Home Figure Skating News Zagitova continues her victory streak at home

Zagitova continues her victory streak at home

by Anna Kondakova
Mikhail Sharov

018 Russian Nationals Ladies Podium

2018 Russian Nationals Ladies Podium (From Left to Right): Maria Sotskova, Alina Zagitova, and Alena Kostornaia

Figure Skating News

In the final event of the 2018 Russian National Figure Skating Championships, Alina Zagitova won her fifth gold medal this season and her first senior nationals title with 233.59 points. Maria Sotskova finished second with 221.76 points, while 14-year-old Alena Kostornaia won the bronze (216.57).

Zagitova, who performs all her jumping passes in the second half of both program, was not flawless, but increased base value and high grades of execution on the clean jumps were enough to give her more than 10-point advantage over the nearest competitor.

“I am happy with the long program” said the 15-year old. “I am glad that I was able to show good skating, to show what we worked on with my coaches. And of course I am happy with the score and the placement.”

“The public here is very warm, she added. “They applauded me a lot in the end of the program, in time with the music, and it supported me, made me want to jump again and again, but unfortunately the program came to the end.”

The skater said that winning the national title was very important for her.

“Of course I am happy that I won Russian Nationals,” said the 2018 ISU Grand Prix champion. “For me, this competition is very important. I guess I did not think about the placement when I came to the event. I was more focused on showing what we achieved together with my coach.”

The student of Eteri Tutberidze won every competition she entered in her first senior season, but admitted that she had doubts about her ability to succeed.

“I guess at the time (I realized that I could do it) was the first competition of the season,” she said at the press conference. “Every athlete dreams about going to the Olympics, and I am not an exception. I started to believe that I would be able to do it, but I still had doubts about it. This performance at nationals finally makes me more confident.”

The skater, who was 11 at the time of the Sochi Winter Olympics, is upset, but not worried about the perspective of competing as a neutral athlete at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

“I think every athlete is a patriot of his or her country,” she said, “but even without a Russian flag, deep down I know which country I represent. And everyone else knows which country I represent. It’s a pity, though.”

Maria Sotskova delivered a clean short program, but made mistakes on the landings of a triple loop and triple flip in her free skating.

“I am very glad that the competition is over,” said the 2018 ISU Grand Prix Final silver medalist. “It was very difficult one, both physically and mentally. There were some nuances before the event, which threw me off. I am happy that I was able to come out and deliver good performances. It wasn’t flawless, but I avoided critical mistakes and earned enough points to for qualify for the European Championships, and, hopefully, the Olympic Games.”

“When I arrive to competitions, I am always extremely focused. I try to avoid all distractions,” said the 17-year-old. “So far, there has always been something which prevented people from relying on me. So at every competition, I have to prove again and again, to myself, to my coach, to judges and to spectators, that I am a consistent skater, that I am always ready to fight.”

The 2016 World Junior silver medalist said that recently the Russian Nationals have become the hardest competition for her.

“When I was a junior, I simply skated for my own pleasure, to highlight the progress we have achieved over the season,” she explained. “I did not have to qualify for any competition at nationals. But starting with the last season, I realized that I am competing in seniors. I felt the competition, the rivalry, because this event is the qualifying one for the main competitions of the season and it has to be treated seriously.”

When asked why ladies deliver better performances than men she attributed it to the lack of quad jumps.

“We are not doing quads,” she said. “I think it’s more difficult for them. We mostly do elements which are 100% consistent in practice. But it is also a challenge this way, because each of us knows that we cannot afford even the smallest mistake, because it could cost you a medal. You alway have to skate clean. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Kostornaia finished fourth in both programs, but won bronze medal overall. Like her training mate Zagitova, she also performed all her jumps in the second half of the program.

“Overall, I am happy with my performance,” said the 2018 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist. “There were no mistakes. I simply showed what we worked on and got great scores as the result.”

“To win a medal at senior nationals was a pleasant surprise for me,” she added. “I am too young to go anywhere (in seniors) in the next two seasons, so it was not a qualifying event for me. My task was only to skate clean.”

The fourth place went to Stanislava Konstantinova (211.28), who was only 10th after the short program after she doubled a planned triple flip. The student of Valentina Tchebotareva delivered an expressive routine to the Anna Karenina soundtrack which featured seven clean triple jumps and finished third in the long.

Polina Tsurskaya, who was third after the short program, slipped to fifth place in the overall standings (207.61) after she singled a triple Lutz in the second half of her long program. The student of Eteri Tutberidze, who was previously sidelined with an injury, said she had completely recovered now.

“The injury no longer bothers me,” said the 16-year-old. “Everything is fine. Now, I have to keep improving. I have been working at full strength for a while, improving my jumps and my technique. I became calmer and more confident.”

Still, she has not regained full confidence yet.

“I am not happy with the long program,” said the 2017 NHK Trophy bronze medalist. “I made a mistake on Lutz, which I popped into a single. I also planned a two double Axel – triple toe loop – double toe loop combination, but I only did a double toe loop in it. Fortunately, I was able to add a triple toe loop to the last double Axel. Still, it is an absolutely unjustified mistake. If you go for a jump and fall, it’s a technical issue. If you pop a jump, it’s simply your lack of confidence.”

The 15-year-old Anastasia Gubanova rounded up the top six (206.60).

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva finished seventh (202.06), Serafima Sakhanovich, who trains in Evgeniy Plushenko’s school, was ninth (197.44) behind the 2018 ISU Junior Grand Prix finalist Daria Panenkova (201.97). Elena Radionova finished 10th (196.78).

“I do not know that will happen next,” said the 2015 World Championships bronze medalist. “Naturally, I am upset. There is nothing to be happy about. Of course I wanted to do more, I wanted to skate both programs well… It’s a pity and it’s very disappointing because I was well prepared for the competition.”

The top three ladies were named to the upcoming European Championships next month. The two ladies that place the highest at Europeans will be named to the Olympic team based on the discretion of the coaching council.

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