Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya got the skate she wanted ahead of the Sochi Games at the European Championships Friday, earning her first-ever title there just weeks ahead of the Olympics.
Lipnitskaya cruised by defending champion Carolina Kostner, the Italian, who finished in third. Lipnitskaya’s teammate, 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova was second, scoring a 202.36 to the winner’s 209.72.
Lipnitskaya’s score was the highest of the international season leading into the Sochi Olympics by over two points. Mao Asada, who won three Grand Prix golds, had previously held that mark with her 207.59 at the NHK Trophy in November. Only Lipnitskaya and Asada topped the 200-point mark on the international stage this year.
“I’m very, very happy right now, I don’t even know what to say,” Lipnitskaya told the crowd through a translator. “I hope that I will be able to go to the Olympics now. But as European champion I think I should make the team. I hope for the Olympics my emotions and my skating comes together, and I’ll just show clean skating.”
Skating to “Schindler’s List,” the teenager has found the right balance of elegance and seriousness in a challenging free skate that involves eight triple jumps. She landed all of them Friday evening in Budapest, sending the crowd to its feet when she finished.
Lipnitskaya won two Grand Prix gold medals on the circuit in 2013, bettering the results of teammate Sotnikova. They are both expected to be picked for the Russian Olympic team when that announcement is made shortly after the European Championships.
The pressure may have been higher on Sotnikova, who was seen to be battling for the second Olympic spot with veteran Alena Leonova. But the 23-year-old Leonova stumbled on a triple-double combination and looked tired in the middle of her “Carmen” free skate. She shrugged at the finish, knowing that her effort perhaps was not good enough for a trip to the Olympics. Leonova finished fourth overall.
Kostner, in a backless black dress that she was debuting in Budapest, was a crowd favorite but couldn’t deliver a third title in a row at this competition, falling on a triple toe that she was also called for under-rotating. Kostner won the European Championships in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
France’s Mae-Berenice Meite was fifth and Kostner’s teammate Valentina Marchei ended in sixth.
Lipnitskaya becomes the youngest European winner ever. Fellow Russian Irina Slutskaya was 16 when she won the first of her seven European Championships in 1996.
The men’s and pairs free skates are Saturday in Budapest. NBC will air a packaged show of the competition Sunday from 4 to 6 pm ET, which will also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.
1. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) – 209.72
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) – 202.36
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) – 191.39
4. Alena Leonova (RUS) – 178.15
5. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 173.37
6. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 165.25
Great score for Adelina Sotnikova, and she’s in the lead. pic.twitter.com/AmID8COB9n
— Justine Neubarth (@ThisJustineNBC) January 17, 2014