Russian national champion Anna Shcherbakova has won the third stage of the Figure Skating Cup of Russia in Sochi after putting in a strong free skate, which included a quadruple flip, to overhaul her training partner Daria Usacheva.
The 16-year-old Shcherbakova could even afford an error on her last jumping pass – a triple Lutz, triple toe loop that saw the toe loop invalidated – as the rest of her skate was beautifully put together. She scored 162.44 points for the free skate, giving her a total of 239.91 – nearly 15 points clear of Usacheva.
Usacheva, for her part, appeared to struggle with the edges on her Lutz jumps and fell on a triple toe loop. However, her total of 225.19 points was still almost 12 ahead of third-placed Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World and European champion.
Shcherbakova's stunning quad flip
Shcherbakova opted against opening her routine with an Axel, instead choosing to attempt the high-difficulty quad flip.
That jump, which she attempted but fell on at last season's Grand Prix Final (where Alexandra Trusova became the first woman to successfully land the jump), received a high score from the judges, scoring 3.74 on the -5/+5 grade of execution scale. That was the highest score awarded to any single element performed by all the skaters on the day.
She had five clean subsequent jumps – a triple flip, triple toe loop combination; back-to-back double Axels; a triple Lutz; and a triple flip, single Euler, triple Salchow combination – before the questionable triple Lutz, triple toe loop.
Shcherbakova seemed bewildered by the call to invalidate the triple toe loop, with her hands on her heads as she finished her routine. She also appeared to be limping to the kiss and cry, although she managed a big smile for the cameras while waiting for her score.
It was a graceful skate and a timely reminder of how she has managed to win back-to-back national titles.
Usacheva falls, but makes her mark
Daria Usacheva is still only 14 years old and remains ineligible for senior international competition.
You wouldn't necessarily know that just from watching her skate, such is the level of poise she has on the ice.
However, to the trained eye, there are some things Usacheva needs to work on. The judges called both of her triple Lutzes – one in combination with a double toe loop; the other the first jump in a combination with a single Euler, triple Salchow – for having unclear edges.
She also under-rotated and fell on a triple flip, triple toe loop combination late in her routine.
While Usacheva was clearly disappointed at falling, sobbing as she made her way to the kiss and cry, she quickly managed to regain her composure to smile and wave at the camera, before wincing at her own fall while watching the replay.