For the Time Being all Russian F/S Athletes are barred from Competing Internationally
By: Gabriell Kleydman
With the Olympics coming to a close, and with Russia invading Ukraine, Russian citizens face the consequences of Putin’s actions, especially Russian figure skaters.
Recently, the International Skating Union, ISU for short, which is in charge of all international competitions, such as the Grand Prix Series in the Fall-Winter months, European, 4 Continents, and World Championship that occur between January and March, announced that all Russian and Belarussian skaters would be barred from competing in those competitions for the time being.
With the World Championship beginning on March 21st, this comes as a very hard blow to all of the Russian athletes that were at the Olympics and were planning on Worlds along with those that missed the Olympics but were planning on competing as well.
Mikhail Kolyada, a 27-year-old skater who placed second in the Russian National Championship, the qualifier for the Olympics, and made it onto the Olympic team, had to forfeit the Olympics due to COVID. He was scheduled to appear at Worlds and compete with his beautiful free skate to “Nureyev”, a tribute to the deceased ballerina Rudolf Nureyev which fans may not see ever again.
The figure skating fandom was greatly disappointed, myself included when the news came out that he contracted COVID, and wouldn’t compete. It’s hard to imagine him competing for another four-year-cycle to make it to the Olympics in 2026; the average amount of Olympic cycles male figure skaters compete in is typically 2 (8 years in total), Yuzuru Hanyu and Evegeny Plushenko being the exception within the last few decades.
The fandom breathed a sigh of relief when the ISU announced the ban on Russian and Belarussian skaters. After the uproar of the doping scandal with Kamila Valieva, many now believe that all Russian athletes need to be thoroughly investigated along with the training camp that Kamila is from Sambo 70.
In terms of the results that Russian figure skaters have seen, this news does come at a loss, after Russians won medals in every figure skating discipline except for men’s singles at the Olympics. Anna Shcherbakova became the Olympic Champion in women’s singles with fellow teammate Alexandra Trusova coming in silver, ice dancing team Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina received a silver medal, and in pairs skating Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won silver while their teammates, Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov, won bronze.
At the last World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden, Russian women swept the podium, Anna winning the World title, Liza Tuktamysheva winning silver, and Alexandra winning bronze. Mishina/Galliamov won the title in pairs with their teammates and fellow Olympians Aleksandra Boikova and Dimitri Koslovskii came in bronze, while in ice dance, Katsalapov/Sinitsina won the title.
As a country that has dominated the sport not just this past season but for the past several Olympic cycles, and now not being allowed to compete, opens the door for Japan, America, and other countries whose skaters are constantly overshadowed by the quad revolution that emerged from Russian women, starting off with Trusova in 2018 who landed a successful quad toe loop in her free skate at the Junior World Championship in Bulgaria.
Skaters like Kaori Sakamoto, who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics and beat Kamila Valieva, Wakaba Higuchi, Alysa Liu, Mariah Bell, Young You, and Yelim Kim to name a few, will be contenders to win the World title.
Those mentioned above have often struggled in international competitions to compete with the Russian women, as they dominated with their triple axels and quads since the season after the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Although Wakaba Higuchi, Young You, and Alysa Liu have all landed clean triple axels in recent competitions, technically speaking their content has not oftentimes been up to par with that of Russian women.
This current ban on Russian skaters in particular is extremely detrimental for the time being as figure skating is rising to be one of the most popular sports in Russia, with a lot of skaters currently jumping quads and triple axels at the junior level as is. The number of spots allowed for each country’s skaters is based on their placement in the World Championship from the previous season.
In 2021, every Russian athlete finished within the top 10 spots which granted each discipline three spots for every international competition until now in the 2021-2022 season. Since they won’t be present at the World Championship this year, the number of spots will go down to one per discipline.
For skaters who don’t jump triple axels or quads, it will now be nearly impossible to make it out of Russia to perform internationally after the ban is lifted.
Although there will be a lot of contenders missing in each discipline, the figure skating world looks forward to watching the last competition of the 2021-2022 season, which has had fans reeling, to say the least.