Several star figure skaters return to the ice as coaches and fans get a taste of new short program routines
Several top figure skaters were back on the ice in Moscow on Saturday, with Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, and Alena Kostornaia headlining the Russian test skates.
Olympic champion Alina Zagitova may have withdrawn from the event to focus on a new TV show, but there was plenty to grab the attention on and off the ice.
While Shcherbakova is still skating with coach Eteri Tutberidze, both Trusova, and Kostornaia now skate with Evgeni Plushenko's team.
Both coaches were present at the stadium, as were fans, with a limited number of tickets selling out in ten minutes.
This unscored event allows Russian skaters to present their new programs at this official test event, with Saturday featuring short programs, giving fans an early look at what to expect for the coming season.
With new choreography, music, and jumps were on show, although the quads were kept for another day - the most complex jumps were triples - but the performances were captivating.
The 2019 Grand Prix champion Kostornaia, runner up Shcherbakova, and third placed Trusova, are all a year older and taller. This was evident with the extra maturity and authenticity displayed in their skating.
PyeongChang 2018 Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva drew the biggest cheer of the night, as she spoke with coach Brian Orser on the phone from Canada before and after her skate.
Shcherbakova, now 16, was first of the superstar skaters onto the ice, and a difference from last season was notable from her opening pose.
Elegant as ever, a powerful and emotional beginning led to a flawless sequence including a double Axel, triple flip and triple Lutz-triple loop combination.
With no points awarded, no-one was going to risk quads and a potential injury this early in the season.
There were some nice touches like the reverse grab on her spin increasing the difficulty, and she looks improved both as an athlete and a performer.
As her short program drew to a close, coach Eteri Tutberidze nodded in approval, an accomplished skate that promises much for the year ahead.
With less emphasis on quads and high-scoring technical elements, the Russia test event gave us a chance to look at other elements of the skater's performances.
Kostornaia, who just turned 17, hasn't quite mastered this new short program yet, but showed her world-class talent nonetheless, landing a double Axel before hanging on to a triple Lutz but executing a lovely triple flip-triple toe combination.
The step sequence was the best part of her skate, but the edgy, contemporary feel really suits her. Expect much more to come from Kostornaia this term.
Out of the 'Triple A', Alexandra Trusova impressed most. She looks energised by this new choreography and has bought into the new methods and surroundings with coach Plushenko.
Landing a double Axel, triple flip, and triple Lutz-triple toe combination without a single wobble, this 16-year-old is going to be as much of a threat as she was last season. Maybe more.
The cadence in her skating and interpretation of the music promises so much, and out of all the skaters - and yes, this is just one short program at the beginning of the season - she looks to have improved more than her compatriots.
Special mention too has to go to another Tutberidze protege: 14-year-old Kamila Valieva, who impressed once more.
She went the entire season unbeaten last term, winning the World Junior Championships title and looking like a senior threat already.
Skating to a composition by Olympic gold medal winning Canadian pairs figure skater Eric Radford, Valieva showed why she can challenge for top honours this season.
Her triple flip, double Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe combination weren't just flawless, they were fierce, her attack and landings brave and sound.
Her spinning, spectacular already, has only gotten stronger and you can see she feels the music more, she's in sync and on song.
Kamila Valieva is one to watch this season, no doubt about that.
If this was a competition judged by the loudness of the roar from the crowd, then Evgenia Medvedeva would be going home with gold.
Getting her last-minute pep-talk from Brian Orser in Canada via phone before she stepped on the ice, you could feel and hear the crowd willing her on.
Dressed in black pants with a black sports top and black gloves, Medvedeva's opening was memorable in a classic style short program, jumping a triple loop triple toe combination that drew a big reaction from the crowd.
A little wobble on a double Axel and a step on her triple flip show there's work to be done with coach Orser back at the Toronto Cricket Club, but her step sequence delighted the thousands tuning in across the world watching on live YouTube broadcast.
Live figure skating was back and the world was a happier place for it.