Since taking silver at the 2012 World Championships, there had been very little for Alena Leonova to smile about. She had failed to take a medal at any international competition since or even at her own national championships. She had done well enough at Russian Nationals to be named to the team for the 2014 European Championships, but a fourth place finish in Budapest meant she missed out on making the Sochi Olympics. With all that in mind and a production line of talented young Russian girls right behind her, it was time to make some decisions. Leonova chose to switch coaches.
Twelve months is a long time in skating. Just over a year ago, the Eislaufzentrum in the Bavarian town of Oberstdorf had been the site of the final Olympic qualifying event. An unprecedented number of (mostly Japanese) media had descended on the town mainly to witness the return to competition of Miki Ando after giving birth to her daughter Himawari a mere five months beforehand. In the end, Ando took silver behind Russian wunderkind Elena Radionova. Olympic qualification itself turned out to be a minor sideshow.
Neither of these ladies competed in Sochi (Radionova was too young and Ando finished seventh at Japanese Nationals) and the same fate befell Nobunari Oda, winner of the men’s event, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue who claimed the ice dance title. Only Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov who won their third consecutive Nebelhorn crown went on to compete in Sochi and we all know what happened there. (more…)