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Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in Class of Her Own

by Tatiana Flade





The Axel and the Girl

Elizaveta (Lisa) Tuktamysheva crowned her comeback this season with a well deserved World title and became the first Russian lady in ten years to win the title and the third Russian Lady in history to become World Champion (Maria Butyrskaya won in 1999 and Irina Slutskaya won in 2002 and in 2005).

Tuktamysheva showed special guts risking a triple Axel in the short program. She only had tried the 3A in two competitions before and both time she made mistakes. She fell on the Axel at the Bavarian Open and in a small local competition in St. Petersburg she landed the Axel, but then doubled the Lutz and did just a triple toe-double toe combination. In Shanghai, the 3A was flawless and received +1 and +2 GOEs so that she got 10.07 points out of it. “When I landed the Axel I got goosebumps and I thought, I am dreaming or did I really just do the triple Axel at the World Championships?”, the 18-year-old said. After that she had to refocus immediately, and she did and completed 3Lz and 3T-3T. The oriental themed free skating was also clean, there were just a few wobbles here and there. A big smile lit up Lisa’s face at the end of the program. Watched by cameras in the “Green Room”, she waited for the final result, knowing that the title more or less was hers, because the two Japanese who skate after her were trailing her by 12 and 15 points respectively. Still, the Russian remained calm. “Probably I am going to be World Champion”, she said with a smile. “I was tight, since I knew even with my advantage in points from the short program I couldn’t make any major mistakes. With two major mistakes the advantage would have been gone. It would have been a shame to lose. I was going for a “working version” of my program as I say. The nervousness was the same as usual.The Lutz wasn’t going very well in the warm up and so I went into it with too much power. But anyway, I still get points from it. After that I just moved on”, the student of Alexei Mihin summed up.

Tukatmysheva’s story of rise and fall and rising again is just what fans and media love. Following success in juniors she faced difficulties and instead of fighting for the gold as many predicted, she finished a distant 10th at the 2014 Russian Nationals and watched the Sotchi Olympic Games on TV. Just one year later she’s on top. Lisa managed this strong comeback also thanks to a certain serenity. “I know that other people have much bigger problems than I do. Well, I missed the Olympic Games, but there will be other Olympic Games.” For her, the most important thing is to leave her mark in the sport, as she said. This is something the skater from St. Petersburg has already achieved, but she is still dreaming big. “Next season I’d like to do the triple Axel also in the free skating and I’d like to learn a quad toeloop”, she announced. Lisa revealed that she tried the quad toe when she was about 13 years old, but it was underrotated and she fell.

Satoko Miyahara of Japan won the silver medal, which came as a little surprise. On her 17th birthday she laid down a clean short to “The Magic Flute” with 3Lz-3T and was ranked third. “Today I skated with fun and I think it was my best short program. My goal of coming here was to receive a personal best score for both short and free program.  I was happy that I was able to achieve that in the short program. To be in third place as a result of that came as a surprise”, the tiny skater from Kyoto noted.  Her free to “Miss Saigon” was also solid except for a stumble on an underrotated 3Lz. But she did land two 2A-3T combos and showed excellent spins and musicality and moved up to second although she ranked fourth in the free skating. “I have some regrets, because the second Lutz wasn’t good enough, I put my hands down. But overall my performance was pretty satisfactory. I got a seasons best with this performance which was my goal”, Miyahara told the press.

Elena Radionova pulled off a strong Flamenco short to be in second, although she said that she wasn’t feeling very well. “I am very pleased with my performance and that I was able to overcome myself and land all my jumps in my debut at the World Championships”, the 16-year-old commented. In the long program, the European silver medalist had a shaky landing on her first 3Lz but just did the 3-3-combo with the next 3Lz. However, she ran out of energy towards the end of the Rachmaninov program, stepped out of a double Axel and doubled a loop. “I made some minor mistakes on my jumps, but this competition gave me a good experience and I know what to work on when I return home to Moscow”, Elena said. “I had a fever before the short program. I don’t know where it came from, maybe it was the jetlag or some virus. Thank God today I didn’t have a fever, but after the illness I still felt a certain weakness, therefore it was a bit hard to skate for me”, she explained.

Gold, Wagner fall short

Gracie Gold and AshleyWagner gave their medal chances away in the short program. Gold stumbled on 3Lz and 3Lo and had no combination jump. “It was a rough skate, the score was actually OK considering I had some very bad mistakes”, Gracie noted. She said she wasn’t affected by just skating after Tuktamysheva. “It’s always hard to skate after a great performance, but I had higher or equal scores before without a triple Axel, so I think that score didn’t scare me out”, she offered.

Wagner made mistakes on all three jumping passes in the short and on top of it two of her triples were underrotated. This left her in 11th place. “Today was not so great. It’s tough skating last. I feel like anything I say right now is going to sound like an excuse and that was an inexcusable performance for someone at my level”, the U.S. Champion said.

The free went much better for both of them. Gold was ranked second in the free and Wagner third and they pulled up to fourth and fifth place respectively. Ashley underrotated her 3Lz-3T and her 3Lo-1Lo-3S combo, but still it was a good effort.

“That is what I had trained for – to come here and do my job for myself, Frank (Carroll, coach) and the United States. After a rough short program, it’s tough to come out with your guns a-blazin’. It was a good feeling to skate a great program”, Gracie commented. “Today was a huge accomplishment for me. It might sound silly because I’m 23-years-old but I’m still learning in this sport. I was a late bloomer. To go out there under such immense pressure, to redeem myself in a way, that’s something I’m very proud of”, Wagner shared.

Rika Hongo had two solid performance to come sixth in her debut at Worlds. “I didn’t make big mistake today and also I was aiming to get over 120 points at the free skating, and I achieved that, so I’m pretty happy I could put almost everything I have today, but I did want to get higher levels, and follow in the footsteps of other strong skaters. For the next season I’d like to have more difficult elements”, she said.

USA’s Polina Edmunds also gave two technically sound performances but still looks a bit juniorish out there so that her component score is not yet as high as it can be. The Four Continents Champion placed 8th, one spot higher than in her debut last year. “I’m feeling happy that I skated a clean program. It could have been a little stronger for sure. I’m happy that I fought through off of my elements. I’m kind of disappointed in my score. I feel it was low for what I executed. But I’ll keep working and be better and better every year”, the 16-year-old noted.

Kanako Murakami of Japan shone in the short program as so often and stood in fourth place but in the free skating she once again struggled with some jumps and singled a Salchow. She dropped to eighth place. “This is the end of the season, but I’m not relieved, because I’m regretful for my free skate today, my performance wasn’t good enough. I wanted to finish with good feelings, but I didn’t make it today. I was calm to skate, I didn’t feel the pressure that much, but my performance wasn’t good”, the 2014 Four Continents Champion admitted.

The top eight spots in the Ladies event were occupied by the dominating countries Russia, Japan and USA. Zijun Li of China finished 9th. She started with a good short program into the competition, but then she was too nervous in the free and missed several jumps. “I landed the first jump combination successfully (3F-3T), which I was little worried about before the competition. Unexpectedly I had a fall after that. Actually I felt a little depressed because I did well in the short program but I had some mistakes today”, the Chinese skater explained.

Mae-Berenice Meite of France was the top ranked non-Russian European Lady in Shanghai. She finished 10th, her best result at Worlds so far. The Parisian pulled off a 3Lz-3T combo, but some of her jumps were wobbly. The tall Frenchwoman is a powerful skater but often lacks elegance and finesse in her skating. “I was to be ready to fight now and it was a good fight. “My goal was to be better than I was the last season, and to try some difficulties, because I put the triple-triple in my long program, and I put another double-triple combination in”, she told the press.

Some prominent skaters weren’t at their best. Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia looked more energized than lately, especially in the short program, but in the free she made too many errors and finished 22nd. “I will keep fighting. The whole season was tough for me. There were ups and downs, but in this competition I think I prepared better and I enjoyed the short program. The most important thing for me now is to keep going. I really want to try pairs, but I don’t think I am ready for it”, the two-time European bronze medalist said.

It came even worse for Kiira Korpi. The Finn had a blackout in the short when she fell on an underrotated 3F and then popped loop and Axel after that. This was not enough to make the Final and she ended up in 31st place. “I was very nervous. Then I was disappointed when I fell on the triple flip and I lost the momentum of the program. I started to think about if I should do a combination with the loop and I was not present anymore. It has been mentally a difficult season to come back. I had some competitions that were good, but I was thinking about coming here or not. Maybe I wasn’t ready yet for this (World Championships). I knew that I am not yet at my top level but I decided to come and take the risk. I’ll keep working hard to come back strong next season”, Korpi commented.