Zagitova reigns on home ice as Gold struggles on return

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova set a new world record of 80.78 points in the short program at the Rostelecom Cup.

It was a story of two Olympic champions and two world records on day one of the ISU Grand Prix in Moscow.

After Yuzuru Hanyu dominated the men's competition, Alina Zagitova did much the same in the ladies' as she relished performing in front of her home crowd at her first Rostelecom Cup.

The Russian scored 80.78 points, improving on her previous mark of 79.93 points set at September's Nebelhorn Trophy before the Grand Prix season.

"I am participating practically in my city, in Russia and I received a very warm welcome." - Alina Zagitova talking to Olympic Channel.

Alina Zagitova during her short program at the Rostelecom Cup

A fortnight ago at the Grand Prix of Helsinki, Zagitova was clearly disappointed with herself despite leading after the short program.

This time around, the teenager was all smiles as she soaked up the applause inside the Megasport Sport Palace.

And it was easy to understand why.

Alina Zagitova smiling after her world record short program at the Rostelecom Cup

Two weeks ago, she had a wobbly opening to her program. This time she nailed her triple Lutz-triple loop combination.

She followed that up with a double Axel and by the time she was halfway through Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, it was clear that the 16-year-old was going to dominate.

The reigning Grand Prix final champion threw in a well-executed triple flip towards the end of her routine to make more history and lead her rivals by over 13 points.

But the most important thing to Zagitova was that she was satisfied with herself.

"Actually the scores don't mean anything to me. I am here to compete clean and to show soulful skating" - Alina Zagitova told Olympic Channel.

The chasing pack

Skating at home certainly agreed with Sofia Samodurova as well.

The Russian is enjoying a strong Grand Prix debut season having claimed third place at Skate America.

In Moscow, the 16-year-old set a season's best score of 67.40 to go into second overnight and put her into contention for a berth in next month's Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.

"I want to say thank you to the audience whose support I felt and it helped me a lot." - Sofia Samodurova

Rostelecom Cup short program 1-2-3 (L-R): second-placed Sofia Samodurova, Alina Zagitova, third-placed Alexia Paganini

Switzerland's Alexia Paganini turned 17 on Thursday and celebrated with a season's best of 63.43 to go into third.

"I am really happy with my scores today. It was the best birthday ever and the crowd was great" - Alexia Paganini

Japan's Yuna Shiraiwa was only fifth and she will be hoping for better on her free skate having just missed out on a podium finish in Helsinki.

"One day at a time"

Two-time American champion Gracie Gold made an emotional return to the ice in the Russian capital.

Gold, a six-time ISU Grand Prix medallist, sat out the past season after suffering mental health issues.

She fell during her short program and scored 37.51 points which left her in 10th and last place.

But the 23-year-old said she was just glad to get back out on the ice.

"We just needed to start. Even my last season competing, if we all remember, was like, not very good. So I just really had to start rock bottom."

"This is six months out of rock bottom. So let’s go from there." - Gracie Gold speaking to Olympic Channel.

Gracie Gold during her short program at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow

"The expectation wasn't to come here and set the world on fire. I just needed to compete so I could start competing again. So, of course, on-brand for my personality is to go to one of the hardest Grand Prix in Moscow to do it. Not at some tiny competition.

"The goal was to show up and try to be brave and do our best and see how it goes.

"With mental health, with my skating, we're taking it one day at a time. So no expectations, no goals, just seeing what can happen."


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