Alena Kostornaia wins fans with Finlandia Trophy victory

Adam Rippon tweets his approval as Russian youngster lands triple Axel in beating former world champ Elizaveta Tuktamysheva on senior international debut

By Rory Jiwani

Alena Kostornaia made the perfect start to her senior international figure skating career at the Finlandia Trophy in Espoo, Finland.

The 16-year-old became the 10th woman to land a triple Axel in competition to beat 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva by more than 22 points.

Along with 15-year-olds Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, Kostornaia is one of the crop of hugely talented Russian youngsters making the step up to the senior ranks this season.

All three train alongside reigning world and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova under Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow.

And while Trusova has stolen the headlines with her quad-jumping exploits, not least at last weekend's Japan Open, Kostornaia is winning fans, including PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist Adam Rippon, with her all-round skating.

Kostornaia completes youth takeover

It took until the ISU Challenger Series event before the start of the ISU Grand Prix season to see Kostornaia make her first senior appearance outside of Russia.

And last year's Junior Grand Prix Final winner was most definitely worth the wait.

Her short program on Friday was close to flawless, landing a double Axel, triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination on her way to a score of 77.25, over four points clear of Tuktamysheva.

She prompted screams from the crowd at the start of her free skate on Sunday as she landed a triple Axel-double toe loop combination, following it up with another triple Axel and a double Axel.

Next up was a triple loop, a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow combo and then a triple Lutz to finish.

But the teenager is about much more than her jumps as she showed excellent interpretation of the music - a medley comprising 'New Moon' from the Twilight film of the same name, 'Eyes on Fire' by Blue Foundation, and Muse's 'Supermassive Black Hole'.

Kostornaia scored 157.79, 18 points clear of Tuktamysheva who also landed two triple Axels in her free skate, for a winning total of 234.84.

Her fellow Russian was second on 212.53 with Japan's Yuhana Yokoi third on 191.90.

Out of the six Challenger events so far this season, three have gone to Russian skaters making their senior international debuts with Kostornaia the oldest of those having turned 16 in August.

Second-season senior and last year's Grand Prix Final winner Rika Kihira, 17, took the opener at the Autumn Classic with 21-year-old Olympian Satoko Miyahara and Mariah Bell, 23, winning the other two.

Eyes down for the Grand Prix

The new Grand Prix season promises to be one to savour with the three Russian youngsters, Kihira, Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva among those vying for top honours.

Schcherbakova makes her Grand Prix debut at Skate America in Las Vegas next weekend with Tuktamysheva and Korea's Eunsoo Lim among her rivals.

Trusova and Kihira line up alongside reigning European champion Sofia Samodurova at Skate Canada a week later in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Kostornaia takes on PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist Zagitova when she makes her Grand Prix bow in November's Internationaux de France with the pair also scheduled to compete in the NHK Trophy where Kihira defends her title.

The top six in the standings after the six regular season events will go through the December's Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy.

2019/20 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating season calendar

October 18-20 - Skate America, Las Vegas

October 25-27 - Skate Canada, Kelowna, British Columbia

November 1-3 - Internationaux de France, Grenoble

November 8-10 - Cup of China, Chongqing

November 15-17 - Rostelecom Cup, Moscow

November 22-24 - NHK Trophy, Sapporo

December 5-8 - Grand Prix Final, Turin


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