During the past 2 1/2 seasons, Russia has clearly been the dominating force in Junior Ladies. They have produced countless talents, including Sotnikova, Tuktamysheva, Agafonova, Lipnitskaya, Radionova, Shelepen, Korobeynikova, Pogorilaya, Sheveleva, Stravitskaia, Biryukova, Ovcharova, etc, that have banded together to dominate the JGP and countless other junior international events. Radionova has, as of so far, had an identical season to last year's season of Lipniskaya, i.e. winning both JGP events + the JGPF, Russian Juniors, and the senior Russian silver medal. If Radionova wins Junior Worlds, which is very likely, she and Lipnitskaya will be two juniors from the same country to have identical dominant seasons back-to-back.
However, at the Russian (Senior) Championships, which took place from December 24th-28th, a new star emerged, taking the Russian skating by storm by finishing 4th (beating out well-established oldies such as Leonova and Makarova). She goes by the name of Serafima Sakhanovich.
At 12 years old, she already has more maturity, elegance, musicality, and artistry than many top senior skaters currently competing, and she's not even eligible for junior events until next season. Unlike skaters such as Lipnitskaya and Radionova, Sakhanovich has already learned to really extend and hold out each of her moves. Obviously, this artistry and musicality is partially natural, and partially her fabulous coaches nurturing and improving it as she moves through the ranks.
I'll break down both of her programs from Russian Nationals to show all of her star qualities.
For those of you wondering, yes this is the same music that Lipinski used in the '97-'98 season. I prefer Serafima's cut of the music - it has more drama, and I personally think it's a prettier cut. She also skates with more maturity at 12, than Lipinski did at 15.
Notice how she sort of falls out of the triple Lutz, which was an intended triple Lutz-triple toe combo, and therefore fails to add on the triple toe afterwords. Now, most skaters, even the current top skaters, would have either panicked, or simply added a double toe to the triple flip. However, because this girl is made of total win, she didn't panic, and not only added the combo to the flip, but added a TRIPLE toe to the flip. That shows just how mentally strong she is - when something goes wrong, especially in the short program where a missed combo is a big mistake, she can keep her head in one place, and still make the improvised combo a triple-triple, so that she doesn't lose too many points.
I love this program so much. The music is similar to her SP, in that it has a whimsical sort of feel, but it's still very pretty, and suits her perfectly. She does such a wonderful job of bringing out all the accents of music with her movements, element placements, and her arms. Unlike all the other Russians, she doesn't have those flailing arms we've become accustomed to from skaters such as Tuktamysheva and Sotnikova - her arms are delicate, pretty, and she really used them in the choreography. Unlike Gracie Gold, Serafima's arms use multiple different levels, and she uses them to emphasize the music, instead of letting them flail about. Her deep edges are also gorgeous, and deserve plenty of recognition.
It's worth noting here that she had the highest TES (68.29) in the LP, but somehow only the 9th highest (52.58) PCS (Sotnikova somehow had the top PCS at 68). That's a SIXTEEN point difference - that's huge. Someone please explain to me how Sotnikova's choreography/composition, interpretation, transitions, and skating skills are better than Serafima's. Sotnikova plods around the ice with flailing arms to Christina Aguilera moaning, yet Sakhanovich's lyrical routine with lightning fast jump rotation, pretty choreography, and fabulous interpretation and musicality somehow gets wayyyy less in PCS. Explain to me how Leonova is more artistic than Sakhanovich (according to the corrupt Russian judges).
Some people on the Golden Skate forum seem to think that her beautiful knee bend when she lands her jumps is bad, but it's actually correct. She's really absorbing the landings on deep edges with that knee bend. That, along with her Tara Lipinski-fast jump rotation, will help her as she hits puberty and slows down a bit. The skating skills are really there to guide her to a fabulous career. Assuming she gets two JGP assignments next year, don't be surprised if she follows in Sotnikova, Lipnitskaya, and Radionova's paths.
While I have just spent the last page gushing about her, she's not completely perfect - there are a few aspects that need work. Her flexibility, for one, really needs work. Look at her spirals and her upright spin at the end - she really needs to buckle down and get to work on her flexibility. Also, her spins - not good. The side position and the haircutter during her layback are fabulous (she spin sooo fast during the haircutter), but then she crawls through the Biellman. She needs to pull her leg up more and arch her back through the Biellman - that will help her spin faster. Her positions in her final combination spin also just have a novice-like feel to them. Spending a few weeks in Detroit with Alissa Czisny certainly wouldn't do any harm.
Still, this girl has a very bright future ahead of her. From my sources, she just turned 13 on February 9th (she was born in 2000), which makes her eligible for next season's (2013-2014) JGP. I, for one, am very excited to see if she dominates next year's junior circuit. She'll be a force to be reckoned with once she's age-eligible.
Suggestions for the future:
Improve her flexibility and her spins
STAY WITH HER CURRENT COACHES - whatever they're doing seems to be working for her, and they seem like loving, protective coaches who genuinely care about her. Their choreography is also doing wonders for her - she doesn't need to go elsewhere.
Please read and comment! I would love to hear all of your opinions!