The 2020 Russian Championships opened with some surprises in the men’s short program on Thursday. Not only are the young Russian ladies leading a changing of the guard, a trio of male teenagers are also stealing the spotlight. The top three all executed a clean quad and a triple Axel in their routines — and in a tight finish are separated by less than one point heading into the free.

After sitting out an entire year of competition as he recovered from a broken foot, Makar Ignatov is enjoying a successful year in his first full season as a senior. The 19-year-old skated into first place in Krasnoyarsk, winning the segment with a personal best score of 88.88, just 0.54 of a point ahead of Andrei Mozalev, 16, the 2019 Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist, and 0.82 over Petr Gumennik, 17.

“Some things were good today, some things were not so good. I could have skated better,” said Ignatov who was one of only two men to attempt and land a clean quad-triple combination (Salchow-triple toe — the other being Andrei Zuber who finished 11th). “The free skate is still to come and I hope it will be better. It is a surprise (to be in first place) but the short program is just about a third of the result and nothing is decided yet. I don’t want to think too much about being in first, so I don’t put psychological pressure on myself.”

When asked about the ladies competition being more popular than the men′s, Ignatov responded with his own question. “Why should I be upset about that? We guys just have to skate in a way that people come to watch us. The girls are doing incredible things and people come to see them.”

Competing at the senior level for the first time, Mozalev finished second in the short with 88.34 points. As juniors are not permitted to include quads in the short program, Mozalev switched the usual triple loop for a quad toe in his senior debut. Though he was happy with the score he was a little disappointed with how he skated. “I’m not so pleased. There were errors in the jumps and spins, but overall it wasn’t bad. I’m in a good mood and will fight in the free.”

After a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Junior Grand Prix Final, Gumennik showed what he is capable of today, executing a clean performance that included a quad Salchow. He skated into third with 88.06 points, later stating that he was happy with his skate. “I did almost everything and I hope to skate as well in the free. It helped me that I didn’t think about placements. I want to do the same in the free skate and hopefully it will help.

“At the beginning of the season, I wanted to do a quad Lutz-triple toe and a quad Salchow; then I wanted to do a quad toe-triple toe and a quad Salchow — but then we decided to make it a bit easier,” he explained when asked about his planned program content.

Gumennik said he had one day off after the Junior Grand Prix Final and when he returned to the ice he was initially planning to make the short program much harder, “but then I thought I’d better not and one quad is maybe enough.”

Dmitri Aliev finished fourth with 87.35 points. “It was hard to skate last, but I was not too nervous or over excited. It was hard to keep the focus though, and maybe that led to the error on the Lutz. I can do the Lutz, but today I just didn’t do it. I need to control myself better. I made mistakes, but I was fighting.”

Andrei Lazukin skated into fifth with 85.56 ahead of Anton Shulepov (81.17). Danill Samsonov, 14, the bronze medalist at the Junior Final, stuttered in his short program with a step out of the opening quad Lutz, and a fall on the triple Axel. He sits in seventh place with 80.88. “It wasn’t scary to skate in seniors,” he said. “I wanted to show myself well, but not everything worked out. I will work so that everything works out in the long program. My coaches said that it wasn’t necessary to fall on the jump.”

Alexander Samarin finished eighth with 80.68 points. With files from Tatjana Flade in Krasnoyarsk.

LADIES UPDATE: Tatjana reports that one of Evgenia Medvedeva’s boots broke on Thursday and she will be competing in a new pair in the ladies short program on Dec. 27. Russian federation president Alexander Gorshkov later confirmed this to the press, saying, ″However, she is not thinking about withdrawing.″