Olympic favorite Kamila Valiyeva wins European figure skating title
Russian Kamila Valieva won the two toughest competitions ahead of the Olympics by record margins, capped by the European Championships on Saturday, proving she is the heavy favorite heading into the Beijing Winter Games.
Valiyeva, a 15-year-old undefeated in her first senior international season, landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate, totaling 259.06 points and winning by 21.64 in Tallinn, Estonia. Surprisingly, she fell (on a triple Axel) in competition for the first time since October.
This broke the previous women’s margin of victory record under an 18-year-old scoring system. Compatriot Yevgenia Medvedeva held the previous record of 18.32 points since 2017. Spain Javier Fernandez holds the record in all disciplines — 60.21 points in 2016.
“The medal means that I don’t come to training for nothing, and I guess the most important thing for me is not to exhaust myself after this season, to calm down as much as possible and try to make the public happy. with my performance,” Valiyeva said, according to the International Skating Union.
Valiyeva’s performance was all the more impressive as she beat a field that included Olympic favorites for the silver and bronze medals – sparring partners Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trousova, who finished second and third in Tallinn.
Last month, Valieyva won the Russian Championships by the biggest women’s margin in the history of this event. This competition is considered more difficult than the Olympics, given that the six highest ranked skaters in the world this season are Russians.
In four international starts this season, Valiyeva has posted the four highest scores in all events.
Her best – 272.71 – is 35.29 points ahead of the second-ranked best skater (reigning world champion Shcherbakova). This is more than the margin separating Shcherbakova and the 28th skater in the world, the American Karen Chen, according to SkatingScores.com.
Russia has yet to name its three-woman Olympic team, but Valiyeva will lead it. It’s the third consecutive Olympics that the highest-ranked skater in the world before the Games is a 15-year-old Russian coached by Eteri Tutberidze.
In 2014, YesUlia Lipnitskaya delivered in the team event for Russia and faltered individually, placing fifth. In 2018, Alina Zagitova won a close duel with Medvedeva for gold.
Russia are favorites to achieve the first sweep of the podium in Olympic women’s figure skating, a year after winning all the medals at the world championships.
If one of the three Russians gets it wrong in Beijing, the next tier of suitors includes the Americans Alysa Liu, Japanese Kaori Sakamoto and Belgian Loena Hendrickx.
Earlier at the Europeans, the Russian pairs swept the medals and are now the top three ranked pairs in the world by best total score this season: Anastasia Michina and alexander Galliamov, Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitri Kozlovsky.
Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who won silver behind Mishina and Galliamov at the world championships last season, is ranked fourth but has not competed since early November. The 2018 Olympic silver medalists could also get a boost by competing on home soil at the Beijing Games.
Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the ice dance with the third highest score in the world this season. Only French Olympic favorites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who skipped the Europeans, had a better score.
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