With just months to go before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Maxim Naumov finds his path full of opportunity.
The 20-year-old from Norwood has been steadily climbing the ladder in US figure skating for years. In January 2020, Naumov won the US junior title and finished fifth at the World Junior Championships just weeks before international competitions came to a halt because of the pandemic.
Starting in January 2021, however, his career trajectory shot upward.
Naumov finished fifth at January’s US Championships in Las Vegas. He won summer club competitions in both Boxborough and Milwaukee. Then, at August’s Cranberry Cup, an early-season international competition held at his home rink at the Skating Club of Boston, he finished third with one of the highest overall scores of his career, a 223.15.
Naumov will again take to his home ice this week for the US International Figure Skating Classic, in which he is considered one of the favorites.
“I’m feeling well and I’m feeling confident,” said Naumov. “I basically have opportunity after opportunity this season. I have one competition a month until nationals. I’m very excited to have so many opportunities, especially after last season.”
The major impetus for Naumov’s recent success has been the addition of a quadruple jump to both his short and long programs. Before, he would perform a clean program and max out his scoring potential but not finish highly because he lacked the quad others were performing.
Over the summer, he added a quad Salchow to both his short and long programs, and with them, he can earn an internationally competitive score.
“For a long time, I was skating well but I didn’t have a quad,” said Naumov. “I was squeezing all the value out of my programs, but with no quad. That was the one step I was missing. I landed that quad Salchow and it’s been a game-changer for me.”
Naumov, who is coached by his parents, 1994 world pairs champions Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov, isn’t just a jumper, but has programs that earn solid component scores as well. He kept his two programs from the 2020-21 season, including his unique “Run” short program, choreographed by Adam Blake, who brings contemporary dance to the ice.
“It’s really, really cool to portray a different vibe and different side of myself,” said Naumov. “I’m thankful for Adam’s work.”
Naumov’s climb this year earned him several international assignments on top of this weekend’s competition. In October, he will compete at Finland’s Finlandia Trophy, and then return to his parents’ homeland, Russia, for his first Grand Prix event on foreign soil, November’s Rostelecom Cup. He doesn’t have an Olympic berth as a goal for this season, nor a spot at any of the major competitions for that matter.
“Our biggest goal isn’t to place a certain way, but to do the best I can,” said Naumov. “I want to get the quads consistent, and hopefully put two of them in my long, and maybe two in the short. We are taking it one step at a time. I am only in charge of the things that I can do.”
This is the first time the US International Classic will be held in Norwood, the second time in a month that the year-old facility will host an international event.
In the men’s competition, which begins Thursday night, Naumov will face training mate Jimmy Ma, who finished a surprising second at the Cranberry Cup. Ma, a New Jersey native, has an abundance of skill and style, but a lack of consistency has plagued him in the past.
Camden Pulkinen, Eric Sjoberg, and Dinh Tran round out the American entries. Among the international competitors are Morisi Kvitelashvili, the 2020 European Championships bronze medalist from Georgia, and two 2018 Olympians from Israel, Daniel Samohin and Alexei Bychenko.
The highlight will be in the women’s event, where Russian Alexandra Trusova is scheduled to compete. At a domestic competition in Russia this past weekend, she landed five quadruple jumps in her free skate — something unthought of for a woman until recently.
Trusova finished third at the 2021 World Championships and is part of Russia’s deep roster of groundbreaking skaters. Brighton native Gabriella Izzo will represent the United States, along with Paige Rydberg, Sierra Venetta, and Maxine Marie Bautista. Reigning US champion Bradie Tennell has withdrawn.
In ice dance, it will be the first outing this season for three-time US champions and world silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue. The Montreal-trained couple will debut their highly anticipated Janet Jackson rhythm dance Friday afternoon, and will show off their trademark lyrical style in their “Drowning” free dance. They are clear-cut favorites to win.
Russia’s Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin, who train in Michigan, are the international couple to watch in the field. Davis is the daughter of Russia’s current coaching mastermind, Eteri Tutberidze, who will be coaching Trusova at the event. This will be one of Davis and Smolkin’s first senior-level internationals, and they are hoping a good finish in Norwood will boost themselves among the Russian ice dance elite.