Andrei Mozalev leads after short program at Europeans as ROC race for Olympics heats up

The top three skaters - Mozalev, Mark Kondratiuk and Evgeni Semenenko - all hail from Russia. World champions Mishina/ Galliamov lead the pairs event.

By Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

The race for the ROC Olympic team is heating up on the ice.

Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games medallist Andrei Mozalev skated a career-best short program at figure skating's European Championships on Wednesday (12 January) in Tallinn, Estonia, to lead the men's event with a 99.76.

It's crowded at the top with Russian skaters, with reigning national champion Mark Kondratiuk in second with a 99.06 and another Russian, Evgeni Semenenko, in third by a sliver with 99.04.

Europeans are the final stop for many skaters before next month's Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, and the ROC team - which will field three men - has not yet been named. With former world medallist Mikhail Kolyada out with injury, strong performances from Mozalev, Kondratiuk and Semenenko will further cloud which skaters will get the nod for Beijing.

Kolyada, who was eighth at PyeongChang 2018 and fifth at worlds this past season, still should be a lock for the team, meaning two spots are up for grabs.

Clean skating was the name of the game Wednesday afternoon in Tallinn, as 2020 European bronze medallist Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia skated into fourth place with a 92.76.

Italy's Daniel Grassl is fifth (91.75), while Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia sits sixth (90.24).

France's Kevin Aymoz, the 2019 Grand Prix Final bronze medallist, struggled on two of his jumping passes to finish in 10th (80.39).

The men's free skate set for Friday. Here's a full preview of the weekend's event.

Later, in the pairs short program, reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov skated into first place with a score of 82.36. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in second, less than a point behind, with a 81.58.

Quad jumps dominate short program

Mozalev, who won bronze at both the Youth Olympics in 2020 and at last month's Russian championships, hit a quadruple toe-loop-triple toe combination to open his "Heart Cry" short program, then executed a quad Salchow and triple Axel, receiving positive GOEs (Grades of Execution) on each of his jumping passes.

His 43.03 points for Program Components helped him stay atop the men's standings, as both Kondratiuk and Semenenko hit two quads in their programs, as well.

"The invitation to Europeans was unexpected for me but I tried to focus only on skating," Mozalev, 18, told reporters in Russian. "I was in a good shape after Russian championships and I only tried to continue to be in the shape. That's all."

Mozalev is the 2020 world junior champion, having won that title in the very arena where Europeans are being held.

The ROC team for Beijing is expected to be announced following Europeans. The women's event gets underway on Thursday (13 January), while ice dance is set to start Friday.

Pairs: Mishina/ Galliamov skate into the lead

A Russian sweep looks likely in the pairs event, too.

Mishina and Galliamov broke through for the world title earlier this year, and last month continued a strong Olympic season with their first Russian national title.

The duo looked in prime form here, too, opening with a Level 3 triple twist lift before hitting a throw triple flip and side-by-side triple Salchows in an energetic performance to the ballet "Esmerelda."

Mishina/Galliamov are undefeated so far this season.

Tarasova/Morozov are two-time European champions, capturing the title in 2017 and 2018. Tarasova saved their throw triple loop with a hand down.

The reigning champions - from 2020 - Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii are in third place with a score of 76.26. Boikova doubled a planned triple Salchow on the side-by-side jumps.

BRING FIGURE SKATING TO YOUR INBOX

Figure skating news. Beijing 2022 schedule. Medal table. Curated highlights.