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With highest-ever scores in women's skating, Kamila Valieva soars to Skate Canada gold

The 15-year-old Russian was making her senior Grand Prix debut. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva won silver. In dance, Canada's Gilles/Poirier capture second Skate Canada.

4 min By Nick McCarvel
Kamila Valieva

For the second time this month, Kamila Valieva has registered the highest-ever scores in women's singles figure skating.

The 15-year-old Russian broke the world records she set a few weeks ago at Finlandia Trophy with a runaway triumph at Skate Canada International in Vancouver on Saturday (30 October), the second Grand Prix of the Olympic season.

Valieva, who hit three quadruple jumps and a triple Axel in her "Bolero" free skate, won with a 265.08 overall score following a 180.89 for the free skate, both which are new highest-ever scores.

Russia swept the women's singles podium as 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva finished in second with a 232.88, followed by 2020 European champion Alena Kostornaia, who scored a 214.54.

Japan's Mai Mihara and American Alysa Liu went 4-5 after stirring free skates, themselves.

Valieva now establishes herself as the frontrunner in the crowded race for one of three ROC spots at the Olympic Games Beijing 2022.

Each of Valieva, Tuktamysheva and Kostornaia landed the triple Axel on Saturday, as did Japan's Higuchi Wakaba (6th) and Kawabe Mana (9th). Liu fell on her triple Axel attempt.

Earlier, in the free dance, Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier successfully defended their title here from 2019 after the event was cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020. Their second Grand Prix gold came by 10 points over Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, 210.97 to 200.05.

Spain's Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz landed on a Grand Prix podium for the first time, scoring a 192.93.

MORE: World champions Chen, Sui/Han go golden in Vancouver

Valieva leads technical masterclass in Vancouver

It was a superb night of skating from the women, starting with Mihara, the 22-year-old who was Four Continents champion in 2017.

Her massive 142.12 kept her in first place overall until the final three skaters, vaulting from seventh in the short to fourth overall.

But the night - and weekend - belonged to the final skater, Valieva, who dazzled with her display of seamless, attacking jumps, with a quad Salchow to start, a triple Axel to follow and then a quad toe-triple toe combination. She would do another quad and four more triples, while also earning a 74.74 technical mark, the highest of any of the women.

Tuktamysheva, 24, hit a triple Axel-double toe combo to start, then another triple Axel as she brought the arena down with her charming "Arabia"/"My Love" free skate.

While Kostornaia finished fourth in the free (behind Mihara), she held on to the bronze medal overall.

Each of Mihara, Liu and Higuchi also treated fans to strong skating, Mihara becoming emotional as she closed her nearly flawless program, Higuchi landing a triple Axel, and Liu recovering well when she fell on her triple Axel to open the program.

The Russian sweep here adds to the country's dominance in women's singles after Alexandra Trusova and Daria Usacheva went 1-2 at Skate America last week. There is a chance that all six women at the Grand Prix Final could be from Russia.

Ice dance: Gilles/ Poirier win another Skate Canada

Gilles and Poirier are fresh off a season in which they only competed internationally at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships, but where they had their best-ever result, capturing the bronze medal there.

Their staid reaction upon receiving their winning scores shows a confident team that has shifted to believing they not only should contend for the Olympic podium, but they belong there.

"Winning a Grand Prix medal is a really big deal; we're really proud of doing this," Poirier said. "We're going to enjoy this victory for a quick moment and then we're going to move on to the next things." 

After skating to an Elton John medley in the rhythm dance, their "Long and Winding Road" Paul McCartney free dance received the highest program component scores by some two points over Guignard/Fabbri, while the team earned Level 4s on their twizzles.

Guignard/Fabbri were sixth at the world championships earlier in the year and earn their fifth-ever Grand Prix medal.

And it was a first medal for Smart/Diaz in their seventh appearance. The duo are going after just one spot for the Spanish team at Beijing 2022.

"It's taken a different strategy in this season. We've gained a whole new outlook in how we take every day in our training," Smart said after the competition. "This bronze medal shows the work that we've put in. We knew we had to have the right vehicles to get to the Olympics this season; there's only that one spot for Spain." 

Americans Caroline Green and Michael Parsons were fourth with a 186.51, while Russia's Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin finished fifth with a 180.57.

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