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Yevgenia Medvedeva wins Grand Prix Final; U.S. women miss medals

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva ran away with the Grand Prix Final title, the biggest senior-level victory of the 16-year-old’s budding career, in Barcelona on Saturday.

Medvedeva, who also won Skate America in October, totaled a personal-best 222.54 points, shaking a stuffed animal when her score came up in the kiss-and-cry area.

“I didn’t really expect this result here, but I worked really hard for it,” Medvedeva said through a translator, according to The Associated Press. “I am very pleased with my first senior season.”

The reigning World junior champion beat Japan’s Satoko Miyahara by 13.69 points, the second-largest women’s margin at the Grand Prix Final under the decade-old scoring system. Russian Yelena Radionova earned bronze.

Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold finished fourth and fifth in the six-skater field.

Three-time World champion Mao Asada of Japan was sixth, erring on jumps, including stepping out of the landing of her opening triple Axel.

NBC will air Grand Prix Final coverage Dec. 20 from 4-6 p.m. ET. The Grand Prix Final is the most prestigious annual competition outside of the World Championships.

Medvedeva, 16, landed seven triple jumps, including two triple-triple combinations, without any major errors.

She became the fifth-youngest women’s Grand Prix Final winner behind Tara Lipinski (twice), Asada and Michelle Kwan. Asada holds the margin of victory record from 2012.

Wagner beat her personal-best free skate by 7.98 points and improved from sixth after the short program. She just missed becoming the first U.S. woman to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums.

“I can’t afford to have horrific skates and then have to try to make it up in the long program,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “This sport isn’t about being a long program or a short program skater, it’s about being the whole package. That’s my mission.”

Gold, the top qualifier into her first Grand Prix Final, had a disastrous free skate with numerous jumping errors. The 2014 U.S. champion twice put her hands on the ice and singled a planned triple jump. She was also fifth after the short program.

Gold has seven times finished between fourth and sixth in individual standings at the Olympics, Worlds, Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championships, earning zero individual medals at any of those competitions.

“We’ll have to reevaluate the jump content of my programs because I’ve only done one clean program this season,” Gold said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “At this point, you should be skating clean programs. I’m pretty far behind in that regard, and my consistency is lacking.”

Wagner and Gold will go head-to-head at the U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minn., in January.

Earlier Saturday, Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won their second straight Grand Prix Final, topping the free dance after they also had the best short dance Friday.

They totaled 182.66 points, beating U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 5.11.

Italitan 2014 World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte took bronze.

The competition was missing the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, both sitting out their second straight season, and reigning World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France due to Papadakis’ concussion.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Nancy Kerrigan finds new passion

 

Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Ashley Wagner on her competitive future, coaching

Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

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Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner on her future, role as coach