Oksana and Artur finished third at the Russian Championships, which means they will represent Russia at the European and World Championships. As we go to press, we will not have results of Europeans, but we wish them luck at this prestigious event. It will be Oksana's first appearance at a European Championship; Artur's seventh.
I am already a big fan of Oksana and Artur's, but I want to bring up some criticisms of their programs. One comment I have heard several people make is that they should not reuse the "Natalia" moves. I agree. I wish they wouldn't use the Natalia spin, the death spiral in which both partners hold the woman's skate, and the same lifts. As Oksana weighs less than Natalia, they should take advantage of that and develop better lifts to help beef up their technical merit marks. Oksana is just not as flexible as Natalia, and some of the flexibility moves (particularly the spin and the death spiral) look somewhat forced on her. Oksana is a beautiful skater with a regal style--the programs should reflect more of *her* style. Furthermore, people who aren't fans are overlooking the moves they do that are innovative to kvetch about the recycled ones. When Natalia and Artur first did these flexibility moves, they looked new to audiences. But since Natalia and Artur won medals at the last two Olympics, anyone familar with skating has already seen these moves, so that when Oksana and Artur do them, they no longer look new.
Despite these minor problems, Oksana and Artur have a great coach so I am optimistic about the upcoming season. I must thank Tamara Moskvina again for all her help, as there would be no newsletter if not for her. She has to be one of the busiest people in skating and probably holds a world record for most accumulated frequent flier miles. Yet she still takes time to answer my letters and provide information. Every year, skating fans hear next to nothing about what happens at Russian Nationals. (If we're lucky, the press will tell us who the medalists were.) Tamara was very kind to provide details about Oksana and Artur's performances at this event. Tamara, thank you very much for everything.
Oksana and Artur found themselves 4th after the technical program because she over-rotated the double axel. But their free skate was nearly flawless. They landed all the tough stuff: triple toe loops directly into double axels, and both their throw jumps were clean. The only element to give them trouble was the split triple twist; it was not completed well. Two of the seven judges placed them first, four had them second, and one inexplicably had them third. This is a great start for the season, and something for Oksana, Artur, and Tamara to be very proud of.
Oksana and Artur were second after the technical program in which they hit clean triple toe loops. It looks as if pairs need to perform this jump, rather than the double axel, in order to get top marks in the short program. Oksana and Artur were slightly out of unison in their side by side spins at one point, but overall it was a strong performance which Tamara was satisfied with. Shishkova and Naumov won the technical program, and Eltsova and Bushkov placed third in this portion, largely because of Eltsova's error on the triple toe.
There was an epidemic of flu in parts of Russia at the time of this championship, and both Oksana and Artur were a bit under the weather and had to miss some practice sessions. This caused them to look "heavy" (as Tamara put it) in the long program. They landed their triple toe loops right into double axels well. But the triple twist lift was not perfect (they seem to struggle with this element, though they get great height on the double.) Oksana landed both throws, though the landings were not the strongest. They could not maintain their second position, but a bronze medal and a triple to Europeans and Worlds still have to be rewarding. (Shishkova and Naumov again skated very well and won; Eltsova again struggled with the triple toe, but she and Bushkov took silver.)
Alexander Matveev is part of the team that brought several great Russian pairs to their glory. He helped coach and choreograph programs for Mishkutenok and Dmitriev, Bechke and Petrov , and Valova and Vassilev. He is now working with Kazakova and Dmitriev and Bereznaya and Shliakhov. Matveev hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for playing such a major role in the stylistic development of these great pairs.
He worked as a soloist in the renowned Kirov Theater for 19 years, taking the lead role in both classical and modern ballets. When he retired as the soloist in 1985, he began working with pairs skaters, training them in ballet both on and off ice.
Matveev was born in 1945 in Leningrad, and graduated from the Leningrad Ballet Academy in 1964. He is married to Natalia Pavlova, herself a great soloist with the Kirov for almost 20 years. Pavlova has also worked with Tamara Moskvina's skaters extensively and was actually a co-coach of Oksana Kazakova when she skated with Dmitri Sukhanov. Artur Dmitriev said of Alexander, "He gives the finishing touches to our movements." When he sit entranced by one of Tamara's pairs' performances, Alexander Matveev is one of the talents behind the magic.
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