Kostornaia marks Grand Prix debut with win at Internationaux de France

The 16-year-old held off compatriot and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova to win in Grenoble.

By ZK Goh

Russia's Alena Kostornaia followed up her strong short program by winning the ladies' free skate at the Internationaux de France on Saturday (2 November) to cap a highly-impressive senior ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix debut.

The 16-year-old, who hardly put a foot wrong in the short and led by 2.31 points, scored 159.45 points in the free for a total of 236.00.

That was enough to put her nearly 20 points clear of her compatriot, the 2018 Olympic champion Alina Zagitova. Zagitova, who doesn't have a triple Axel in her programs compared to Kostornaia, who had a total of 216.06 points in second.

American Mariah Bell finished third.

No nerves

Kostornaia, the 2018 world junior silver medallist, showed no signs of being overawed at her debut senior Grand Prix.

Skating to music from the soundtracks of New Moon and Twilight as well as by Muse, she opened with a strong triple Axel-double toeloop combination.

The only member of the competing group with a triple Axel in her arsenal, she followed the opening combo with another triple Axel, a double Axel, and a triple loop. It was nigh-on poetry on ice.

As her routine progressed into the high-energy Muse song 'Supermassive Black Hole', the teenager pulled off two more solid combinations, a triple flip-triple toeloop and a triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow.

Going after Zagitova, she knew the score she had to beat, and there were no nerves from the younger Tutberidze protegee as she wowed the crowd.

Her technical element score was 88.38 points, which provided the bulk of her lead over her teammate.

Fierce internal competition

For Zagitova, who trains alongside Kostornaia under Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow, it was another reminder that she now has stiff competition from within the Russian ranks.

Aside from Kostornaia and PyeongChang silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva, Anna Shcherbakova won this year's opening Grand Prix at Skate America before Alexandra Trusova followed the feat at Skate Canada.

Both Shcherbakova and Trusova, crucially, have quads in their routines, something Zagitova does not.

Zagitova's skate got off to an inauspicious start as she fell on her opening triple Lutz, but the 17-year-old was faultless through the remainder of her routine, which included nice triple Lutz-triple loop and triple flip-double toeloop-double loop combinations, the latter of which she completed with her arms high above her head.

However, it wasn't enough of a score once Kostornaia took to the ice.

First GP podium in three years for Bell

Bell, who trailed Zagitova by around four points after the short program, was clean through her routine, scoring even higher than Zagitova on her technical elements.

However, her program component score wasn't enough to overhaul Zagitova for second.

Bell's bronze medal was her first Grand Prix podium finish since 2016, when she won silver at Skate America.


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