Alina Zagitova wins GP Helsinki

Olympic champ happier after "better" free skate, completes comfortable victory in Finland.

Alina Zagitova completed victory on her ISU Grand Prix seasonal debut in Helsinki, but she was some way below her very best.

The Olympic gold medallist scored 146.39 points on her free skate, six points clear of her rivals, to post a winning total of 215.29.

“Yesterday I was not happy with my short program. Today the free skate was better, but it still was not ideal.” - Alina Zagitova after winning in Helsinki

Alina Zagitova during her free skate at GP Helsinki
Alina Zagitova during her free skate at GP HelsinkiAlina Zagitova during her free skate at GP Helsinki

"I somehow did not have the same focus that I wanted to have and it was tough for me to forget the short program, I was analysing it all night. But in the morning when I woke up, I told myself that I have to skate well today for the spectators."

Russia's number one was solid rather than spectacular in her Finnish free skate.

She lost marks for under-rotating on a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, but performed the remainder of her elements smoothly.

Her overall score in Helsinki was more than 20 points down on her September's Nebelhorn Trophy aggregate of 238.43.

“I’m not looking at these scores or the placement that is up on the board. For me my main goal is that my coaches, myself and the spectators are pleased with my performances.” - Alina Zagitova

If her post-free skate presents can be used as a measure, it's safe to say that the fans were very, very pleased in Helsinki!

Alina Zagitova receives a giant toy after her free skate at the Grand Prid of Helsinki
Alina Zagitova receives a giant toy after her free skate at the Grand Prid of HelsinkiAlina Zagitova receives a giant toy after her free skate at the Grand Prid of Helsinki

Stanislava Konstantinova made it a Russia 1-2 with a total of 197.57 points after she took third on the free skate behind Zagitova and Kaori Sakamoto.

The Japanese was down in seventh after the short program, but second place on the free skate propelled her onto the podium at the expense of Belgium's Loena Hendrickx.

"In the free program I gave it all. I gave everything that I had because I knew that was the only chance I had of getting onto the podium today" - Kaori Sakamoto

Kaori Sakamoto was beaming after finishing third overall at the Grand Prix of Helsinki
Kaori Sakamoto was beaming after finishing third overall at the Grand Prix of HelsinkiKaori Sakamoto was beaming after finishing third overall at the Grand Prix of Helsinki

Despite her excellent comeback, Sakamoto was a good deal short of her 213.90 total which saw her finish runner-up at Skate America two weeks ago.

Sakamoto's compatriot Satoko Miyahara won that event with 219.71, more than four points better than Zagitova's winning score in Helsinki.

Skating to the new rules

The new rules which came into effect this season has also had an impact on how the skater approach their programs.

A well-executed jump could significantly improve a score and similarly a mistake this season could prove more costly than in the past.

As a result, they've had to adjust their training accordingly as Konstantinova explains.

"I realised that we now have to work in two directions. We need to focus on details, like difficult exits and entries as well as pay attention to the quality of the move. So I worked on that, as well as to get higher speed to make the jumps higher - Stanislava Konstantinova

GP Helsinki podium (L-R): runner-up Stanislava Konstantinova, winner Alina Zagitova, third-placed Kaori Sakamoto
GP Helsinki podium (L-R): runner-up Stanislava Konstantinova, winner Alina Zagitova, third-placed Kaori SakamotoGP Helsinki podium (L-R): runner-up Stanislava Konstantinova, winner Alina Zagitova, third-placed Kaori Sakamoto

Zagitova's next appearance is on home ice in two weeks' time, when she competes in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow.

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