Zagitova fifth as Shcherbakova tops all-junior podium at Russian nationals

Anna Shcherbakova wins Russian Figure Skating Championships from fellow youngsters Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia.

3 min By Ken Browne
Shcher THUMB

Three Moscow-based youngsters swept the podium at the Russian Figure Skating Championships but Alina Zagitova was not among them.

The Olympic champion was only fifth with Anna Shcherbakova taking victory from fellow 14-year-old Alexandra Trusova by just 0.07 points.

In what could be a glimpse of the future of skating, both girls landed clean quad Lutz jumps with 15-year-old Alena Kostornaia taking third place in Saransk.

Incredibly, the top three are all too young to take part at next month's European Championships in Minsk, Belarus or March's World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

Skaters must have turned 15 on or before July 1st 2018 to qualify for both competitions.

PyeongChang silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva bounced back from her disappointing short program to take seventh place but that will almost certainly not be enough to qualify her for the European Championships.

Are the juniors better than the seniors?

There were fireworks in the final group of the free skate as established stars were put in the shade by Russia's junior shooting stars.

Shcherbakova, Trusova, and Kostornaia are all coached by Eteri Tutberidze, who also trains Zagitova.

Is figure skating the only sport in the world where the juniors are better than the seniors?

This talented trio asked, and perhaps answered, that question in Saransk.

There was a major reversal of form from the Junior Grand Prix final earlier this month.

Shcherbakova was only fifth in Vancouver with Kostornaia taking victory ahead of Trusova.

Alexandra Trusova skates at the Junior Grand Prix at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Alexandra Trusova skates at the Junior Grand Prix at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Zagitova dethroned

The PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist looked set to retain her Russian title after leading overnight thanks to a strong short program.

But lacking the quads of some of her younger rivals, it was essential that she performed her elements cleanly.

She failed to do so with two falls from her first four jumps proving costly.

Zagitova was 12th in the free skate and ended up down in fifth with Stanislava Konstantinova moving ahead of her.

Coach Eteri Tutberidze consoles Alina Zagitova at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver in December 2018
Coach Eteri Tutberidze consoles Alina Zagitova at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver in December 2018

At 18, Konstantinova was the leading finisher among those eligible for the European Championships and Zagitova will join her in Minsk next month.

Zagitova could be set for a rematch with Grand Prix Final winner Rika Kihira at the World Championships.

While Kihira has performed quad jumps in training, Zagitova knows she knows she has work to do if she is to keep up with her technically-gifted training partners who will join the senior ranks next season.

Hope for Medvedeva

After a disappointing short program left her down in 14th place, Evgenia Medvedeva took to Instagram to thank her fans for their support.

She said, "Despite what happened today, I found a new belief in myself."

There was certainly evidence of that belief 24 hours later with a different Medvedeva stepping onto the ice.

The 19-year-old double world champion appeared revived by the positive vibes and support she had received and her free skate was a big improvement from Friday.

Medvedeva landed triple Salchow-triple loop and triple flip-double toeloop-double toeloop combinations although she did fall on a double Axel into triple toeloop.

But she reacted well, showing great commitment to her diverse and difficult routine.

Her total of 205.90 topped the leaderboard before that earth-shaking free skate final group.

On Sunday morning, it was announced that the three senior skaters who finished in front of her, Konstantinova, Zagitova and Sofia Samodurova, had all been picked for the European Championships.

Medvedeva was named as a reserve along with Grand Prix Final bronze medallist and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva who is recovering from pneumonia.

And while the free skate was a positive step for Medvedeva, she will have to raise her game to compete with the next generation of wonderkids coming through the Russian ranks.

The rest of the world may well have to do the same.

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