No surprise that winsome, long-limbed Evgenia Medvedeva won the short program at the World Championships on Wednesday.
The 17-year-old put her astonishing jumping skills to work to win with a score of 79.01, just 0.20 points short of her best. She did not attempt her first jumping pass – a triple flip–triple toe loop combo – until 1 minute 18 seconds into the routine. And, with patience and confidence she easily landed it.
Medvedeva could become the first woman to repeat as World champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001. (She said that she would not try a triple-triple-triple in the long program).
But thundering behind her were two Canadians – a nation that had not been a power in ladies skating for decades.
National champion Kaetlyn Osmond steamed around the ice, evoking Edith Piaf’s “Sous le Ciel de Paris” and “Milord,” looking classy with her chin up, and ended with a personal best of 75.98 – just 3.03 points behind Medvedeva.
Gabrielle Daleman, two years older than Medvedeva, and with no less spunk, landed in third place, 3.79 points behind Osmond and 6.82 points behind the leader.
Anna Pogorilaya sits fourth after stuttering on a triple loop. Reigning U.S. champion Karen Chen didn’t put a foot wrong and is in fifth. Ashley Wagner sits seventh, fouled up by the fact that others just did the elements better.
While all three Russian ladies (Maria Sotskova is sixth) are within the top six – all three scored level fours on all elements – Japan took a hit.
With Satoko Miyahara out due to a hip injury, and Mao Asada failing to make the cut, the Japanese women – so powerful in recent years – finished ninth (Wakaba Higuchi), 12th (Rika Hongo), and 15th (Mai Mihara.)
Medvedeva has it all figured out. How could you not after winning 11 consecutive competitions?
“I never talk about what I have to do to win,” she said. “The most important thing for me is to show what I can do, to skate clean and to enjoy myself. In figure skating, you need to show your soul and you should find the middle between emotion and focus. …You just work hard and overcome yourself.”
Medvedeva said she didn’t understand the importance and impact of winning the World title in her debut last year but still feels no pressure. “I feel very motivated and the support of the people, that they feel my program as I feel it,” she said. “They feel what I want to tell in my skating.”
Osmond is mastering things too. After she broke a leg during a practice session, “she was questioning whether she could ever come back,” said Ravi Walia, her coach of 11 years. “I think she was afraid. But it was a real step-by-step approach.”
They began to work on it while she was on tour with Stars On Ice. That gave them a step up on this season. “We had a long time to slowly get back on track,” Walia said.
When they tried to rebuild the technique of her jumps, they had to start over. “It’s really paid off,” Walia said.
Daleman has been figuring it out over the past two years and skated as if she did not doubt herself. Her program unfolded the way it should. She’s a perfectionist, but she knows perfection may not be attainable, given the slippery quality of ice. She gained her confidence from taking the silver medal at Four Continents last month.
At home near Toronto, her brother Zach babysat two new puppies, one a Yorkshire terrier, the other a Yorkshire poodle. He texted his sister after the event to tell her that all three watched her skate. The dogs barked at the TV.
Carolina Kostner, 30, who skated eighth out of 37 – because of her low World ranking – struggled this week in practice. The crowd visibly sighed when Kostner wobbled at the start of a camel spin, landing slightly forward on a triple flip. She sits eighth.
“It’s not easy to be out there,” she said. “A mistake should not bring you down. It is not about life and death. To be able to skate is what it is about. It teaches me. It gives to me and it comforts me.
“I am happier along those stumbles, and may discover a new piece of myself.”
LAST MAN STANDING
By the end of the day, the pairs short program resembled a contest for “the last man standing.”
A short time before the event, Eric Radford suffered a right hip flexor strain, which became worse this week. It compromised his ability to do a triple Lutz, one of the team’s big money moves. It really became an issue the day before the short program.
Radford was not the only one dealing with injury. European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov found themselves behind the eight ball during the morning practice when Tarasova fell during footwork and Morozov tripped over her, slashing her leg, an injury that required 10 stitches.
The decision not to withdraw happened after warm-up, and they forged on ending up third behind Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han and Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot.
Sui and Han, skating in only their second event this season, leapt into first with 81.23. The Germans earned 79.84 with an enormous triple twist, but two-footed the side-by-side triple Salchows and an ambitious throw triple Axel, which was landed on two feet.
It was another story for Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who have spent months trying to correct their technique on the twists. “We work a lot on this element,” said Klimov, who came to the mixed zone alone to face the music. “The last few weeks, it became much better. And here, it was also even better.”
But under pressure, old habits refuse to die. Klimov fell while trying to catch Stolbova, who had completed only about 2 ½ rotations. The mistake on the twist affected their second element. Stolbova fell on the throw triple flip and flipped out of a triple toe loop. Then their reverse lasso lift went awry; they lost unison on a combo spin. Klimov looked sheepish, shaking his head. They ended up 13th.
Meanwhile, Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were inspired after watching the Canadian women compete. They achieved their personal best 73.14, good for seventh best.
“I definitely believe in momentum,” Moscovitch said. “They were absolutely incredible. They set a new Canadian record for women (two finishing in the top three at the World Championships).”
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished seventh, while Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau ended up 12th.
Out of the 28 teams that competed in the short 16 advanced to the free skate. Among those teams were two from the junior ranks – Australia’s Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor and Anna Dušková and Martin Bidař from the Czech Republic.
The free skate takes place Thursday evening.