Savchenko & Massot, Russian Juniors Withdraw from Grand Prix Finale


Top team withdraws from pairs event in delayed announcement; ladies favorite and pairs team out of the junior event.

All this week, fans have awaited news about Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot. Although they are qualified for next week’s Grand Prix Finale, it was only now they would decide whether her ankle would allow for it. After thinking we’d get news Wednesday, we went without it two more days, but now know them to be out. However, even before then, we already knew they weren’t the only ones.

Savchenko & Massot Withdraw on Friday

Early in the week, German media reported that Savchenko & Massot would decide Wednesday whether or not they would compete. Coach Alexander Konig also revealed that she is still in pain. Wednesday came and went without an announcement. Some wondered if that meant they were going to compete and weren’t bothered announcing, or if they just hadn’t decided yet. Finally, on Friday they withdrew.

The next question for the team is when we will next see them. They certainly don’t need to compete at German Nationals. The smart thing would probably be to withdraw. On the other hand, if they really want another competition before the year’s end, they might still wait to see if her ankle mends. Perhaps it will even do so enough to leave them no reason not to compete, though that seems unlikely. Hopefully they will be recovered in time for the European Championships at the end of January.

The loss of the other top team makes reigning World Champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford the definitive favorite in the pairs event. They are not unbeatable by any means, but it won’t be easy for any of the other five teams in the field to beat them. Savchenko & Massot’s replacements, Russians Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, were not a team anyone expected to see even near the lineup at the beginning of the season. In theory, they should be just happy to be in Marsailles. But given how they’ve surprised so far, they may yet surprise further.

Tsurskaya, Borisova & Sopot Out of Junior Grand Prix Finale

Earlier in the week saw two withdrawals from the junior event. Favorite Polina Tsurskaya is out of the ladies, and Ekaterina Borisova & Dmitri Sopot are out of the pairs. Russian federation president Alexander Gorshkov confirmed both Tuesday, and said they were both on medical grounds. So far we have heard nothing more specific about either.

Whatever, the nature of her injury, but especially if it’s a new one, this is terrible luck for Tsurskaya. She would almost certainly be Junior World Champion if it wasn’t for one injury that plagued her the entire summer, and at one point threatened to take her off this year’s JGP circuit all together. To have to pull out of her second top event in a row can’t be easy. Still, it will be less painful if she isn’t at least in top shape for this year’s Junior Worlds.

For Borisova & Sopot, this is another blow in what has already been a disappointing sophomore international season. For a struggling junior pair, this even raises the question as to whether their partnership will survive. Many a withdrawal like this is followed by a breakup, especially if they become convinced younger, more promising Russian junior teams will pass them. It’s even possible the injury involved him trying to lift her. At this age, she might easily get too big for him.

Tsurskaya’s replacement, fellow Russian Elizaveta Nugumova, will certainly be in contention for a medal. In fact, the ladies field is now a lot more unpredictable. On paper, reigning Junior World Champion Marin Honda is now the favorite. But she’ll have to skate much better than she did at her two events to stay that way.

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Pairs replacements Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor are less likely to medal. It’s not impossible, but they would rely on the mistakes of others. They’d also have to skate good themselves. To make it harder, it will be their second competition in as many weeks, since they are currently competing at Australian Nationals. But however well they do, they will still make history as the first Australians to ever qualify for the Finale at either level.