Kamila Valieva completes first Russian title triumph

The 15-year-old Olympic gold medal favourite eased to victory in St. Petersburg ahead of Alexandra Trusova and world champion Anna Shcherbakova, as Mishina/Galliamov clinched pairs crown.

By Rory Jiwani

Kamila Valieva is heading for Beijing 2022 after a comprehensive victory in the Russian Figure Skating Championships on Saturday (25 December).

Valieva scored 193.10 for her impeccable free skate to Bolero - almost eight points higher than her ISU world record - to give her a winning total of 283.48.

The 15-year-old has consistently been a class above her rivals this season, and finished a massive 35 points clear of training partner Alexandra Trusova.

Reigning world champion Anna Shcherbakova was below her best but held on for third place to make it a podium sweep for the formidable Sambo-70 Crystal team trained by Eteri Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov, and Daniil Gleikehngauz.

The top three were all senior skaters and, fitness permitting, will go to next month's European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.

It was a better day for Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, but the 2015 world champion could not improve on her seventh from overnight and, importantly, was 15 points behind Shcherbakova in the hunt for Olympic places.

Juniors filled fourth to sixth with another Crystal skater, Adeliia Petrosian, ahead of Sofia Samodelkina and Sofia Muravieva.

Valieva said afterwards, "Today I felt huge support from the crowd. I am happy that I was able to gather myself even though I was shaking inside. I did my best. I also want to congratulate all the girls on qualifying for the European Championships."

Ominously, she added, "I am satisfied with today, but I hope to improve for the Europeans."

When asked about her plans for the New Year, she said, "I was hoping to go to Kazan to spend time with my family, but I'll probably stay in Moscow. I don’t want to take any flights or go anywhere, but I also dream of going to the VDNKh rink and enjoy skating there."

Valieva victorious after Trusova's Tour de Force

Skating last in the penultimate group, Tuktamysheva gave it everything in front of her home fans, landing her trademark triple Axel at the start of her routine unlike in her short program.

The 2015 world champion had the crowd screaming their approval, and even received a portrait in 'Empress' attire from a fan via coach Alexei Mishin after her routine.

Her score of 153.12 was enough to displace Maiia Khromykh from top spot with 224.40, but it never looked like being enough for a podium finish with the final group to come.

Tuktamysheva said, "Today I felt much more confident going in, my body felt stronger. The main goal was to do first two triple Axels. I did them and it made me so happy that I nearly fell down from it. I think it's in my choreographic make-up to make people laugh."

She added that she will hang the portrait she received in her apartment.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and coach Alexei Mishin pose with a portrait from a fan after her free skate at the Russian Championships
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Her lead did not last long as 14-year-old junior Adeliia Petrosian, another skater from Tutberidze's Crystal team at Sambo-70, landed two quads in a 160.68 to go top with 233.97.

Then came Alexandra Trusova who left it all out there in her bid to reach the Olympic Games.

The 17-year-old landed her opening quad flip, and not even a fall on her subsequent quad toe could put her off her stride.

A quad Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow combination followed, as did a spectacular quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination in a true Tour de Force from the two-time world junior champion.

Trusova was not foot-perfect, but earned a score of 174.44 for a total of 248.65 and a guaranteed top-three finish among senior skaters eligible for Beijing.

Alexandra Trusova during her free skate at the Russian Championships
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

She held top spot as another 14-year-old, Sofia Samodelkina, was marked down on all three of her quads and scored 156.35 to go second overall.

With her lack of quad jumps, Sofia Muravieva was unable to hold on to her third place from overnight despite a wonderfully assured and artistic skate.

The 15-year-old, coached by Evgeni Plushenko and five weeks too young to be eligible for Beijng 2022, scored 149.44 to go fourth on 230.31 with two skaters to come.

Three-time reigning Russian champion Shcherbakova made a poor start to her free skate with a fall on an under-rotated quad flip, the only quad in her routine.

It was far from her best performance, and her score of 158.10 left her behind training partner Trusova but still guaranteed a podium finish thanks to her total of 239.56.

Then came Valieva who simply did not put a foot wrong with her closest rivals all failing to apply scoreboard pressure.

The world record holder, in her first senior season, landed a quad Salchow, triple Axel, quad toe-triple toe combination, and a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow combo in a mesmerising display.

Valieva is the only skater assured of her place in Beijing with Trusova, Shcherbakova, Tuktamysheva and Alena Kostornaia, absent after suffering a fractured hand, all vying for the two remaining spots.

The Russian Skating Federation will wait until after next month's European Championships to decide on that Olympic team.

Afterwards, Shcherbakova reflected on how much the sport had changed since she won her first Russian title - as a junior - three years ago:

"Back when we competed in Saransk, quads were unbelievable to imagine. Now it's almost the norm." - world champion Anna Shcherbakova

Russian nationals women's singles podium (L-R): Alexandra Trusova, Kamila Valieva, Anna Shcherbakova
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Mishina/Galliamov complete pairs success

Reigning world pairs champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov had a largely clean free skate to clinch their first Russian national title.

After finishing fourth 12 months ago, the duo scored 160.00 - the best score of the day - for a winning total of 243.74.

Second place went to 2020 European champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii whose 157.03 left them on 239.87.

Three-time world medallists and defending Russian champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov retained their third place from overnight, finishing on 228.20 overall.

Mishina said afterwards, "The main goal was to get into the top three. We've never made the podium before at the Russian Championships, so being the top three... and even winning today was even better.

"We skated well. It was harder to attune to it than for the short program as we felt more pressure. We realised that any mistake could influence the result a lot, so we did as best as we could, and we did it clean.

Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov during their free skate at the Russian Championships
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Kozlovskii was happy despite failing to regain the title he and Boikova won two years ago:

"I am proud of my partner and I think she feels the same. The Russian nationals are special in a way because the pressure is very high and the competition is very strong.

"I can say with confidence that all the athletes around me deserve to be at the Olympic Games. This pairs competition today showed what real sport is supposed to be."

All three medal-winning teams look set to go to next month's European Championships and then to Beijing.

Russian Nationals Pairs podium (L-R): Dmitrii Kozlovskii/Aleksandra Boikova, Aleksandr Galliamov/Anastasia Mishina, Vladimir Morozov/Evgenia Tarasova
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel


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