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Alina Zagitova surpassed by Sofia Samodurova for European title

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Reigning European champion and Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova of Russia was far from her best on Friday in the free skate, and she was surpassed for the title by countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Samodurova defeated Zagitova by no less than 15.5 points. Finland’s Viveca Lindfors rose from fourth after the short program to claim the bronze medal, 19.54 points behind the winner.

Season after season, Russia seems to propel a new wonder to the sky of skating, and once more a first-year senior skater wins the European championships. Only Yevgenia Medvedeva could stay two years on top in the recent years.

Results: Ladies’ final

The ice Samodurova found as she entered was literally flooded with the plush toys that were sent to Zagitova, who had skated just before her. Samodurova had to start to land a first jump as if she were skating in a public session. That didn’t distract her, however, and she embarked into her program with poise and determination. As soon as Samodurova started her program, it became obvious that nothing could happen to her.

She landed a perfectly centered triple flip, triple toe combination. She had an edge call on her triple Lutz, but she then unfolded her program in the way it had been planned. Each one of her jumps from then on, loop, Salchow, double Axel, triple toe combination, flip, was punctuated by applause and “woos” from the audience. She struggled with her double Axel, double toe, double loop combination, but she was already in the steps of the winner. The audience then clapped for every step and every spin rotation. Samodurova even took the time to request more applause between her two final spins. The audience followed her request.

At the end of her program, she had overcome a 2.12-point deficit from the short program to tally a new season’s best free skate of 140.96 points for a total score of 213.84 points and the gold medal.

“I’m overwhelmed by emotions now, I can’t find words to describe what I’m feeling now,” Samodurova said as she left the ice. My coach [Alexei Mishin] told me to stop crying, but I can’t!”

Many wondered if Zagitova could hold on to the short victory she had taken in the short program. She skated fourth of the last group, and a forest of Russian banners and thunderous applause rose from the stands as she stepped on the ice. The opening double Axel of her “Carmen” routine and her subsequent triple Lutz were fantastic. The combined triple toe that followed started her nightmare.

Zagitova fell, then two-footed the landing of her triple Lutz, and turned out of the triple flip in combination with a single toe. Her triple flip, double toe, double toe looked so frail at the end. The audience supported her throughout, however, and hundreds of Carmen-red heart plush toys poured over the ice as soon as she ended her routine. Zagitova managed 123.34 points in the free skate, giving her 198.34 points overall to claim the silver.

“The audience and my friends really supported me during my whole performance, and I am very grateful to them,” she said afterwards. “I apologize not to have given them a better performance. The silver medal is good, still, considering I could have ended without any medal today. I could have skated a better performance, but so it is for now.”

Both Zagitova and Samodurova are 16, though Samodurova is a few months younger than Zagitova. The wheel kept turning again at the head of European skating.

Finland’s Viveca Lindfors had given an exquisite short program two days before. She offered an equally delightful and smooth performance to “Les Misérables.” Her opening triple Lutz, triple toe combination and triple flip were clear-cut. She wobbled landing her triple loop and doubled the toe of her second planned triple Lutz, triple toe combination. As she skated, Lindfors seemed to suspend her skate prior to any jump, as if to be completely focused and element, and present in the moment. She received 194.40 points, enough for a first European podium finish.

“This is a big victory for me,” she offered at the post-event press conference. “Skating has evolved so much since Finland won its last medal, so I feel very accomplished to have been able to reach the top at the European Championship,” she said.

Fourth overall, but second of the free, Russia’s third skater, Stanislava Konstantinova, delivered a powerful rendering to her “Anna Karenina” music. All her jumps earned positive GOEs, except her triple flip.

“I didn’t want to let it go after the short program,” she offered as she left the ice. “I don’t particularly associate myself to the character of Anna Karenina, but I tried to portray someone who lost everything she had. Well, that was a bit of my own story through these championships,” she said through an interpreter.

Unlike her heroine, however, she revived at the end – Konstantinova received 132.96 points for her free program and 189.72 points overall for fourth place.

MORE: Behind the scenes on day 3 of the European Championships

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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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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