Evgenia Medvedeva produced a season's best routine to outshine Russian figure skating compatriot Alexandra Trusova and top the Ladies short program standings at the Rostelecom Cup.
Chasing her first Grand Prix win in two years, two-time world champion Medvedeva gave herself every chance of ending that wait when posting 76.93 on Friday (15th November), which prompted a standing ovation from an adoring home crowd.
Trusova was second with 74.21, while Mariah Bell (67.11) claimed third going into Saturday’s free skate.
Medvedeva wows home crowd
With a Russian victorious in each of the opening four Ladies Grand Prix events so far this season, an expectant home crowd cheered on a trio of hopefuls in the second group.
15-year-old Trusova won gold in her GP debut at Skate Canada last month, and she was the first Russian aiming to better Alexia Paganini’s benchmark score of 65.12.
The two-time junior world champion, who has stated her desire to compete in a male event, could not help but smile as she slipped when heading out to begin her routine.
That fall drew ‘Oohs’ from the crowd, but they were soon applauding her double Axel and triple Flip with the mishap not appearing to affect her concentration.
And after just about pulling off her triple Lutz, triple Toeloop combo, Trusova moved into first with a score of 74.21 – just 0.19 points lower than her short program routine at Skate Canada.
Trusova’s compatriot Stanislava Konstantinova followed Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa (60.57), but she could only manage a score of 54.36.
That meant attention soon turned to two-time Olympic silver-medallist Medvedeva, with the Russian knowing a clean program would boost not only her confidence but also her chances of reaching the Grand Prix Final.
Medvedeva’s display – featuring a triple Flip-triple Toeloop, double Axel and triple Loop - brought the crowd to their feet, with the 19-year-old clenching her fist when ending the routine and declaring “Finally!” when embracing coach Brian Orser.
She was right to celebrate too, as a season’s best 76.93 saw her take Trusova’s place in first.
Medvedeva ultimately finished the day top after American Mariah Bell scored 67.11 – enough for third – and Satoko Miyahara, who won silver at the Cup of China last week, posted 63.09.
Reflecting on Medvedeva's first GP short program win in two years, coach Brian Orser told Olympic Channel: “I’m really pleased for her because she needed that.
"She’s been doing everything right in terms of training, and everything came together for her. She was calm and embraced the environment, which was pretty amazing – they love her. - Brian Orser to Olympic Channel.
“At Skate Canada we had a very good free program, it was tough for her to get over the short program, so she deserved to have a good skate like this. I’m hoping this will be the moment to get her back on track." He added.
“We have to regroup for tomorrow and take it one step up from Skate Canada. She’s fierce, she’s a competitor, and that’s what she needs to do."
Medvedeva herself told reporters, "I'm in the best shape Brian has ever seen me... but I have to admit it's harder to jump now than before, and it will be even harder at the age of 29."
Trusova’s receives support in desire to challenge male skaters
Following Trusova’s comments to Olympic Channel that she would like to compete in a male event, Russian team-mate Dmitri Aliev – second in Friday’s short program – said he would ‘up for the fight’.
"When you see a girl doing four quads, it causes some real fascination,” Aliev told Olympic Channel.
“If she will compete with us, I would really take part. I would even fight. But she is amazing, I really respect her as an athlete. I wouldn't mind competing against her, it's even interesting."
The men’s short program winner Alexander Samarin added: "It's a thrill, it is really amazing [what she does], but at the moment I really hope he won't compete against her.”
Fresh from her second-placed finish in the women’s short program, Trusova gave a brief reply on the matter to Olympic Channel
“I still haven’t jumped with Nathan [Chen] and Shoma Uno. That’s it,” Trusova said, laughing, before Medvedeva spoke out against the idea, adding: “Full stop!”
“I wouldn’t want (to jump with the male skaters),” Medvedeva continued, “only because of the belief that women’s figure skating should remain women’s and men’s men’s.
“It would have been interesting in general, if there was some sort of competition or probably Gala performances that we have, when people come to watch not just men, women, pairs and ice dance but in general the figure skating.
"When we all come together (to perform) one after another – it’s amazing. We all who sit here are united by figure skating. We all are doing the same craft which we love.”
Paganini the early pace-setter
Before Medvedeva claimed first, it was Emmi Peltonen who kicked off proceedings in the Ladies short program, but an early stumble saw the Finnish skater post a 52.46 that was always likely to be beaten.
China’s Hongyi Chen was out second, and a slight fall after a triple Lutz contributed towards a season’s best score of 57.17, almost eight points more than her short program routine at the Cup of China last week – her first GP.
Grand Prix debutant Yuhana Yokoi picked herself up from a fall to record a 56.51, with Germany’s Nicole Schott - seventh at Internationaux de France - then edging to the top of the rankings with a 57.29.
Fellow GP newcomer Ekaterina Ryabova showed no sign of nerves when taking to the ice, with the 2018 Ice Star champion shooting to first in the rankings.
The Azerbaijan skater performed a triple Lutz going into a triple Toeloop, before a double Axel and triple Flip helped her record 64.01.
Paganini closed out the opening group in style, with the 17-year-old Swiss’ 65.12 a season’s best and enough to go top at the halfway point.
Paganini enjoyed a breakthrough display when finishing fourth in Russia last year, and this time around she matched Ryabova with a triple Lutz, triple Toeloop combo before holding on with a triple Loop to put herself in a strong position.
Samarin heads Russia 1-2-3 in men's short program
Alexander Samarin led a Russian 1-2-3 in the men's short program at the Grand Prix event earlier on Friday.
In front of a home crowd in Moscow, Samarin shone with a 92.81 on Friday (15th November), more than two points clear of Dmitri Aliev (90.64), and a further three ahead of Makar Ignatov (87.54). Meanwhile, Shoma Uno– looking to bounce back from his eighth-placed finish in France two weeks ago - recorded a 87.29, putting himself in contention going into Saturday’s free skate.
Ignatov dazzles on debut
Leading the opening group out on his Grand Prix debut, Ignatov set the bar high with an incredible short program routine on home ice.
His score of 87.54 – which would have been enough to top the Cup of China rankings last week – was a season’s best for the 19-year-old, who was a surprise winner of the Nebelhorn Trophy in September.
With Ignatov setting a lofty opening score, Daniel Samohin and Vladimir Litvintsev both stumbled twice when following the Russian – posting 56.94 and 54.42 respectively.
The falls seemed to keep coming when Alex Krasnozhon went out fourth, but he recovered from an early stumble to land his triple Axel and score 75.46.
Japan’s Kazuki Tomono, who came fifth at Skate America, also bounced back from a fall when attempting a quadruple Toeloop, displacing Krasnozhon to go second with 80.98.
Fresh from his silver at Skate Canada, Nam Nguyen was out to prove his first Grand Prix medal in five years was no fluke.
“That was harder than Skate Canada,” he could be heard saying in the kiss and cry after his routine, only to exclaim “Holy moly!” after seeing his 87.01 was enough to go second.
He had scored 84.08 in the short program at Skate Canada, where Yuzuru Hanyu took gold, but the 21-year-old will know a podium place will not be so easy this time around.
Samarin delights the home crowd
Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs followed Morisi Kvitelashvili (75.87) and Michal Brezina (80.27) in the second grouping.
Vasiljevs came fifth at Skate Canada last month, and a smooth short program saw him score 87.08 – just 0.07 ahead of Nguyen.
It was enough for second at the time, but Samarin was next up on the ice.
The European silver medallist opened with a quadruple Lutz going into a tripe Toeloop, and though he could not quite land a quadruple Flip, his score of 92.81 was enough to knock Ignatov off top.
“I felt a lot of warmth, I enjoyed skating here,” Samarin said afterwards. “I made some mistakes, but the competition is not over yet and I hope to speak more tomorrow.”
When asked about making his program more difficult, he added: “You can always make something even more complicated. I have to deal with the combinations I have. At the moment we have a plan and we are going according with it.”
Spotlight on Shoma
Samarin’s 92.81 came just before Uno graced the ice at the Megasport Sport Palace.
Uno said he was feeling "less anxious than at anytime this season" going into the Rostelecom Cup, despite recording his worst ever result in international competition two weeks ago.
The 21-year-old’s eighth-place finish at the Internationaux de France came after three falls in the free skate.
And there were shrieks from the crowd in Moscow when he failed to land his quadruple Flip, placing his hands on the ice before recovering with a quadruple Toeloop going into double Toeloop.
A triple Axel drew more applause, while the smile was back on Uno’s face as he was joined by Turin 2006 silver medallist Stephane Lambiel in the kiss and cry.
“Take a risk and enjoy it,” said Lambiel, having linked up with Uno for the skater’s second GP of the season - for now a temporary fix after Uno cut ties with Machiko Yamada and Mihoko Higuchi earlier this year.
“I think you will get higher than your 79,” Lambiel added, noting Uno’s short program score at the Internationaux de France.
And so it proved, with Uno’s 87.29 a marked improvement and enough to place him fourth after Aliev skated his way into third to complete a fine showing from the Russians.
Reflecting on his fourth-place finish, Uno said: "The mental aspect is massive. It affects the physical and correlates to the performance. I did have some doubts in the run-up to this competition but I think the practice paid off.
"[Stephane being there] prevented me from thinking too much. My English isn't great and I was trying to listen to him as much as possible and that turned out to be a good thing because it took my mind off the skate. When you have someone like him suggesting things to you, it gives you a reason to believe, a reason try to stick it out."
"I had hit rock-bottom so this was definitely better than before. But like with the flip for example, I feel like I'll be able to nail that by the second half of the season, hopefully by the nationals. I'm confident about that." - Shoma Uno