by George Rossano
(22 February) The current stars of the Russian women's skating program placed first and second in the Ladies Short Program at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Wednesday. Alina Zagitova took the lead over her countrywoman and training mate Evgenia Medvedeva by 1.31 points. Skating before Zagitova, Medvedeva skated a record highest score, only to have the record broken by Zagitova three performances later.
"I was very focused in all practice," said Zagitova. "When I made mistakes I ws corrected and tried to fix them. With the work and the help of the coaches I was able to do a clean short program." She added, about the possibility of winning the Gold, "The most important thing is to show your best, to give 100% so that the coaches, the judge, the audience and yourself are pleased."
Both ladies skated back loaded programs (all jumps in the second half), but Medvedeva spotted her opponent 1.87 in base value by executing jumps of lesser value than Zagitova - in order of difficulty, triple flip, triple loop, triple toe loop and double Axel vs. triple Lutz, triple flip, triple loop and double Axel. Both ladies executed the same value content for their spins and step sequence, all of which achieved level 4.
In GoE points (the points resulting from the judges GoEs), Zagitova outscored Medvedeva by 12.20 to 8.22 points. The presentation and artistic content of Medvedeva was slightly favored by the judges with 38.42 point to 37.62 points. Both ladies presented strong secure programs, though Medvedeva's routine was somewhat superior in the connecting content of the elements.
Both skaters are trained by Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow, and their programs are virtually identical in content and layout. Both skaters begin with a flying camel spin and then the step sequence to kill time until the second half. Then both execute the jump combination, the solo jump and the double Axel in succession. Finally Medvedeva ends with the combination spin and layback spin, while for Zagitova it's the layback spin and then the combination spin. The two patterns of ice converge are similar and the elements are placed in more or less the same areas of the ice. The two routines are about as cookie cutter as they come.
Describing her rivalry on the ice with Zagatova she said, "Last time I hear so many news that Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are opponents on the ice and off the ice. We are humans, we communicate as usual, we are friends, we are girls, young girls. We can talk about everything to each other." But on the ice she said, "When we take the ice this is sport and we must fight. In every competition I feel like a little war. This is sport, this is war. We must show our best, no matter if you are nervous or not. When you take the ice you are alone. Yes, your friend is competing here but you have to fight."
Kaitlyn Osmond (CAN) gave a much stronger performance in that in the Team event to place third in the short, with 78.87 points. Her routine to two Edith Piaf songs was competitive with the Russians in components, averaging 9.26 vs. 9.41 and 9.61 for the Zagitova and Medvedeva. Her elements were the same content as Zagitova, but with only the double Axel in the second half, and the GoEs from he judges were slightly lower. While she is numerically in the race for the Gold or Silver, moving higher up on the podium will likely require one of the two leading ladies to falter in the Free Skate.
Osmond scored her season best, and commented, "It means so much. I have been fighting to keep this program and improving it at each event. I was a little upset after the team event short program, but to come out here, not long afterwards and do this program and do a personal best and season's bet it's really important to me."
Satoko Miyahara (JPN), the 2015 World Silver medalist sits in fourth place, 2.93 points behind Osmond. She skated a clean program to "Memoirs of a Geisha," though her opening triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination was not particular strong and only received an average GoE of 1. Her two other jump elements were scored somewhat higher, and her spins and step sequence received mostly 2s and 3. Her components averaged 8.92. She has the potential to move up, though if both she and Osmond skate clean, Osmond has stronger jumps and components, and thus the advantage.
"I wanted to be more expressive and more open," she said. "And I hope I can do that in the free program."
The second Canadian competitor, 2017 World Bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman had a lackluster skate, with an error on her opening jump combination (a step out of the second of two triple toe loops with a hand down). Her components (average (average 8.25) were not competitive for a medal contender.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) scored the highest of the U.S. ladies. She fell on her opening triple Axel attempt, which was fully rotated. On triple loop she had a poor landing edge that was scored negative. Her spins reached level 4, but the steps level 3. The expression of her routine to Chopin's Nocturne No. 20 was not embraced by the judges and her components averaged only 7.67. Medvedeva used the same music and received components of 9.61.
About the Axel she said, "I think I over-shot it. I kind of landed it, then I kind of fell and ended taking the fall. But it was a fight. I still did my triple-triple and still managed to do my loop as well.
Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. Ladies Champion, stepped out of triple Lutz and put a hand down, preventing completion of the planned triple-triple jump combination. later in the program she added a double toe loop to her triple loop jump to get at leat a few points back. Skating her "On Golden Pond" routine from last season, she moved in slow motion over the ice with little attack, though with some petty positions. Her components average 8.09. She currently sits in tenth place.
The third U.S. lady, 2018 U.S. Ladies Champion Bradie Tennell sits on 11th place. She fell on the triple toe loop in her opening combination, and then went on to cleanly complete the rest of the program. She achieved level 4 in all the leveled elements, except her layback spin at level 3. Her program places the solo jump and the double Axel in the second half. The speed and attack of her skating did not look as strong as at U.S. Nationals. her components averaged 7.38, the lowest of the three U.S. Ladies.
For the combination, she explained, "You just have to get u and keep going as if nothing happened. You know my left arm just got away from me and I just kind of sat down."
Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano