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Newest Russian Phenom Alina Zagitova Wins Ladies Event

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(11 December 2017)  Alina Zagitova from the Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze won the event with excellent 223.30 points. She is the second best of the almost 20 Russian female teenagers with a world class level behind World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva who has a stress fracture in her right ankle and withdrew. Zagitova began her free program to Leon Minkus‘ famous ballet music "Don Quixote“ with an excellent choreographic step sequence, followed by a very good spin and a long and very elegant step sequence. After these three elements half of the four minutes were over and she had all her jumps in the second half of the program. This brings her 10 per cent more points for each jump, but it is no longer a "well-balanced program“ which the rules require. This should be reflected in the components for composition.

Her first jump was an excellent and difficult combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, followed by a combination of double Axel and triple toe-loop, the latter of which was a bit shaky. The next combination of triple flip – double toe-loop – double loop was very good again. The triple Lutz was not clean, but the triple Salchow, the second triple flip and the second double Axel were excellent again, the two remaining spins even outstanding. The combination spins even had five GOEs of +3. Her components had an average of 8.8.

Later she commented: "I was in good shape for this competition and I was able to finish well so I am very happy, I feel relaxed now. For this program, at first I was not too confident to skate till the end because in the middle of my step sequence I already became quite tired. However, my coaches believed in me and told me that I am able to do it, this gave me confidence. I do have other coaches than Eteri Tutberidze, a choreographer watches over me too. I will not be able to comment on how coach Eteri coaches me, but I can say just having my coaches next to me gives me a lot of confidence and I can skate consistently. I usually have a target in my mind and I just work toward to achieve that goal so that becomes my routine training I do. The next competition will be Nationals, it will be very important so what I would like to do is to skate well so I have no regret and to have the audience enjoy my skating.“

Maria Sotskova, also from Russia, but from the rival Moscow school of Elena Buianova, won the silver medal with 216.28 points. She has a bit less sparkle than Zagitova, but skating to "Clair de Lune“ by Claude Debussy, she had the same seven usual triple jumps plus two double Axels and three other doubles. Ten of the 11 jumps were very good, only a triple loop was not a hundred per cent clean. Her spins were good and her components around 8.6.

"I am very happy,“ she said. "This is my second Grand Prix Final, last year I was in fifth place. So this year going up to second place and being able to go on the podium was a great experience for me. What I can say about my coaches, is that they are great. I really trust them and they do a great job of coaching. I think the way they coach, not any coach can do so I become a stronger skater everyday they coach me. As for me the Russian Nationals will be an important competition. I have always been trying to get better results every year. This time too I am satisfied for both my programs but for Nationals I will try to make my effort so I can do better than this time. As for new jumps, of course seing the young skaters challenging triple Axels and quads, I really respect that and it increases my motivation as well. However, for me, this season is a very important season and I feel the responsibility therefore I want to be able to skate more consistently rather than making new challenges. If I were to try something more challenging it will be next season.“

Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada won the bronze medal with 215.16 points. She had been in the lead after the short program, but because of several mistakes she could not hold this position. Her first combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was excellent as well as her second one of double Axel and triple toe-loop. But then she got a little edge warning at the triple Lutz and doubled the loop which was planned triple. The second triple flip was very good, but then she fell on the triple Salchow. The rest of the program was very good, including a very dynamic step sequence. She skated to Peter Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and the "Black Swan“ and her components were around 9.1.

"Overall I am really excited with how this competition went“, she explained. "Having a good short and my long has been improving on each event. I feel really strong and confident and to be able to make the podium the first time at the Final, it means a lot to me. I don’t think my mistakes were either mental or physical that effected my skate today. This program is really hard on the stamina but I’ve been training it really well. I try to stay focused the entire program telling myself the key words, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen and my mistakes were not ones that I usually make. I did feel really strong especially at the beginning of the program and I still felt strong at the end. The few mistakes, they won’t happen again. I’m excited to compete at Nationals next, more so just to get another competition done.“

Carolina Kostner from Italy moved up from sixth to fourth place, winning 214.65 points, in spite of having a relatively low technical content. She skated to "L‘après-midi d’un faune“ (Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun) by Claude Debussy in a very expressive way and therefore had by far the highest components of the field, with an average of 9.4 and even two 10.0 from the Italian judge. On the other hand, she had only four very good triple jumps (two flips, one loop and one toe loop), plus one shaky triple Salchow, but she doubled one Salchow and one toe loop of her combination and had no triple Lutz in her program.

She said: "I feel very good but I was a little bit more nervous than usual. I am not completely satisfied with my technical content, some minor mistakes, which my coach will not probably say so, but at the end just being here was magnificent. I think I can still improve, I love both my programs so much. I love to work, I love to skate, that's what keeps me motivated. I have Nationals next week so this is my last task before Christmas then I can go home to my family. I can really go home and be proud of myself and be content with the line of training. This is not the end. This is just a step along the way.“

Satoko Miyahara from Japan, alternate for Evgenia Medvedeva, finished in fifth position with 213.49 points. She skated to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in a very elegant way, but her jumps are always small. This time, after a good triple loop, the triple Lutz and the triple toe-loop of her combination as well well as the triple flip were under-rotated. Three more triple jumps as well as two double Axels were good. Spins and steps were excellent and her components reached an average level of 9.0.

She commented: "I know there are some mistakes in today's program, and it was not the best performance I could put out. I felt little bit more nervous compared to Skate America. I was more relaxed for the short program, but I was not so in my free program. I found there is room for improvement and still found some weakness in my mind. But I tried hard and finished without major mistakes, so I was relieved. I knew some of jumps were not clean, and the point reflected exactly what I felt. I take this as the reality, so I know what I need to work on.“

The second Japanese skater Wakaba Higuchi ended up sixth with 202.11 points, but the fact that all ladies had more than 200 points underlines the good level of the competition. Skating to James Bond soundtracks in a dynamic way, she had three very good triple jumps in her program, but doubled the Salchow and the Lutz, which was not clean, and got a small edge warning on the triple flip. Her components were around 8.2.

She said: "I am disappointed after my skating today. During the six minutes warm up I moved better and was able to jump. But when I went out on ice I was too nervous and my body wasn't moving. These last few days of practice I wasn't doing my best so I felt pressure and was thinking too much during the performance. I forced myself to do my triple Lutz-triple toe combination and landed it. But I am still upset after my performance because I missed the triple Salchow and the second triple Lutz. I felt that I didn't have speed in the step sequence.“