PHOTO: IFS/FLAVIO VALLE

THE LADIES

Reigning World Junior champion Alina Zagitova of Russia jumped and spun her way to gold in her debut at the 2018 European Championships. Two-time European champion Evgenia Medvedeva, also from Russia, settled for the silver medal in Moscow on Saturday, while five-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy clinched the bronze, her 11th European medal.

Skating as precise as Swiss clockwork, Zagitova reeled off a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, a double Axel-triple toe, triple flip-double toe-double loop, three more triple jumps as well as a double Axel and level-four spins and footwork in her routine to “Don Quixote” by Leon Minkus. The 15-year-old achieved a personal best of 157.97 points and 238.24 in total.

“I was nervous today because there was a long break between training this morning and the competition. But today I wanted to skate a clean program and to enjoy it,” she said. “I did not expect to win, I haven’t really realized it yet. To skate at home is on the one hand harder, because you don’t want to let down your home and your fans. On the other hand, it is easier, because you get so much support.”


Medvedeva opened her dramatic program to “Anna Karenina” with a shaky triple flip and was unable to add the planned triple toe for a combination. Unfazed, the two-time World champion went on to nail a triple Lutz and then added the triple toe to her second flip. She followed up with a triple Salchow-triple toe loop and a triple loop. The 18-year-old scored 154.29 points for the free and remained in second place with 232.86 points overall. It was Medvedeva’s first defeat since losing at 2015 Rostelecom Cup against to Elena Radionova.

“My main victory is that I am standing here (after the injury). For all athletes, and for me too, the performances improve from competition to competition,” said the two-time European champion. “The bigger the break in competing, the worse it is. Silver is silver. You can’t change the value of a medal, but after a two-month break it is really not a bad result. I am happy, and when the whole audience is shouting your name it is simply incredible. When something that dear to my heart happens, I just close my eyes. I don’t want to leave that moment. I love the entire sport, and that I am here, that I am competing.”

Kostner’s routine to “L’apres-midi d’un faune” featured three clean triples as well as difficult spins and footwork. However, the 2012 World champion fell on her opening triple Lutz and struggled with a double Axel. The Italian was ranked fourth in the free with 125.95 points, but held on to third place with 204.25 points. “It was not at all my best performance and it’s a pity because my body’s ready and the practices were easy-going and mostly flawless and then you get into the competition and it just slips away,” Kostner explained. “The good part is that other than the performance tonight the whole week was magnificent. To sum up, I can go home with many more positives than negatives and I know what I need to work on for the Olympics.”

Russia’s Maria Sotskova missed a triple Lutz and remained in fourth place (200.81 points). Loena Hendrickx of Belgium pulled up from eight to fifth with a solid Tango program (176.91points), followed by Slovakia’s Nicole Rajičová (171.90 points.

THE MEN

PHOTO: IFS/FLAVIO VALLE

Javier Fernandez of Spain claimed his sixth consecutive European crown in Moscow on Friday. Newcomer Dmitri Aliev of Russia stormed to the silver medal in his debut at Europeans, while his teammate, Mikhail Kolyada repeated as bronze medalist.

Performing to “Don Quixote,” Fernandez nailed a quad toe, quad Salchow-triple toe, two triple Axels and three more triples as well as two level-four spins and level-four footwork. However, he stumbled on his second quad Salchow and on a triple flip that was downgraded. The two-time World champion achieved a season’s best score with 191.73 points and racked up 295.55 points overall.

“It was a good program. We came here to train because this is the last competition before the Olympic Games. I came here to improve and I got a season’s best, so we accomplished what we came here for,” Fernandez said.

On winning his sixth consecutive European title: “It means a lot. It is always nice to make history in figure skating for Spain and it is nice to skate well and win another title.”

Aliev, who skated last out of the 24 Men in the free, produced a quad toe-triple toe, a quad toe, two triple Axels, a triple loop-single loop-triple Salchow combination as well as difficult spins and footwork in his routine to “To Build a Home” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

The only glitch came when he doubled a flip. The World Junior silver medalist earned a new personal best of 182.73 points and a total of 274.06 points. “I’m happy with the technical side, it was almost perfect. The short program went OK but then I was nervous today. But for the first half of the program I kept control of myself, and then in the second half I felt confident and enjoyed it,” the 18-year-old said. Even a missed morning practice didn’t stop Aliev. “There was some stress because I wasn’t at the practice this morning. I had forgotten my skates in the hotel. It was a kind of force majeure, but I proved to myself that I can, even without training, show a good performance if I fight for it.”

Skating to Elvis Presley songs, Kolyada landed two triple Axels and four more triples, but he fell on the quad Lutz and quad toe. “Probably like last year, the result is not that bad, but I am not happy with my performance. I will take it as a lesson and take as an extra motivation to keep working further,” the ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist noted.

Deniss Vasilijevs of Latvia turned in a strong performance that featured six clean triples, but he fell on a downgraded quad toe attempt and slipped to fourth at 258.90 points. Israel’s Alexei Bychenko, the 2016 European silver medalist, pulled up from eighth to fifth place (238.44 points). Alexander Samarin of Russia moved up three spots to finish sixth with 229.81 points.

ICE DANCE

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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France cruised to their fourth consecutive European title, setting new record scores in Moscow on Saturday. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Solovyev came from fourth to claim the silver medal while teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin earned the bronze. All three teams earned personal best scores.

Performing to “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, Papadakis and Cizeron produced intricate yet effortless looking footwork and lifts, picking up Level 4s for all elements except for the midline step sequence that garnered a Level 3.

The two-time World champions scored 121.87 points for their free dance, beating their own previous record, and accumulated 203.16 points overall, another World record score.

“We have a great team working with us and it is their experience and the trust we have in them and also the relationship in our pair that is the secret of our success. The Europeans Championships were an important step for us and a good opportunity to test the little adjustments we made to our programs. The Olympic Games will come up very soon now and we’re really excited,” Cizeron said.

Bobrova and Soloviev put out a charming performance to “Oblivion” and “Beethoven’s Five Secrets.” Five elements merited Level 4s, and the step sequences were rated Level 3. The seven-time Russian national champions earned a personal best score of 112.70 in the free dance and collected 187.13 points to add a sixth European medal to their résumé. “We think our best program was at Russian nationals. Our second lift today was not as good as it can be. Maybe not everyone noticed it, but we know. Yes, we achieved a personal best, but we still want the mark to be higher. Now it is important that we relax a bit and then on January 27th we will fly to Japan and wait for our invitation (for the Olympic Games in Korea),” Bobrova said.

Stepanova and Bukin’s dance to “Liebestraum” was highlighted by beautiful lifts and twizzles. The Muscovites collected 109.48 points for their free dance and with a total score of 184.86, the duo returned to the European podium capturing a second bronze medal.

“We will have a look at our exact marks once we’re home and then we will work on our little mistakes and fix them. We are happy, but all athletes always want more, so we will keep on working even harder. Today was not our best, but it was good. This is not just a local competition; it is the European Championships! So to be in the top three is very cool,” Bukin said.

A mistake on the twizzles at the beginning of their dance to “La vita e bella” cost Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte and they dropped from third to fourth with 180.65 points.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy were fifth with a strong performance to “Exogenesis Symphony” by Muse (177.75 points). Russia’s Tiffani Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro moved up two spots to finish sixth in their European Championships debut.

THE PAIRS

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Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov bounced back from a disappointing short program to defend their European title and lead a Russian sweep in the pairs event in Moscow. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov moved up from third to take the silver medal, while Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert dropped one spot to earn the bronze, their first Championship medal. It was the 15th time Russia had swept the pairs podium at a European Championships.

Following a subpar performance in the short program, Tarasova and Morozov rallied back in their upbeat “Boogie Woogie” themed free skate. The Russian team opened with a quad twist and followed up with a side-by-side triple Salchow, throw triple Salchow and triple toe-double-toe double toe combination. The World bronze medalists picked up a level four for their lifts, death spiral and spins to achieve a season’s best of 151.23 points. Overall they racked up 221.60 points to defend their title. “After the short program we were only in fifth place, because of my big mistake. So I was really mad at myself and today I pulled myself together to skate much better,” Tarasova explained. “For us, it was definitely harder to win the second time. Last year, we skated well in the short and in the free, but this time we did not do well in the short.”

Stolbova and Klimov’s “Carmen” routine featured a triple twist, throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow right at the end as well as six level-four elements. However, she fell on an under-rotated triple Salchow while he doubled the second jump in their planned triple toe-triple toe combination. The 2014 Olympic and World silver medalists scored 138.96 points and totaled 211.01 points to take their third silver medal at the European Championships. “I was almost in tears at the end. It was emotional. The Salchow was my mistake. Fedor had his mistake too. But it was OK,” Stolbova said.

Skating to Jazz music and “Sleeping Beauty,” Zabiiako and Enbert produced a Level-4 twist, throw triple Lutz and throw triple loop and difficult lifts, but she doubled the side-by-side Salchow. The reigning national bronze medalists earned 137.23 points and claimed European bronze with 210.18 points.

“Overall, we are happy. There were some little mistakes, but we will correct them and work on them. Even since Russian nationals we are progressing. There was the mistake on the combination but we enjoyed the performance and we hope the audience did too. It is our home stage, so we were more nervous, but it is great to compete here,” said Enbert.

Overnight leaders Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France were edged off the podium by just 0.01 of a point and slipped to fourth with 210.17 overall. She doubled a toe loop and two lifts were shaky, but they landed a quadruple throw Salchow. Valentina Marchei and Ondřej Hotárek of Italy delivered a solid performance to finish fifth with 204.20 points, ahead of teammates Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (192.38 points).