Evgenia Medvedeva leads after short program at Russian Cup

Two-time figure skating world champ hoping for berth to next month's skating worlds

The last two Russians ladies to win the ISU World Figure Skating Championships are battling for a return trip to the worlds.

Two-time World champion and Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva leads the short program standings at the Russian Cup in Veliky Novgorod with a score of 76.89. She held off Stanislava Konstantinova (75.47), who was fourth at the recent European Championships, and first-year senior competitor Anastasiia Gubanova (73.94 ).

2015 World champ and 2018 Grand Prix Final bronze medallist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who fell on her triple axel attempt, is fourth after the short program.

The Russian ladies can enter three competitors for next month’s skating worlds in Saitama, Japan. Olympic champ Alina Zagitova and recently crowned European champion Sofia Samodurova are considered to have already locked up their trips to Japan and are not participating this week.

Leaving just one spot.

Short turn-around

For Medvedeva, it was redemption after a disastrous short program at the Russian Championships in late 2018 left her 14th place. Though she climbed her way to seventh place after finishing fourth in the free skate, she has something to prove this week if she wants to make the trip to Saitama.

It was just her second time performing in competition her revamped short program set to the music of ‘Tosca.’ She ditched a routine to ‘Orange Colored Sky’ before the Russian Championships. It was a program she told Olympic Channel in September was “totally another image for me. I didn’t do something like this ever.”

‘Tosca’ is a more traditional fit for the Russian, and it certainly seemed to suit her on Thursday.

Though she skated somewhat reserved in a black and red costume, she received positive grade of execution marks on all of her elements. Her jumping passes were a triple flip, triple toe combination, a double axel and a triple loop. All three were landed with ease.

"I got sick and tired of leaving the competitions sad, having a hard feeling I haven't done enough," Medvedeva said afterward, according to RSport.

She came alive after hitting her final pose, pumping her fist and blowing kisses to an audience that had cheered her even before she was announced.

“They were small, but loud,” she could be heard to say on the YouTube livestream provided by the Russian federation.

“Wow,” she added as they began to chant her name while they waited for the 76.89 score from the judges to flash on screen. That score leads the standings.

"The support was amazing," Medvedeva said. "Most importantly, I met the expectations of my coach and my fans. I managed to distract myself. When I started getting nervous, I mentally said, 'hello' to my doubts.

"'Hello, Mr. Fear. Hello, uncertainty.' I wasn't nervous during my skate," she added.

Tough competition

Skating to the music of ‘Malaguena,’ the 18-year-old Konstantinova leaped into second place with a 75.47 for her short program. She was clean through a double axel, a triple Lutz, triple toe combination and a triple flip.

It was a surprise performance from Gubanova that landed her in third. She's only competed twice internationally as a senior, taking the silver medal at December's Golden Spin in Croatia.

On Thursday, her short program earned her a 73.94 total.

Tuktamysheva skated her tango-themed program and recovered from her missed triple axel with a triple toe, triple toe combination and a huge triple Lutz.

She came alive during a powerful step sequence toward the end of the program. Though she was subdued in her reaction immediately after the program, offering a slight shake of her head, she lit up in the Kiss and Cry as a large, stuffed dinosaur was delivered to her.

Her 72.21 sets the stage for an intense competition in Friday's free skate with the top four skaters separated by less than five points.

A long road

After going two years undefeated, Medvedeva ran into surging teammate Alina Zagitova. Zagitova unseated her at the European Championships in January 2018 before going on to win the Olympic title.

After claiming two silver medals at the PyeongChang Olympic Games, the 19-year-old decided to leave her homeland to train with famed coach Brian Orser in Toronto.

Her post-Olympic season has been trying at times with moments of brilliance, including a top-scoring free skate at Skate Canada in October. Then came the disappointing short program at the Russian Championships.

The up-and-down nature of her season is likely not a surprise to Orser who told the Olympic Channel at the Grand Prix Final he expects the coaching transition process to take two years.

“I just think with any athlete it takes a year and a half to two years for everything to start to gel,” he said. “You really literally have to break it down and then put all the pieces back together.”

Adding, “It’s not easy but if they are open to it and they buy into it then it’s amazing. But it does take a year and a half to two years, and so I’m asking everybody for their patience please.

“I think it will be great, really great, but there’s no quick fix.”

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