More world records for Kamila Valieva in Rostelecom Cup triumph

Valieva was almost flawless as she smashed her own free skate world best from Skate Canada to beat fellow Russians Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Maiia Khromykh.

By Rory Jiwani
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Kamila Valieva showed why she is the strong favourite for Olympic gold in February as she completed victory in the ISU Grand Prix Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia on Saturday (27 November).

After breaking training colleague Alena Kostornaia's short program world record on Friday, the 15-year-old - skating to Ravel's Bolero - landed three quad jumps and a triple Axel to eclipse her own mark of 180.89 from Skate Canada.

She scored 185.29 for a new world record total of 272.71, and a repeat performance would surely earn her gold at Beijing 2022.

Her score was higher than that of men's winner Morisi Kvitelashvili, who also trains under Eteri Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov, and Daniil Gleikehngauz at Sambo-70 in Moscow, but Valieva insists that competing against men was not in her thoughts.

Valieva said afterwards, "I like my category. What men do - triple axels and quads - I think it's easier for them. They have more muscles and endurance... I think we do it differently. You can't compare men and women, not with scores."

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva also made the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final thanks to her second-place total of 229.23, but she was more than 40 points behind her compatriot.

An excellent free skate from Maiia Khromykh, another 15-year-old Sambo-70 pupil, saw her move up from fifth overnight to make it an all-Russian podium and snatch the last place in Osaka.

Women's Singles Grand Prix Final qualifiers: Anna Shcherbakova (RUS), Kamila Valieva (RUS), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), Sakamoto Kaori (JPN), Maiia Khromykh (RUS), Alena Kostornaia (RUS).

READ: Morisi Kvitelashvili claims first Grand Prix win, victories for world champs Sinitsina/Katsalapov and Mishina/Galliamov

Valieva imperious in Sochi

Khromykh put her jumping troubles of Friday to bed with a fine opening quad toe loop-double toe loop combination.

Lying fifth after the short program, she stepped out of her following quad toe loop but the rest of her elements – bar an exceptional camel spin sequence - were reasonably solid with her coaches nodding their approval.

Khromyk scored a new personal best of 154.97 for a total of 219.69 and third place, adding to her second place in the Gran Premio d'Italia three weeks ago.

Maiia Khromykh during her free skate at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia.
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Starting the day in third place, Mariah Bell dazzled with an evocative skate to KD Lang’s version of Hallelujah, and her elements were mostly clean apart from a hand down on a triple Salchow.

But without quad jumps or a triple Axel, the 25-year-old will always struggle to compete with the Russian stars and her score of 140.98 gave her a season’s best total of 210.35 for fourth place.

Tuktamysheva laid down an early statement of intent with a triple Axel-double toe loop combination.

The 2015 world champion just stepped out of her second triple Axel, but was soon smiling as the crowd clapped along to her sultry musical arrangement of Arabia and My Love.

Her enjoyment on the ice was plain to see and the fans loved every second of it, giving her a loud ovation at the end.

She earned a score of 149.13 for her free skate, third on the day, with her total of 229.23 guaranteeing her a place in Osaka.

The 24-year-old said, "I am satisfied because, first of all, I managed to achieve my goal and reach the Grand Prix final. It's a very prestigious competition, that's why I am happy today."

Competition for the ROC team in Beijing is fierce and Tuktamysheva said in the post-event media conference that she will not have time to add a quad jump to her repertoire. She also expressed her gratitude to coach Alexei Mishin:

"He taught me so many things in figure skating and in life. He always believed in me and saw the potential, even when things didn't go well for me.

"The most important thing between the coach and the student is trust. Now I have a great team around me and I think it's a very good balance, and I want to thank them for everything.

"I am currently working on the quality of the elements and there is not so much time for quads. Personally, I would like to do it in the program. I am afraid it won't happen this season... maybe when the atmosphere is more calm. Now the time is not for trying, but for doing."

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva during the free skate at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia.
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

That left just Valieva to skate and, while her performance was not as much of a crowd-pleaser as Tuktamysheva's, it was a masterclass in execution.

She opened with a superb quad Salchow followed by an equally strong triple Axel and a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

A slight adjustment to a quad toe loop-Euler-double Salchow combination, as she came close to the boards, was perhaps the only thing resembling an error in what was a sublime jumping display.

The judges were similarly impressed with her interpretation of Bolero, awarding her a program component score (PCS) of 76.27, considerably higher than Tuktamysheva (70.44) and Bell (69.43).

The result was two more world records which leaves her as the woman to beat in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in a fortnight and February's Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

What makes this situation all the more remarkable is that Valieva only made her international senior debut last month at the Finlandia Trophy.

Kamila Valieva during her free skate at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia.
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

Loena Hendrickx was not quite at her best in her free skate, but the Belgian’s total of 203.69 saw her take fifth place.

Madeline Schizas was also unable to repeat the heroics of her short program which left her in fourth place overnight.

The Canadian teenager stepped out of a triple flip and doubled what should have been a triple Salchow, but kept going well to record a personal best total of 192.14 and claim sixth.

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