Gabrielle Daleman

Alina Zagitova, Russia’s newest skating star, wins Cup of China (video)

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 Alina Zagitova of Russia, last season’s world junior champion, announced herself as an Olympic podium contender by winning Cup of China in her senior Grand Prix debut.

The 15-year-old trains with two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, a fellow Russian teen who is a heavy favorite for gold in PyeongChang. Zagitova finished second behind Medvedeva (who didn’t compete at Cup of China) at the most recent Russian national championships.

With a program that strategically placed all of her jumping passes in the second half to receive additional bonus points, Zagitova outscored a field that included Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman, the 2017 world bronze medalist and the leader after the short program.

After the short program, the top three — Daleman, Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi and Russia’s Yelena Radionova — were separated by just .17, while Zagitova was about a point behind the leaders after a fall.

Higuchi and Radionova held onto their second and third place positions, respectively, while Daleman dropped to sixth due to a near-fall on her final jump.

The lone American in the field, Amber Glenn, finished 10th. Gracie Gold was originally slated to compete at this Grand Prix event, but withdrew last month after announcing she was in treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

Russia earned three Olympic berths in ladies’ figure skating. Medvedeva is all but assured to claim one. and with today’s Grand Prix win Zagitova looks likely to claim another. Among those fighting for the third spot will be Radionova, Maria Sotskova (who won silver at Skate Canada), and Anna Pogorilaya, who won bronze at last season’s Grand Prix final but seriously struggled at both the 2017 Worlds and her first Grand Prix event last week.

In the men’s event, Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada held onto his lead from the short program to claim the gold medal. Eighth and fourth at the last two world championships, Kolyada won his first ever major international competition today over top competitors Javier Fernandez, the two-time world champion from Spain, world bronze medalist Jin Boyang from China, and world junior champion Vincent Zhou from the U.S.

Kolyada, Fernandez and Boyang all had error-filled free skates, with Kolyada and Boyang falling once each and Fernandez putting his hand down on two landings. That left the door open for another American, Max Aaron, to claim a bronze medal after he cleanly landed three quads in his free skate and earned a personal best score. Zhou, who also suffered a fall, finished fourth.

There were fewer surprises in the ice dance competition, which saw the top three teams after the short dance all finish in the same spots after the free dance. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won gold, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates earned silver and Russia’s Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev claimed bronze.

Papadakis and Cizeron are the 2015 and 2016 world champions, but fell to silver behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the 2017 Worlds. At last weekend’s Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir won with the highest total score ever recorded, 199.86. Their record didn’t last long, however, as Papadakis and Cizeron earned a total score of 200.43 here and became the first ice dance team ever to earn over 200 total points.

The standings in the pairs competition also stayed mostly consistent from the short program to the free program, with Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the world champions from China, staying in the lead to win gold.

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Cup of China
Women
Gold: Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 213.88
Silver: Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 212.52
Bronze: Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 206.82
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 151.14

Men
Gold: Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 279.38 S
Silver: Jin Boyang (CHN) —264.48
Bronze: Max Aaron (USA) — 259.69
4. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 256.66
6. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
9. Grant Hochstein (USA)

Ice dance
Gold: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 200.43 WR
Silver: Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 184.50
Bronze: Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 182.84
5. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 157.61
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 150.47

Pairs
Gold: Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 231.07
Silver: Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 205.54
Bronze: Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) – 194.52
6. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc (USA) — 154.36

Surprise leader at Cup of China (video)

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The men’s leader at Cup of China isn’t two-time world champion Javier Fernandez. It’s not world bronze medalist Jin Boyang. Not American Vincent Zhou, the world junior champion, either.

Instead, it’s Mikhail Kolyada, who shattered his Russian record for a short program score in Beijing on Friday.

The 22-year-old tallied 103.13 points, buoyed by a quadruple Lutz, plus a quadruple toe loop in combination. Full scores are here.

Kolyada, eighth and fourth at the last two world championships, has never won a top-level international event.

He goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 9.24-point lead over Jin, who also attempted two quads but had trouble with landings on both. The Cup of China broadcast schedule is here.

Fernandez, who has won five straight Grand Prix events, erred on his opening combination. He performed a triple-double combo, while Kolyada and Jin both did quad-triples.

U.S. Olympic hopefuls are further down the standings. Max Aaron (fifth), the 2013 U.S. champion, attempted two quads but didn’t land either cleanly.

Grant Hochstein (seventh), fourth at the last two U.S. Championships, stepped out of the landing of his opening quad toe.

Zhou (eighth), 17 and the No. 2 U.S. man behind Nathan Chen last season, fell twice in his senior Grand Prix debut.

Three U.S. men will be named to the U.S. Olympic team following nationals in January.

Chen is a huge favorite for one spot. Zhou, Jason Brown and Adam Rippon have been the other top men the last two seasons.

Also Friday, surprise world bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman of Canada topped the women’s short program. The top three — including Japanese Wakaba Higuchi and Russian Yelena Radionova — are separated by .17.

Daleman is trying to keep pace with world gold and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Kaetlyn Osmond, who won the first two Grand Prix events the previous two weeks.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron posted the third-best score under an eight-year-old system.

Papadakis and Cizeron won world titles in 2015 and 2016 but last season fell behind Canadian’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who came back from a two-year break to relegate the French to silver at worlds.

While Virtue and Moir aren’t at Cup of China, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are. Chock and Bates, two-time world medalists, trail the French by 8.54 points after the short dance.

Chock and Bates’ score — 72.66 — is points shy of what the other top Americans — Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue — tallied in their Grand Prix season debuts the last two weeks.

The U.S. can send three couples to the Olympics, with one likely to earn medals along with Virtue and Moir and Papadakis and Cizeron.

As expected, world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong distanced themselves in the pairs short, by 8.77 points.

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Cup of China Short Programs
Men
1. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 103.13
2. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 93.89
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 90.57
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 83.11
7. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 80.55
8. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 80.23

Women
1. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 70.65
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 70.53
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 70.48
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 52.61

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.10
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.66
3. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 72.34
5. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 63.65
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 59.32

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 80.14
2. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 71.37
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 63.76
7. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc (USA) — 53.15

Grand Prix figure skating: 10 female skaters to watch

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Ten women to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yevgenia Medvedeva
Russia
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Undefeated in nearly two years and arguably on the most dominant run since Katarina Witt in the 1980s. Medvedeva rarely misses jumps and has feather-light elegance on the ice. Off of it, she enjoys Japanese anime and K-pop. She quickly surpassed older skaters after turning senior in 2015, but now younger teens are giving chase.

Kaetlyn Osmond
Canada
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Osmond won a Grand Prix at age 16 in 2012, but injuries dogged her the next few years. Most of all, a broken leg suffered in September 2014. She came back and was the breakout woman last season, making her first Grand Prix Final and then grabbing second at worlds behind Medvedeva.

Gabrielle Daleman
Canada
2017 World bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Like Osmond, would not have been picked for a world medal at the start of last season. Daleman was 17th at the Sochi Olympics, with a foot injury and one month after turning 16. She was 13th, 21st and ninth in three worlds appearances before last year. She was fourth at each of her Grand Prix starts in 2016, failing to make the six-skater Grand Prix Final, but picked up her first top-level senior international medals at Four Continents in February and worlds in March.

Grand Prix Capsules: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | TV Schedule

Satoko Miyahara
Japan
2015 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

Miyahara’s hip injury last winter could not have come at a worse time for the Japanese federation. She missed worlds, and Japan ended up qualifying two rather than three spots for PyeongChang. Before that, Miyahara took second behind Medvedeva at the Grand Prix Final and was ranked No. 2 in the world. Now the Japanese Olympic picture is crowded with fellow teens Marin HondaMai Mihara and Wakaba Higuchi.

Karen Chen
U.S.
Fourth at 2017 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Went from eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships to winning the 2017 U.S. title and placing fourth at worlds. Chen’s clutch effort ensured the U.S. earned three women’s spots at the Olympics. The 18-year-old from the Bay Area has largely struggled in other international competitions. A best of fifth in four Grand Prix starts. Twelfth at a pair of Four Continents Championships. Already this season at two international events, she finished behind Mirai Nagasu, who was fourth at nationals.

Ashley Wagner
U.S.
2016 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Wagner just missed the 2010 Olympic team, then made Sochi despite placing fourth at nationals. She has undoubtedly been the most consistent U.S. woman in this Olympic cycle. The 26-year-old ended a decade-long U.S. medal drought with the skate of her life at worlds in 2016. Her follow-up last season was not so memorable — her least successful campaign in six years. Still a favorite to become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

Alina Zagitova
Russia
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Medvedeva’s training partner, in her first senior season, might be the skater with the best chance of dethroning her. Zagitova, born three months after the 2002 Olympics, has the highest free skate score in the world this season (.45 better than Medvedeva). Their duel(s) in December at Russian Nationals and possibly the Grand Prix Final should be appointment viewing.

Marin Honda
Japan
2016 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, China

Honda is the other first-year senior turning heads. She beat a field at the U.S. Classic last month that included three of the top four from last season’s U.S. Championships. Figure skating is the Winter Olympics’ marquee sport. The women’s event is its headliner. And nowhere is skating more popular than Japan. With Mao Asada‘s retirement, the spotlight will be on Honda, who already has 236,000 Instagram followers.

Carolina Kostner
Italy
2014 Olympic bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

The second-oldest Olympic women’s singles medalist since 1928 is the only one from the top six in Sochi who is competing this Grand Prix season. Kostner, now 30, took a break after the 2014 season, then served a backdated 21-month suspension for helping ex-boyfriend and Olympic race-walking champion Alex Schwazer evade drug testers in 2012. She finally returned in December and was sixth at worlds.

Mirai Nagasu
U.S.
Fourth at 2010 Olympics
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Nagasu, left off the Olympic team in favor of Wagner in 2014, is arguably the best U.S. skater at the moment after topping Chen at both of her early season outings. She added the triple Axel this season, which could prime her to win her second national title, a full decade after her first at age 14. It could be an incredible comeback story, returning to the Olympics after finishing fourth in Vancouver in 2010.

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