Skating icon claims ‘20-year’ regression as Russians miss championships
Iconic Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova has criticized the ongoing World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier, questioning the achievements of women's singles leader Kaori Sakamoto while highlighting the absence of Russian stars.
"Among those who skated, the Japanese skater was the best," Tarasova noted to RBC-Sport after the women's stars performed their short skate routines on Wednesday.
"But we have the experience of the Olympic Games. If our girls took to the ice, she would have no chance of winning first place."
Top Russian skaters such as Beijing 2022 team event gold medalist Kamila Valieva plus women's singles event gold and silver medalists Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova are absent from the ongoing World Championships in France due to an ISU ban on Russian athletes imposed in response to the military operation in Ukraine.
While Tarasova said that Sakamoto "did everything cleanly" to lead the way in her short program, she described the Japanese star's routine as a "skate from 20 years ago".
"All the elements were done, but there were no elements of the highest complexity, and our girls strive and do the highest complexity, [to] develop in technical perfection," Tarasova said, with there also no triple axels performed by any of the women in France, unlike the Russian elite such as Valieva.
Tarasova said that Russian skaters, had they been allowed to compete, would have been "the first everywhere."
"The Japanese [girl] skated well, but this is not a high level, of course," Tarasova balked.
Tarasova's comments are backed by Olympic bronze medalist Sakamoto leading the short program with a score of 80.32, which though 5.32 points clear of second-placed Belgian Loena Hendrickx is still paltry compared to the numbers that top Russian skaters produce.
In recent months, Valieva set a world record 90.45 short program tally at the European Championships in January, which broke her own previous world record of 87.42 at the Rostelecom Cup last November.
Tarasova has also fired back at Canadian journalist Beverley Smith who tweeted that "though were no triple Axels to be seen," the short program was a "sane" event compared to the "crazy drama at the Olympics," where Valieva was caught up in a doping scandal due to a failed drug test from the Russian Championships on December 25 that did not surface until after the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) had won the Team event in Beijing.
"Sigh of relief: no Russian skaters or judges. Love it. It wasn't the skating or sport world that really made this happen: it was the war in Ukraine," Smith added.
Catching wind of this, Tarasova remarked to Sport-Express: "I want to upset Beverley: we will only be gone a year, and we will return with even greater strength."
Tarasova's comments on the World Championships echo those made by a former student and Sochi 2014 singles champion Adelina Sotnikova, who said: "If you look at the big picture, the World Championships was interesting because there were Russian athletes.
"And now, for example, it will be boring for me to watch it, because our athletes have set such a high bar."
The women's stars in Montpellier will complete their free skate routines on Friday as the medals are confirmed.
Meanwhile, Russian stars Valieva and Shcherbakova will be among those competing in the exhibition Channel One Cup in their homeland, which is an alternative to their enforced World Championships absence.