City with my teammates who competed at the Junior Grand Prix Final. I'm expecting my best performances at nationals and to be in a very good mood," Biryukova said, smiling.

Reigning ice dance champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev want to defend their title by showing lightness in their complex programs.

"We are in good physical and psychological shape. Our main goal for nationals is to show that we can perform our difficult programs clean and with ease. It's very important to us to defend our title in Saransk."