Alena Kostornaia leads after European Championships short program

Kostornaia comes close to her world record to lead from Russian team-mates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova

Another wonderful short program from Alena Kostornaia saw her take the lead at the European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria.

The 16-year-old Grand Prix Final winner was less than a point shy of her world record set last month in Turin to take a lead of seven points into Saturday's free skate.

Anna Shcherbakova is second with Alexandra Trusova, the third member of the '3A' trained in Moscow by Eteri Tutberidze, completing the podium spots.

With quad jumps counting in the free skate, unlike the short program, Shcherbakova and Trusova will be hopeful of closing the gap on Kostornaia who does not have quads in her arsenal.

Alena Kostornaia during her short program at the European Championships in Graz, Austria
Alena Kostornaia during her short program at the European Championships in Graz, AustriaAlena Kostornaia during her short program at the European Championships in Graz, Austria

Russian trio dominant yet again

All the attention was on the last group in Graz with Shcherbakova, who beat her training partners to retain her Russian title last month, first to go.

The 15-year-old started well, landing a double Axel followed by a triple flip and then a fine triple Lutz-triple loop combination to take the lead with 77.95.

Next up was Kostornaia who produced another flawless short program in her incredible first senior season.

Kostornaia opened up with an excellent triple Axel followed by a triple Lutz and then a triple flip-triple toe loop combo in a scintillating routine.

But it is her artistry which sets her apart from her rinkmates, and that counts hugely in her favour in the shorter skate.

Kostornaia scored 84.92, just under a point off her world record, to take her now customary place at the head of affairs after the short program.

Trusova was the penultimate skater to go, but the twice world junior champion doubled what should have been an opening triple Axel to fall behind on Technical Elements Score.

She soon settled into her crowdpleasing routine though, landing a triple flip and then a spectacular triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination as she scored a season's best 74.95 to end the day in third.

Swiss Paganini best of the rest

The three Russians were a hard act to follow, but Swiss champion Alexia Paganini rose to the challenge of skating last.

She opened with a solid triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination followed by a triple loop and then a double Axel to score a 68.82, beating her previous personal best by three points.

Alessia Tornaghi was the early leader in Graz just a week after finishing sixth at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

The 15-year-old Italian was just shy of her personal best set in Lausanne, scoring 61.27.

She was overtaken by Emmi Peltonen who led right up until the final group of six skaters before finishing the day in fifth.

The Finn landed a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination followed by a triple loop and a double Axel in her dance to Caruso.

That gave her a score of 66.49, a new career best by six points.

Ekaterina Ryabova of Azerbaijan, who was eighth at Lausanne 2020, took sixth place ahead of Tornaghi with six-time French champion Mae Berenice Meite rounding out the top eight thanks to her all-action Brazilian samba inspired routine.

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