The International Skating Union (ISU) Grand-Prix series completed its Russia stage in Sochi this past weekend. If you follow international figure skating and are just interested in the bare results of the competition, then you can read just about anything online, for example this informational piece from Reuters. I chose to read this piece by Alexei Smirnov, and was quite taken with his approach. Smirnov is not just reporting on sporting events, he has set out to create a literary style. I like his breezy, gossipy way of writing; it’s actually the style I myself try to employ at times (with varying results); except that Smirnov thinks he is writing Moby Dick and so tries to throw in some airy tricks and literary devices; one of which devices (which doesn’t work at all!) is trying to tie together this interesting sporting story with the theme of Black Friday. Egads, I almost dropped the Lede here: this ghastly American commercial holiday has penetrated into Russia, just like everything American eventually does. First Halloween, now Black Friday. What will be next? The 4th of July?
So, November 26 (2 days ago) was Black Friday in the U.S. And by sheer coincidence that was the day when some very talented young ladies competed for the Prize Cup in Sochi. (Ignoring all the other matches, the men, the pairs, the dancers, just focusing on the individual ladies here.)
Despite some gaffes and overreaches, I consider Smirnov’s piece worthy of a literary review and even literary translation, on its own merits. And recalling, from my fuzzy brain, lessons I absorbed from some of those college classes on the art and theory of literary criticism. Unfortunately, his piece is quite long, and I don’t have time to work my way through the whole thing. I will have to satisfy myself (and my loyal readers) by translating just a few rather good paragraphs from the first part of it. Watch for his use of the following literary devices: The theme of Black Friday (which doesn’t work at all, IMHO, but then maybe I am just biased against everything American). The contrast between tropical weather outdoors and ice skating on a frozen rink (valid, but slightly banal). The idea of having to win and catch a plane that is already departing from the tarmac…
But first, just to set the stage, [SPOILER ALERT!] let us start at the end, by giving away the ending, here are the first 5 placements of this Sochi competition:
- In first place, Kamila Valieva from Russia, with 272.71 points
- In second place, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia, with 229.23 points
- In third place, Maya Khromykh from Russia, with 219.69 points
- In fourth place, Mariah Bell from the U.S., with 210.35 points
- In fifth place, Loena Hendrickx from Belgium, with 203.69 points
A Heavenly Delight
Smirnov: In past years the Russian stage of the Grand-Prix, aka the Rostelecom Cup, used to be held exclusively in Moscow. But time time around the organizers (in conjunction with certain changes made to many of the capital’s ice rinks to make them more hockey-friendly), decided to move the games to subtropical Sochi.
A November Sochi met some of the best figure skaters in the whole world with its traditional fall collection: 20+ degrees [Centigrade] on the street, beaches emptied of the summer crowd but still hosting wandering vendors selling baked corn on the cob; and the Olympic “Iceberg” rink, backdropped by the snowy peaks of the Caucasian Mountains, emerald-green ponds and joyful palm trees.
This lovely opportunity on November 26-27 to zoom around tropical trees on the peak of an iceberg, while soaking in the rays of Sochi’s tender sun — such fortune befell to Russia’s ladies Maya Khromykh, Kamila Valieva and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.
All three of these Russian ladies, prior to the concluding stage of the Grand Prix, had a very good chance of breaking through to the series final, which will take place in Osaka, Japan December 9-12. [yalensis: Shcherbakova and Kostornaya already have assured slots in the final.]
[Due to the scoring system and previous points accrued], Kamila only needed to take fourth place; but Maya and Liza needed to get on the pedestal [1-3 places, in other words]. They also needed to prevent the Belgian girl Loena from rising any higher than third place.
Friday, 26 November, was a Black Friday indeed, first of all for the Belgian girl, and secondly for our own Maya. Hendrickx was not able to land her triple flip (she just popped it into a single), while Khromykh blew her jump combination, falling on the very first element, which was supposed to be a triple Lutz. The two girls tumbled into 5th and 6th places, from which, if they were to ever get to the Osaka Tournament, well, it would only be as members of the audience.
[yalensis: Smirnov is misusing the “Black Friday” metaphor here. In American terms, it’s not “black” in the sense of being dark or depressing; it’s “black” in terms of merchants putting their ledgers back into the black ink by increasing revenues. But whatever…]
It fell upon Valieva and Tuktamysheva to raise the spirits of the Russian fans who had filled the stadium. And whereas Elizaveta, having just recovered from the flu, skated at her usual high level, heroically managing all her jump elements (including a triple Axel) and earning a respectable 80.10 points; well then, Kamila, presenting herself to the public in her new lavender dress, gave a performance that could only be described as the very definition of perfection.
Bursting, on Black Friday, into this trading hub of international figure skating, this pupil of [legendary coach] Eteri Tutberidze, managed to complete a total coup: For her magically inspiring program, set to the music of Kirill Richter, in which she cleanly completed a triple Axel, triple Flip, and combination triple Lutz-Toeloop, Kamilla received a record 87.42 points.
Thanks to this insane result (if she had been competing against men, she still would have come in third!), this young Russian girl captured a world record in Ladies Figure Skating, for most points ever accrued in sum of short and long programs.
Maya Khromykh: Four Revolutions Around the Moon
On Saturday the Belgian girl Loena Hendrickx opened the round of long [freestyle] programs. Her performance, just like the day before, did not reveal anything new: the figure skater performed her first two jumps with some errors [and point deductions]. The chances of Hendrickx’s appearance at the Grand-Prix finals began to recede and dissipate in the mists of Sochi, just as the evening moon hides itself behind the peak of the Akhun Mountain.
Mariah Bell performed slightly better than the Belgian, having accrued 140.98 points in her long program. But in the end, this was not enough to get the American girl up onto the Sochi pedestal.
The first Russian to step onto the Sochi ice, just as the moon had finally concealed herself behind the horizon, was Maya Khromykh. To the strains of the Argentinian tango, Maya attempted, at the last minute, to get herself onboard that “Grand-Prix Special Flight to Osaka”, which was already on the tarmac and whose departure was already being announced.
What Maya needed to do on this Saturday, was to forget about the disaster which had happened to her on Black Friday. She needed to clench her fists and show the world the maximum to which she is capable. Under no circumstances can she let slip this unique opportunity to compete in the Grand-Prix finale.
And, as her very first jump sequences, this Russian girl fearlessly completed two quadruple toeloops, the first one an Ultra-C [highest level of difficulty] in combination with a solid double; the second [quad] with a slight deduction for the landing.
With such a powerful start, Khromykh immediately removed any doubt as to who will be joining the company of Anna Shcherbakova and Alyona Kostornaya, who are already aboard the plane flying off to Osaka.
Moreover, after such a heroic start, with four rotations around the Moon, in the course of which Maya playfully waved to her disappointed Belgian rival, the 15-year-old Russian girl flawlessly completed the remaining part of her program, receiving from the judges a delicious 154.97 points, and thus coming in second overall for the long program. And thus did this young debutante, who only this season graduated to Adult status [he means from Junior to Senior level], and notwithstanding a very strong competition, succeed in pulling off a true upset in ladies figure skating. Just one year ago, nobody would have believed that she would have mastered Ultra-C jumps, and yet this season Maya Khromykh has been crushing her biggest competitors in international competitions. Carrying a Silver medal from the Turin Grand-Prix Stage and a Bronze from Sochi, Maya has, practically without any preparation or expectation, burst into the group of the 6 best (Ladies) figure skaters in the world. Congratulations!
yalensis: There is much more in this story, but I have to leave off now. I hope you have enjoyed Smirnov’s writing and my translation of it. Congratulations to all those super-talented figure skaters, they work so hard for their sport and it is truly inspiring to watch them.