Alina Zagitova leads European ladies’ short program

AP
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Just one year ago, a newcomer to the senior ranks stole the show at the Europeans, winning her first European title over her teammate, double world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, who was coming back from an injury.

One year later, the small girl had the poise to come back with an Olympic gold medal under her belt, ready to fight again: Alina Zagitova didn’t lose much time after her Olympics. Again, she proved that she was the queen of Europe, winning a clear victory in the short program Wednesday afternoon in Minsk, Belarus. Two of the top three skaters, Russia’s Sofia Samodurova and Swiss Alexia Paganini, are newcomers to the top of European ranks.

Results: Ladies’ short program

Skating first of the final group, Zagitova landed her opening triple Lutz, triple loop combination, although less stellar than her morning practice. Her triple loop was deemed underrotated. Her program, set to “The Phantom of the Opera,” was exquisitely devised, however. She amassed the best artistic score of the day, 36.40 points, and 75.00 points overall.

“We’ve discussed with my coaches and we decided that I needed to develop personally,” Zagitova said during the post-event press conference. “That led to indeed a complex musical composition. I must say that at first, it was difficult to live in the moment, while being fully aware of the character I had to represent. We talked a lot with my coaches and they helped me understand who I had to embody. It’s become much easier now.”

Samodurova’s program, which she skated to Nyah, from Mission Impossible II, may not have been as complex as Zagitova’s, but her technical mastery was superlative. Samodurova’s rotation was fast and precise. Her triple flip, triple toe combination garnered 11.24 points on its own. Samodurova received the best technical score, 39.25 points, 0.60 point ahead of Zagitova’s, and 72.88 points overall, a new season’s best.

“I don’t know how that happens. I just jumped and that was it!” she laughed afterward.

“The secret here is to show the best skating, whatever the results,” she added. “You should come here with only positive emotions about your performance”.

A crop of Russian flags rose from the stands as she ended her routine, as if Russia already had found an alternate queen ready to take over.

Many thought that the competition could lead to a Russian sweep again, but Stanislava Konstantinova, the third Russian woman, lost her chance twice. Once, when she doubled the opening Lutz of her planned triple Lutz, triple toe combination. And then, when she fell at the end of the triple flip, triple toe she went for at the end of her program instead.

No Russian sweep this time – but an incredibly strong duo took the lead of the championship. Samodurova will advance to the free program some 7.22 points ahead of third placed, Paganini.

Paganini was the last skater to take the ice. Her program to “Yo Soy Maria” was as crisp and lively as her music was powerful and slow. Paganini amassed 65.64 points, cracking her season’s best by some 2.21 points.

“I really worked hard to get the level of each element to maximize my points,” she said.

It worked quite well, as all of Paganini’s elements earned a Level 4.

Just .03 point behind Paganini, Finland’s Viveca Lindfors, provided the sensation of the day. Europe will have lots to say on the global stage!

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program from Minsk continuing on Wednesday with the pairs’ short program.

MORE: Behind the Scenes at the European Championships: Day 1

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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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