by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Within a month, 17-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamysheva has won the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the Finlandia Trophy and the Cup of Nice in France and now competes at Skate America. At this fourth international competition in Hoffman Estates, she took the lead in the short program with 67.41 points. In 2011, the girl from St. Petersburg in Russia won her Grand Prix and seemed to be the most promising candidate for a future Olympic victory. But then puberty hit her and she sustained injuries, weight and other problems. But now she is really back. Skating a refined program to "Bolero", her combination of two triple toe loops was excellent, her triple Lutz and the double Axel very good as well.
She commented: “Today I am very happy that I was able to cope with my nervousness and I was happy that I could show a good performance. It was already the fourth competition for me so I feel a little tired, but it is a nice tiredness. I'm very pleased with my performance today and hope tomorrow I can make you happy one more time with my performance. My coach Alexei Mishin and me, we decided to do so many competitions because I didn't compete in quite a while. It was important to work on the competition feeling so that I would be prepared for the Grand Prix. I think it was the right decision. I never even thought about quitting figure skating because I always felt I wanted to finish what I have been doing on a high note. It justifies all the work over the years that I have put into it.”
Tuktamysheva’s countrywoman Elena Radionova (15), Junior World Champion in 2013 and 2014, is second, earning 65.57 points. After winning at Japan Open in early October, this was her second competition of the season. In her opening combination, the triple Lutz before the triple toe loop was a bit wobbly, but the other elements very good, her layback spin even outstanding. Although you could see that she has grown a lot. Her elements still look easy. The student of Inna Goncharenko interpreted a popular flamenco. She said: “I think that was a quite okay performance. Obviously that jumps could have been better but that is the beginning of the season for me.”
She was also asked if it was hard for her not being allowed to go to the Olympic Games in Sochi, because she was too young. She replied: “Actually it was not hard for me that I couldn't go because I knew already that I would not be able to go to the Olympic Games. It may be for the better. If you look at Mao Asada and Yu-Na Kim, they were also too young the first time in 2006, but they still went on and became champions.”
Gracie Gold was the best of the three U.S. ladies and sits on third position with 60.81 points. Skating to Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, she started with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but she two-footed the toe loop. The first two spins and the step sequence were excellent, the loop was ok, but at the end she fell out of a camel position on her combination spin which consequently received no points. Her presentation was as good as usual, and only trailed Tuktamysheva in component score by0.57 points.
She said: “I really love being back here in Chicago where I trained and lived for many years. I thought the crowd was supportive and the arena is beautiful. It wasn't my best performance, but I am still very happy with it. It is tough to skate last after two wonderful competitors. In a competition like this I can't give any points away and make mistakes like I did on my spin and the small error on the triple toe landing. I'm going to have to really fight in the long program to move up in the ranks. I look forward to another great competition tomorrow.”
Samantha Cesario of Monsey, who now trains in the new Twin Rinks Ice Center in East Meadow on Long Island with Mary Lynn Gelderman, is in fourth position with 58.96 points. She began her short program with a good-looking combination of triple flip and triple loop, but the loop was a bit under-rotated. The other elements including a triple Lutz were good and her interpretation of a Malaguena version was very convincing. She commented: “I was a bit tight so I had to fight a little bit, but I’m happy with it for a start to my season. Here in practice and getting it out there in the competition, every time you do my combination, it builds confidence. I’m pretty happy with it for what I did today. I would like it to be higher for the season as I progress, but for my first stop on the Grand Prix circuit I’m happy with it, definitely an improvement.”
So Youn Park from South Korea is fifth with 55.74 points after a short program with a good combination of triple Salchow and triple toe loop, but she stepped out of the triple Lutz. Elene Gedevanishvili from Georgia, who now trains with Craig Maurizi in Hackensack, is in sixth place with 55.39 points.
The third American Mirai Nagasu trains now in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek. She fell on the triple flip and added only a single toe loop to her triple loop, attempting to improvise a combination. This socts her several points and she ended up only tenth with 49.29 points. She commented: “It was all mental and I was so confident going into this program that I think when things didn’t work out it caught me off guard. And I wasn’t on my game today, it happens to everyone. Tomorrow’s a new day so I guess I’ll focus on tomorrow.”
There were only 11 skaters instead of 12 because Joshi Helgesson from Sweden had withdrawn just one week before Skate America. She had undergone surgery in her foot and it was now time for the screws to be taken off. No alternate replaced her.