Zigitova Jumps from World Junior Champion to Olympic
Champion in Eleven Months
First athlete from Russia to
win a Gold medal at the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games
(24 February) Alina Zagitova, the latest wunderkind to
come out of the Russian ladies skating program, took the
Gold medal in the Ladies championship Friday morning, eleven
months after winning the 2017 World Junior title in her
first attempt. Zagitova is the second youngest Olympic
Gold medalist in this event after Tara Lipinski.
He only serious rival here, training mate and reigning
World Champion, Evgenia Medvedeva put up a good fight in the
Free Skate, earning the same point value as Zagitova in the
segment. With a higher point value in components,
Medvedeva was the winner of the Free Skate segment, but
failed to overtake the lead Zagitova built up in the Short
In the end, the Gold medal was decided by the difference
in jump content value for the two skaters in the Short
Program, with the value of a triple toe loop for Medvedeva
traded off against a triple Lutz for Zagitova.
In the free, Medvedeva again had jump content value below
that of Zagitova, this time by 3.98 points. But unlike
their competition at the European Championships, and in the
Short Program here, where Medvedeva trailed Zagitova in GoE
points, Medvedeva outscored Zagitova in GoE points here by
16.85 to 15.61.
In components Medvedeva has consistently outscored
Zagitova this season. In the Olympic free Medvedeva
outscored Zagitova in components by 2.44 points, and there
were many observers here, and some judges, who felt Zagitova
was (and all season has been) over scored in components by
an amount that deprived Medvedeva of the Gold. For
example, several judges on the panel had Medvedeva ahead in
components by more than 2.44 points and up to 4.4 points.
Component scores, of course, are highly subjective,
easily manipulated, and not in the hands of the skaters,
while program content is purely the choice of the skater,
and their base value a hard fact.
Since winning the 2015 World Junior Championship
Medvedeva has been executing essentially the same free
skating content in nearly the same order. After moving
up to senior, all she changed was the addition of the
choreographic step sequence as element 10, and moved double
toe loop + double toe loop from the triple loop in element 6
to the double Axel in element 7. The mix of jumps,
however, has remained the same. In her short program
in 2015 she included triple Lutz, flip and toe loop, but in
2016 reduced the difficulty to flip, loop and toe loop and
has stuck with that since.
Medvedeva clearly seems to have an issue with the
triple Lutz, and we assume if she could cleanly skate two
programs that include more than one total in the short plus
long she would. Further, if her first two jump
elements had been in the second half she would have won the
Gold, and we again must assume the reason she doesn't do
that is because she cannot consistently skate a clean
program with all the jumps in the second half. But
whatever the reason, this Gold was decided by trading a
triple Lutz for a triple toe loop.
Skating a classically-styled routine to "Don Quixote" in
an orange tutu dress, she skated a clean program, with only
a small balance issue on landing her first jump element.
This was the lowest scored element of the program, but still
received 0s and 1s. This triple Lutz was meant to be
in combination with triple loop, which was omitted, but she
then added one to her second Lutz later in the program to
recover the points. She skated with good speed and
some emotion, with components that averaged 9.38. In
the view of some, however, the program did not have the
unity and seamless continuity needed for such marks.
"I was very nervous today," she said after skating.
"I was more clam for the short program, because I understood
I had no room for error and I have to skate clean.
There was a lot of pressure on me and Zhenia (Medvedeva).
All fans were waiting for us athletes from Russia to be on
top." She added later, "When I saw the scores I was
surprised and it was a nice surprise. I am glad that I
as able to deal with my nervousness, go out there and skate
my program calmly."
Medvedeva gave a clean performance to "Anna Karenina"
with no significant errors. She skated with nice speed
and good expression, with her characteristic approach of
taking on a character role in the performance, something
that she did much better than Zagitova. Rather than a
character, Zagatova is really only skating pretty moves to
pretty music. Medvedeva's performance showed good
expression and was a complete seamless whole, which earned
components averaging 9.68. Given the distinct
superiority of the performance as a whole, it was surprising
that the point spread between Medvedeva and Zagitova was
only 0.3 expressed in average component value, though a few
judges, at least, had the spread as high as 0.55.
Interestingly, the Russian judge substantially favored
Medvedeva over Zagitova.
On her performance she said, "I felt in my program really
like Anna Karenina in the movie. I put everything out
there that I had, I left nothing on the ice. I have no
regrets." She elaborated, "This was my mindset going
out - not to leave anything on the table. I didn't think
about errors, not about a clean skate. Honestly, I
skated like in a fog, for the first time. It is
because I realize that I am enjoying the process, these four
minutes are historical and they only belong to me and the
whole world is watching only me for those four minutes."
Skating as the black swan from "Swan Lake," Canadian
Kaitly Osmond performed a nearly clean program with a base
value that nearly matched Medvedeva's but with lesser GoEs,
mainly in the 1s and 2s, with some threes. On her
first jump element she stepped out of the landing of a
triple Lutz, which also had an edge attention. Her
components for the program, which was skated with speed and
power, averaged 9.46, a bit higher than Zagitova. It was her
strongest performance of the season, and scored as seasons
best. Osmond and Japanese skater Satoko Miyahara were
the only two skaters in the last warm-up group to score
their season's best.
Describing her mindset going into the free skate she
said, "I was so excited, I was so ready for this program.
All day I was terrified, I was so nervous, but it is a
program I feel super comfortable with in practice and I was
so ready to show it in competition, that's exactly what I
Miyahara has a chance at moving up from fourth place
after the short to the Bronze medal. Her program, set
to "Madame Butterfly" had a higher base value than Osmond,
and even Medvedeva. It was cleanly skated but the
quality of the elements (all 0s through 3s) was not high
enough to make up the points she trailed form the short
program, and neither did the components that averaged 8.91.
She needed to score in the low 9s for components to pass
Though she did reach the podium, she said, "Being here is
glorious enough and I'm very happy, whatever the result."
She added, "It was beyond imagination. I fully enjoyed my
performance, and being able to reflect myself. It was
a priceless moment."
The U.S. ladies started the day in 9th, 10th and 11th
place, and ended the day in 9th, 10th and 11th place.
It was the most pathetic result for U.S. ladies in Olympic
competition. All three skated in the third of the four
Current U.S. Champion Bradie Tennell moved up among the
U.S. ladies from 11th to 9th place. She had step outs
and near falls on two elements, double Axel - triple
toe loop (with an under-rotations) and triple Lutz ( with an
under-rotation). She achieved level four on her steps
and spins. Her GoEs were mostly 1s and 2s but her base
value was not competitive. Her "Cinderella" routine
scored average components of only 7.87, well below the
standard for an elite international competitor.
Former U.S. Champion Mirai Nagasu, who was 9th in the
short placed 12th in the free and dropped to 10th place.
Nagasu had not been getting around on the triple Axel all
week in practice, generally executing a bit less than
one-quarter short. Such an attempt would not get an
under-rotation call, but usually results in a fall. In
the free she popped the jump to an Axel no-value, and then
on element 7 she popped the planned triple Lutz to a
single. A triple flip also received a few -1s.
She missed a level each on her steps and one spin. The
program was skated too slowly, with no attack or presence.
It was a lackluster skate. Her components averaged
Former U.S. Champion Karen Chen was 10th in the short and
dropped to 11th after the free skate. She had major
errors on four jump elements. Except for those jumps,
her GoEs were mostly 1s and 2s, and her components averaged
8.01, the highest among the three Americans. Skating
to "Tango Jalousie" she skated with reasonable speed, but
the performance lacked the tango attack one would expect or
No one expected the U.S Ladies to challenge for an
Olympic medal, but the results being so low here were still
a huge disappointment, and symptomatic of the world of hurt
U.S. Ladies figure skating (and U.S. figure skating in
general) is in. Given that there will be few
retirements before Worlds, these results suggest the U.S.
are unlikely to earn three slots for 2019 Worlds when they
compete next month at the World Championships in Milan.
Medvedeva at Technical Disadvantage to Overtake Zagitova
(22 February) Rivals for the Gold, Evgenia Medvedeva and
Alina Zagitova are are poised to be the first Russian
athlete at these Games to win a Gold Medal. These two
skaters last competed against each other at the European
Championships in Moscow in January, where Zagitova outscored
Medvedeva in both the short and the long.
In the Short Program both skaters have very similar
programs, except that Medvedeva executed a lower base value
group of jumps. This spotted her rival 1.87 points in
the technical score. In the components Medvedeva was
able to make up only 0.80 points of that.
In the Free Skate, Medvedeva leaves even more base points
on the table, spotting Zagitova 3.25 points of base value.
The jump content of the two skaters, listed in order of
value of the eleven jumps in a program is this:
As in the short, Zagitova has a second triple Lutz vs. a
second triple toe loop for Medvedeva, and in addition a
double loop vs. a second double toe loop. In addition,
Zagitova puts all her jumps in the second half for the
bonus, while Medvedeva has two jumps in the first half,
giving away the bonus on those two jumps.
For GoE points, Zagatova outscored Medvedeva at Europeans
in both the short and the long, and here in Gangneung in the
short. On the other side of the scoring, Medvedeva
outscored Zagitova in components in the same segments.
If both ladies skate their best, Zagitova has the clear
technical advantage and could well outscore Medvedeva by up
to 5 to 10 technical points in the free. Given that
both skaters are already scoring in the mid 9s, there are
not enough additional component points available to
Medvedeva to make up the technical deficit in that case,
even if she scores perfect 10s in the components.
Medvedeva's Gold medal hopes hang on her skating better
than her best in the free, and Zagitova cracking in the
free. Zagitova's personality, as we have thus far
observed it, suggest her cracking is not a likely scenario.
Zagitova and Medvedeva Battle for Gold, Osmond in
Position for Bronze in Ladies Championship.
(22 February) The current stars of the Russian women's
skating program placed first and second in the Ladies Short
Program at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Wednesday. Alina
Zagitova took the lead over her countrywoman and training
mate Evgenia Medvedeva by 1.31 points. Skating before
Zagitova, Medvedeva skated a record highest score, only to
have the record broken by Zagitova three performances later.
"I was very focused in all practice," said Zagitova.
"When I made mistakes I ws corrected and tried to fix them.
With the work and the help of the coaches I was able to do a
clean short program." She added, about the possibility
of winning the Gold, "The most important thing is to show
your best, to give 100% so that the coaches, the judge, the
audience and yourself are pleased."
Both ladies skated back loaded programs (all jumps in the
second half), but Medvedeva spotted her opponent 1.87 in
base value by executing jumps of lesser value than Zagitova
- in order of difficulty, triple flip, triple loop, triple
toe loop and double Axel vs. triple Lutz, triple flip,
triple loop and double Axel. Both ladies executed the
same value content for their spins and step sequence, all of
which achieved level 4.
In GoE points (the points resulting from the judges GoEs),
Zagitova outscored Medvedeva by 12.20 to 8.22 points.
The presentation and artistic content of Medvedeva was
slightly favored by the judges with 38.42 point to 37.62
points. Both ladies presented strong secure programs,
though Medvedeva's routine was somewhat superior in the
connecting content of the elements.
Both skaters are trained by Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow,
and their programs are virtually identical in content and
layout. Both skaters begin with a flying camel spin
and then the step sequence to kill time until the second
half. Then both execute the jump combination, the solo
jump and the double Axel in succession. Finally
Medvedeva ends with the combination spin and layback spin,
while for Zagitova it's the layback spin and then the
combination spin. The two patterns of ice converge are
similar and the elements are placed in more or less the same
areas of the ice. The two routines are about as cookie
cutter as they come.
Describing her rivalry on the ice with Zagatova she said,
"Last time I hear so many news that Alina Zagitova and
Evgenia Medvedeva are opponents on the ice and off the ice.
We are humans, we communicate as usual, we are friends, we
are girls, young girls. We can talk about everything
to each other." But on the ice she said, "When we take
the ice this is sport and we must fight. In every
competition I feel like a little war. This is sport,
this is war. We must show our best, no matter if you
are nervous or not. When you take the ice you are
alone. Yes, your friend is competing here but you have to
Kaitlyn Osmond (CAN) gave a much stronger performance in
that in the Team event to place third in the short, with
78.87 points. Her routine to two Edith Piaf songs was
competitive with the Russians in components, averaging 9.26
vs. 9.41 and 9.61 for the Zagitova and Medvedeva. Her
elements were the same content as Zagitova, but with only
the double Axel in the second half, and the GoEs from he
judges were slightly lower. While she is numerically
in the race for the Gold or Silver, moving higher up on the
podium will likely require one of the two leading ladies to
falter in the Free Skate.
Osmond scored her season best, and commented, "It means
so much. I have been fighting to keep this program and
improving it at each event. I was a little upset after
the team event short program, but to come out here, not long
afterwards and do this program and do a personal best and
season's bet it's really important to me."
Satoko Miyahara (JPN), the 2015 World Silver medalist
sits in fourth place, 2.93 points behind Osmond. She
skated a clean program to "Memoirs of a Geisha," though her
opening triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination was not
particular strong and only received an average GoE of 1.
Her two other jump elements were scored somewhat higher, and
her spins and step sequence received mostly 2s and 3.
Her components averaged 8.92. She has the potential to
move up, though if both she and Osmond skate clean, Osmond
has stronger jumps and components, and thus the advantage.
"I wanted to be more expressive and more open," she said.
"And I hope I can do that in the free program."
The second Canadian competitor, 2017 World Bronze
medalist Gabrielle Daleman had a lackluster skate, with an
error on her opening jump combination (a step out of the
second of two triple toe loops with a hand down). Her
components (average (average 8.25) were not competitive for
a medal contender.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) scored the highest of the U.S. ladies.
She fell on her opening triple Axel attempt, which was fully
rotated. On triple loop she had a poor landing edge
that was scored negative. Her spins reached level 4,
but the steps level 3. The expression of her routine
to Chopin's Nocturne No. 20 was not embraced by the judges
and her components averaged only 7.67. Medvedeva used
the same music and received components of 9.61.
About the Axel she said, "I think I over-shot it. I
kind of landed it, then I kind of fell and ended taking the
fall. But it was a fight. I still did my
triple-triple and still managed to do my loop as well.
Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. Ladies Champion, stepped out of
triple Lutz and put a hand down, preventing completion of
the planned triple-triple jump combination. later in
the program she added a double toe loop to her triple loop
jump to get at leat a few points back. Skating her "On
Golden Pond" routine from last season, she moved in slow
motion over the ice with little attack, though with some
petty positions. Her components average 8.09.
She currently sits in tenth place.
The third U.S. lady, 2018 U.S. Ladies Champion Bradie
Tennell sits on 11th place. She fell on the triple toe
loop in her opening combination, and then went on to cleanly
complete the rest of the program. She achieved level 4 in
all the leveled elements, except her layback spin at level
3. Her program places the solo jump and the double
Axel in the second half. The speed and attack of her
skating did not look as strong as at U.S. Nationals.
her components averaged 7.38, the lowest of the three U.S.
For the combination, she explained, "You just have to get
u and keep going as if nothing happened. You know my
left arm just got away from me and I just kind of sat down."