Matteo Rizzo claims Winter Universiade men's singles title

European bronze medallist produces scintillating free skate to beat Russian Maxim Kovtun and Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili

Matteo Rizzo produced the skate of his life to take the Winter Universiade men's figure skating singles title in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

The 20-year-old Italian, 21st at PyeongChang 2018, made a notable breakthrough with bronze at January's European Championships in Minsk.

And he went even better in Siberia, posting a huge personal best total of 273.54.

Short program leader Maxim Kovtun was second for Russia, 14 points behind, with Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili taking third place in a new season's best.

Afterwards Rizzo said, "I wanted to skate well in both programs and I achieved that.

"I am very happy with this medal because it was my objective before travelling here."

European silver medallist Alexander Samarin, sixth after the short program, was the first skater to go in the last group.

He did enough to take the lead from Japan's Kazuki Tomono, but some scruffy landings and a pull-out of the second of his three planned quads left him well short of his best.

Kvitelashvili then set the target with an excellent personal best free skate.

The Georgian landed three quads including a fine quad loop-double loop combination as he scored 175.31 for a career-high total of 258.02.

Next came Kovtun who held a lead of just under a point over Rizzo from the short program.

Cheered on by vocal home support, the four-time Russian national champion fell spectacularly on a quad Salchow, but more costly was him singling a planned triple loop.

Four-time Russian champion Maxim Kovtun took silver at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Four-time Russian champion Maxim Kovtun took silver at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, RussiaFour-time Russian champion Maxim Kovtun took silver at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia

Despite posting a season's best free skate of 167.75 to just move ahead of Kvitelashvili, it was far from Kovtun's cleanest routine and left the door open to the two skaters to come.

Magic Matteo

And Rizzo, skating to a medley of songs by Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody, Love of My Life and Don't Stop Me Now), charged through it with a spectacular routine.

He opened with an authoritative quad loop, following up with a fine triple Axel-double toeloop combination before nailing a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combo.

The student at Rome's San Raffaele University was full of confidence, and he raised his fist in triumph at the end of his best skate to date.

Italy's Matteo Rizzo claimed the biggest win of her career at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Italy's Matteo Rizzo claimed the biggest win of her career at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, RussiaItaly's Matteo Rizzo claimed the biggest win of her career at the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia

Rizzo scored 182.76, 17 points better than his previous best free skate at the European Championships.

And his total of 273.54 was higher than Javier Fernandez's gold medal score in Minsk.

That left just Andrei Lazukin, third after the short program, to skate.

The St Petersburg-based athlete started with a clean quad toeloop, but his jumping soon deteriorated and it was all over when he singled a scheduled triple Axel.

He slipped to fifth place with Rizzo celebrating the biggest win of his career.

Rizzo now heads to the World Championships in Saitama later this month on a high, and a repeat of this display would give him an outside chance of a medal.

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