Nepela Trophy

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Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva nears record in Olympic season debut

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Yevgenia Medvedeva set the tone for what could be a magical Olympic season.

The clear favorite for gold in the Winter Games’ marquee event posted the second-highest short program score ever in her first competitive skate of the international campaign.

The 17-year-old Russian tallied 80 points at Nepela Trophy, a lower-level event in Slovakia. Video is here.

She landed every jump in the second half of the 2-minute, 50-second program for 10 percent bonuses. She performed three of the four with her hands above her head to boost her grade-of-execution scores. As is her custom.

Medvedeva was just shy of her record score under a 13-year-old judging system — 80.85 set at the final event of last season. She now owns the top five short-program scores of all time under this system, set at her last five competitions. Scores overall tend to rise yearly, though.

She goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 13.51-point lead over Japan’s Rika Hongo.

Medvedeva’s biggest competition for Olympic gold might just be two skaters who have yet to compete at the top senior international level.

They are Russian Alina Zagitova and Japanese Marin Honda, who went one-two at the world junior championships last season.

Zagitova, a 15-year-old training partner of Medvedeva, won a lower-level event in Italy last week with 218.46 points in her senior international debut. That score would have taken silver behind Medvedeva at last season’s senior worlds.

Honda, 16, also won her senior international debut at a B-level event in Salt Lake City last week. Honda tallied 198.42 points and beat a field that included three of the top four U.S. women.

Medvedeva, Zagitova and Honda could meet in the same competition for the first time at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they all be ranked in the top six of this fall’s Grand Prix series.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and countrywoman Yelena Radionova. Radionova, who is in third place at Nepela, is the only woman to beat Medvedeva on the senior international level, back in November 2015.

If Medvedeva, Zagitova and Honda make up the Olympic medalists, it would be the first all-teen figure skating podium since Peggy Fleming won the women’s event in 1968. And the second in any Winter Olympic sport since (2010 women’s short track 1500m).

Also this week, the last two men’s world champions, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Spain’s Javier Fernandez, headline the Autumn Classic in Montreal.

The short program is Friday (8:15 p.m. ET) and the free skate Saturday (8 ET). A live stream is here.

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World figure skating champions make Olympic season debuts this week

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Nobody can accuse the last two male figure skating world champions of ducking the competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández, training partners who combined to win every global title since 2014, open their Olympic seasons by competing against each other this week.

The Japanese megastar and the Spanish trailblazer headline the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Quebec starting Thursday.

The men’s short program is Friday (8:15 p.m. ET) and the free skate Saturday (8 ET). A live stream is here.

Showdowns like this are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

But first they face off in Quebec.

Hanyu is the decided favorite after winning last season’s world title by breaking his own free skate record score. He moved up from fifth after the short program, while Fernández dropped from first after the short to fourth.

However, Hanyu has proven beatable early in the season, losing his first two international events in 2014, then one of his first two in 2015 and 2016.

More pressure is on Fernández, who missed the podium at the two biggest events last season — worlds and the Grand Prix Final. He is 26 years old. Aside from Hanyu, every medalist at worlds and the Grand Prix Final was a teen.

Another world champion makes an international season debut this week — Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva.

She skates at the lower-level Nepela Trophy in Slovakia on Thursday and Saturday. The 17-year-old is on the longest major winning streak in singles skating in 30 years, having not lost since November 2015.

The Nepela field includes the only woman to beat Medvedeva in a senior competition — countrywoman Yelena Radionova. But Radionova faded to fifth at last year’s Russian Championships and is in a battle just to make the Olympic team.

Medvedeva might better be judged against two women who aren’t in Slovakia but won B-level events last week.

Alina Zagitova, 15 and the 2017 World junior champion, won her senior international debut in Italy with 218.46 points. That score would have won silver at last season’s senior worlds.

Marin Honda, 16 and the 2016 World junior champion, won her senior international debut in Salt Lake City with 198.42 points.

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