Figure Skating

Is Sofya Akatyeva Russia's next figure skating superstar?

The 13-year-old made history by landing two quads and a triple Axel in her free skate to win the latest junior ladies' round of the Cup of Russia in Kazan.

By Rory Jiwani ·

Sofya Akatyeva showed why she could be Russia's next figure skating superstar with a stunning free skate to win the junior competition at the Cup of Russia in Kazan on Thursday (12 November).

The 13-year-old, coached by Eteri Tutberidze, performed two clean quad toe loops - both with her arms above her head in the style of Adam Rippon - and a triple Axel on her way to victory.

No female skater had landed multiple quads and a triple Axel in a single program before with Alysa Liu previously landing a single quad and a triple Axel.

Her score of 151.32 was higher than that achieved by reigning European champion Alena Kostornaia in Wednesday's senior competition, with her total of 231.44 also more than her former training partner.

Another former Tutberidze pupil, twice world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, scored an impressive 171.21 in her free skate to take victory from Kostornaia in the senior event.

Akatyeva already looks another top prospect although, as she was born in July 2007, she is too young to be eligible for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Akatyeva's historic skate in Kazan

Two years ago, Tutberidze's '3A' of Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova were outscoring the seniors while competing as juniors.

They made seamless transitions to the senior ranks, sweeping last season's six Grand Prix events before Kostornaia claimed victory in the Grand Prix Final in Turin.

Trusova and Shcherbakova's quad jumping, and Kostornaia's triple Axel, put them well clear of their older rivals.

Another quad-jumping youngster, Kamila Valieva, made it six consecutive victories in the Junior Grand Prix Final for Tutberidze skaters.

Future double world champion Evgenia Medvedeva started that run in 2014 and she was followed by Polina Tsurskaya, PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist Alina Zagitova, Trusova and Kostornaia.

This season's Junior Grand Prix has been cancelled due to the Covid pandemic, but Akatyeva looks to be another future champion and could give Valieva plenty to think about when she defends her world junior title in Harbin, China in March.

In Kazan, she started her free skate with a fine quad toe loop-double toe loop combination before landing another quad toe loop on its own.

Then came a slightly shaky triple Axel and a triple toe loop before a fall on a triple Lutz.

Despite her stamina appearing to ebb away, she still managed to land triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow and triple Lutz-double toe loop combinations in an eye-catching routine.

In the short program, where quad jumps are not permitted, she landed a triple Axel-triple flip combination on her way to a score of 80.12 which would have put her top in the senior competition.

This was Akatyeva's second triumph in this season's Cup of Russia having claimed victory in Stage 1 in Syzran in September.

Behind her was 12-year-old sensation Veronika Zhilina who landed a quad toe loop-double toe loop combination on her way to second place.

Finding form after quarantine

Speaking to Russian news agency Tass two weeks ago, Akatyeva revealed that she spent most of her time "engaged in choreography and general physical training" during two and a half months in quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But things came together when she went to the national team camp in Novogorsk where the country's top rhythmic gymnasts, including twins Dina and Arina Averina, were also in training.

She said, "It all gradually came into shape. It's good that everything worked out - for this, by the way, many thanks to our coaching staff. In isolation, I mainly studied, I had tutors. Well, I really like to dance - I improvised to the music."

In that interview, she said she wanted to land two quad toe loops and a triple Axel in a free program which she achieved in Kazan.

So what else does the latest Russian starlet have in store?

"I also want to learn the quadruple Salchow. In training, I already go into it. I hope that at the end of the season I will succeed in competitions."

Akatyeva made headlines as an 11-year-old in March 2019 when she landed a quad jump in training.

She started figure skating from an early age and soon joined up with Tutberidze's powerhouse unit in the Khrustalny rink in Moscow.

"Everyone in my family loves figure skating! We watch all the broadcasts of the competition. It was my mother who showed me the performances of the skaters at the Olympic Games on TV.

"I didn't know any names then - I was too small. But what I saw on the screen just mesmerised me. I wanted to become a part of this fabulous world. Then I, of course, rewatched Vancouver. Mostly girls - Asada Mao and others.'"

Inspired by Asada and training partners past and present, Akatyeva is certainly one to watch this season and in the future.