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2021 World Championships: Ladies Free Skate

by Liz Leamy and George Rossano

Shcherbakova Claims Gold in World Ladies Showdown

Newly Crowned Champion Leads Russian Federation in Podium Sweep

by Liz Leamy and George Rossano

  © International Skating Union (ISU)

Anna Shcherbakova, the Russian skating sensation, will be turning 17 years old on Sunday, March 29th, and certainly wound up with one of the best birthday presents ever, a World Championship title, as she triumphed over the 37-member ladies contingent, earning a winning competition total of 233.17.

This extraordinary athlete, who trains in Moscow with Elena Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov and Daniil Gleikhengaus, skated a fast, action-packed and beautifully composed free skate to selections from Philip Glass, Panu Aaltio and The Piano Guys.

She fell on her opening quad flip which was called at the quarter, but kept her composure and went on to complete the reaming six jump elements cleanly, which included a total of seven triples and two double Axels, skated with the spirit and confidence of a world champion.

Moreover, it seemed during her entire four-minute routine, for which she was awarded a 152.17, Shcherbakova never stopped moving, as she connected all of her jumps and spins with silky smooth edges, turns and steps accented by Bolshoi balletic-like posturing, extension and movements, which helped her earn an 80.32 technical score and 72.85 for components, the latter being the highest of the free skate competition.

Although she missed an opening quad flip, her overall presentation was superior on all other counts.

With her focus on always trying to do her best she said after skating, “Honestly I don’t know what to say after my performance. I really tried to do my best and fight for every element am not satisfied at all with my performance but I’m so happy I’m first. It was my goal. Thank you so much everyone. It was a real fight for me because from the first element everything was not like I wanted and every next element I understood that now I can try to do best on every element and not lose points.”

Asked about her impending birthday in two days she remarked “I really didn’t think about it before because I was only thinking about my competition but maybe we will do something with my coaches and I want to thank them it was a very season and very difficult preparation for so thank them and my parents they were supporting me also.”

Later at the press conference she added, “I’m so happy and it was a real fight for me. The World Championships are a major competition and to me, it is a great honor to win and it will give me great energy,” said Shcherbakova. “The most important thing for me is the performance and then the marks after that.”

Shcherbakova, who expressed a heartfelt thank you to her coaches and parents, Julie and Stanislav, who were home back in Moscow, during the awards ceremony, said in regard to plans for her birthday, she was so busy being focused on her skating that she had not really thought about. “It is the best-ever present for my birthday,” she said.

In looking ahead, Shcherbakova said she is planning to go home to train hard in order to prepare for the 2021-2022 season, during which the 2022 Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to be held in Beijing, China.

“Hopefully next year I will be ready to do the best I can do and yes, I would like to do a quad [in the Olympics],” said Shcherbakova.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 24 year-old Russian jumping sensation who captured the World crown in 2015, reclaimed her spot as one of the sport’s premiere athletes, as she captured the silver medal with a 220.46 total.

This enchanting elite athlete, who trains in St. Petersburg with legendary coach Alexei Mishin, maintained her second-place standing after the short program with a stellar free skate to “Chronicles of a Mischievous Bird” by Bkhima Iunusov, for which she gained a 141.60, the third-highest marks in this portion of the competition.

Tuktamysheva opened her free skate, designed by Juri Smekalov, with a big triple Axel-double toe loop. She then followed it up with a second triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe loop, triple Lutz, triple loop and double Axel-half loop-triple Salchow, which contributed to her technical score of 73.52.

Although she missed a triple flip called under and a triple toe loop (in combination after triple Lutz) called at the quarter, the overall quality of Tuktamysheva’s program was outstanding, as she performed all of her elements and steps with terrific energy and conviction, subsequently earning a 69.08 component score, the second-highest in this event.

For Tuktamysheva, the whole experience of being in Stockholm was a success in all regards, especially considering this is the first time she has been back on a World Championship podium since she won the ladies title back in 2015.

“The feeling is amazing. I didn’t want to think about placement nor the podium when I was going here, but deep down, I was hoping perhaps, after all, I’ll medal and when it happened, the emotions are incredible,” said Tuktamysheva. “I am so happy and am so in peace with myself now. I did all I could and am second.”

Tuktamysheva, who spent the day prior to this portion of the competition training and also relaxing in her room watching Netflix movies, seemed as poised and prepped as ever as she flew around the ice reflecting the narrative of her music.

“When I listen to music, I have an image in my head. I can interpret it and when Alexei Mishin says this is the right one, I trust him,” said Tuktamysheva. “He says this is exactly what we needed and the program started to meld.”

As she looks ahead to the upcoming Olympic season, Tuktamysheva said she plans to work as hard as ever to continue achieving her skating goals.

“The level has really risen in women’s skating and I think the competition will get even tougher. I think you will need a quad at the Olympics,” said Tuktamysheva. “The next goal is just to make it to the [Olympic] team just like I did to Worlds.”

Alexandra Trusova, the 16 year-old Russian jumping machine who has garnered global attention for her arsenal of quads over the past several seasons, made a stunning comeback in this event catapulting from twelfth in the short program to third overall with a 217.20 total as a result of her flawed, but winning free skate program.

Skating to variations of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Trusova reeled off a huge opening quad flip (with an edge alert) and followed it up with a quad Salchow, quad Lutz-triple toe loop, for her first three elements. A second quad Lutz was called under and a quad toe loop down. A triple Salchow done in a three jump combination was called at the quarter. Triple Lutz and two triple toe loops were clean. She earned a 88.04 technical score and 66.34 component score to achieve a 152.38 segment total.

Although Trusova, who lives in Moscow where she trains with Evgeny Plushenko, the four-time Olympic medalist and Dmitri Mikhailov, had errors on several jumps, she was superior in other areas (three level 4 spins and level 3 step sequence) and was heralded for skating in full-on warrior mode throughout this entire program. Her result is also a testament to the fact that in IJS even flawed quads rack up huge points.

“I am happy that I was able to move up from 12th place after the short program to the podium,” said Trusova, the 2020 European bronze medalist. “Of course, I am not satisfied with my performance. I wanted to do five [clean] quads. In the future I will do my best to show clean skating.”

Asked if it might be better to attempt fewer quads to get cleaner performances she responded, “I was coming here with this list (of quads) and I was not going to land even one quad less. Under no circumstances!”

On how she prepared after her 12th place short program result she said, “When you have unsuccessful performance or attempt you need to forget about that right away and just move on. Everybody helped me after the short program. I got a lot of calls from my parents, they showed me my dogs and my cat on the phone, Dmitri Sergeevich (Mikhailov) also called me right before the warm-up, Evgeni Viktorovitch (Plushenko) helped me on site. They all helped me to concentrate.”

On rumors she was considering chaning coaches she said, “I don’t plan to change anything. I don’t know any rumors. I have no plans for changes.

Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. Champion and three-time U.S. bronze medalist, claimed fourth with her moving free skate to Takako Nishizaki’s ‘Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto’ for which she was awarded a 134.23, which put her total at 208.63.

Chen, who was fourth in the short, flew around the ice with attack and confidence. She landed triple Lutz and two triple loops cleanly. A second triple Lutz was called at the quarter as were a triple toe loop and triple flip (with an edge attention). A triple Salchow was called under. On the puls side, she racked up point on her three level four spins and level 3 step sequence. Her components averaged a very good 8.49.

“I’m proud of myself for delivering a solid short program and a solid free program,” said the 21 year-old Fremont, California native who is coached by Tammy Gambill. “I can’t say that my free skate was perfect, but I really went for it and I did everything I could possibly do and fought through it. Because of that, I’m really proud of myself.”

Looking to the future she said, “[The triple Axel,] yes, that is an element that I really, really want to get -- even since I was little I was 'I really want a triple Axel'. Once the season is over I'm going to work really hard on that and hopefully get it in time for the Olympic season.”

Upon learning that she had helped the USA ladies gain a third spot for the Olympics she said, “I was in shock for sure, just because the situation (with 3 competitors left to skate) wasn't looking that great. I was really happy and felt a lot of emotions and I have no regrets -- regardless if we had secured two spots or three spots -- I was just proud of myself for delivering two really great programs and I honestly couldn't wish for anything better.”

Bradie Tennell, the 2021 and 2018 U.S. Champion, came up ninth with a 197.81 total, of which she was awarded a 127.94 for her free skate.

Tennell, who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, earned high marks for her rich variety of technical elements that included a triple loop, triple Salchow and two double Axels, as well as signature collection of fast, beautifully lined spins and interesting footwork sequences.

Triple toe loop in combination with triple Lutz was called under-rotated, as were a triple Lutz in combination with double toe loop and a solo triple flip. All the leveled elements were called level 4. Her average component score was 8.43, slightly lower than the 8.54 in the short program.

“The entire competition did not go nearly according to plan,” she said. “I am very disappointed with my skates; it’s not what I have been training for. I have been training clean programs every day short and long so coming here for these performances - very disappointing, especially in such an important competition. Unfortunately, I had some issues with my boot. And there was nothing that I could do and I did the best I could and I’m proud.”

She further explained, “The boot just broke, there is no support left. They are only about a month old so I thought it would be fine. These things happen and there is nothing you can do, you step on the ice and you do your best. It’s my landing right boot. It’s the outside support area along the ankle. I didn’t’ have a second pair. If the boot broke before I came to Stockholm I could fix it. It happened on the 1st or 2nd day here.”

With a combined placement of 13 for the two American women, the U.S. gained the coveted third entry for next season.  However, this is only for 2022 Worlds.  For the Olympics, the U.S. must "confirm" it's three spots to compete based on the results of U.S. skaters at Nebelhorn Trophy later this year.