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Russia still deciding between Makarova, Shelepen

Kavaguti, Smirnov appear to be in peak form heading into worlds

Ksenia Makarova still doesn't know if she'll compete at the world championships.
Ksenia Makarova still doesn't know if she'll compete at the world championships. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(03/12/2012) - Ksenia Makarova, the 2010 Russian champion and 10th-place finisher at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, made a positive impression during her March 10 test skate, Alexander Gorshkov, president of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia, told the press afterward.

Earlier, the general director of the Russian skating federation, Valentin Piseev, said that Makarova's performance at the Alexei Mishin Cup in St. Petersburg would determine whether she would go to the World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France, March 26-April 1.

This season has been a difficult one for Makarova. In the first half, she performed so-so but earned a spot on the national team at the Russian championships in Saransk at the end of December. Then she skated unconvincingly at the European Figure Skating Championships in Sheffield, Great Britain, where she finished sixth.

The first alternate for the Russian team is Polina Shelepen, for which a good showing at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus, could have been a deciding factor. Her short program there, which placed her 12th, was a disaster, but she recovered in the free skate, in which she finished fourth, pulling her up to sixth overall.

The scenario was repeated last week, at the Youth Spartakiada in Krasnoyarsk, where Shelepen skated only a clean free skate. However, she took first place overall.

"In general, today Makarova performed much better than at the European championships," said Gorshkov, who came to St. Petersburg specifically to watch Makarova, to the R-Sport agency. "However, those who saw her performance I think will agree with me that problems still remain in her skating. We had to look at the condition of this athlete, as there was a big time-distance between European championships and the coming worlds."

In St. Petersburg, Makarova performed her free skate program to "I Wanna Be Loved by You" by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby. She executed a triple Lutz, triple toe-triple toe combination, two triple loops (one of them with a mistake), double Salchow-double toe combo and two double Axels.

Evgeni Rukavitsin, Makarova's coach, said that in general his student skated well in St. Petersburg.

"I don't know the final decision of [the] skating federation yet, but Ksenia skated good today," Rukavitsin told R-Sport. "Her triple Lutz was under-rotated, but her triple toe-triple toe combination was perfect. She also executed very well a [combination] with Salchow and two double axels. Also, in my opinion, she performed her program very emotionally and left a very good impression."

Gorshkov added that the final decision about Makarova's place on the Russian team at worlds is still pending.

"We can't say that everything is clear at the moment. We need to meet once again and discuss all those things. The decision will be made in the near future," he told R-Sport.

Kavaguti, Smirnov working at full strength

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, two-time world pairs bronze medalists, took part in exhibition performances at the Mishin Cup on Saturday. The students of Tamara Moskvina did not compete at the European championships this year because Smirnov underwent surgery for appendicitis in early January.

Now, however, the pair is in top form and ready to go for the world championships. As proof, Kavaguti and Smirnov performed their "Clair de Lune" free skate at the Yubileyny Sports Palace confidently and without any errors.

The duo executed a triple toe, triple twist, triple Salchow and throw triple loop. The Russian pair performed all the complex elements of their program cleanly and exhibited their usual high level of artistry and joy of being on the ice.

Smirnov not only showed he was in excellent physical shape, but he also surprised fans with a new look. During his stay in the hospital, he grew a small beard and then decided to keep it.

Moskvina is not wild about her skater's scruff.

"Many people say now they like that Sasha (short for 'Alexander') is unshaven. Frankly saying, I don't like bearded men," she said with a smile.