Alina Zagitova leads European ladies’ short program

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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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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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