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New European champion Sofia Samodurova eyes longevity in the sport

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With the European Championships come and gone, a new ladies’ champion was crowned in 16-year-old Sofia Samodurova. It was her first major senior-level event, and, afterward, she spoke with NBCSports.com/figure-skating about her victory and what it means to her as a late-bloomer. Samodurova hopes to start a long career like those of her idols, including Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who she shares a coach with in Alexei Mishin.

You won the European Championships by more than 15.5 points. Did you think that it was possible?

I didn’t think about winning in Minsk. But I did concentrate on my performance, in order to present two solid skates. I didn’t let myself distracted by Alina’s performance or marks [the Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, who skated just before her].

I didn’t listen and really tried to focus on my performance. I didn’t think of winning, since my results at the Lombardia Trophy had not been so good. [Note: She ended second to Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva]. I only realized that I had won when I saw the marks come up.

Are you close from your teammates, like Elizaveta or Carolina Kostner?

Oh yes! Lisa and I are girls and we discuss girl things. You know, like skating things but also cosmetics as well. I am also in awe in front of Carolina’s attitude. She loves skating so much. I can see that in her eyes. She always does everything our coach says, and she is always so happy to be on the ice.

Alexei Mishin always have funny sentences. What did he tell you before you took the ice in Minsk?

He said: “Don’t jump off your pants!” (She laughs).

Do you think this victory will change your mind?

I remain the same Sofia Samodurova as before. Although defeating Alina is not usual for me, it will give me more confidence for sure.

You manage to embody genuinely your free program, to the soundtrack of “Burlesque,” and to make it live with the audience. How do you relate to your programs?

Ilya Averbukh chose the music for this free program. Well, I like this program very much. It’s a lot of fun for me to skate to it and… Obviously you can see it. I have other programs in store, though, like the ones I display at my exhibitions. They present different characters and I like that.

“Burlesque,” the American movie your music comes from, stars two great singers, Cher and Christina Aguilera, and you mention that you like singing. What do you sing?

Everything! I sing a lot, any style. But it depends on my mood!

You projected lots of emotions through you skating in Minsk. Do you feel those emotions yourself, as you are skating?

In fact, I may seem quite emotional during my performances, but I’m not very emotional in real life. I mean, I’m a rather shy person. At the European Championships I had more responsibilities, of course, and that gave me more emotions. But I try to control emotions during skating, because it’s better to be focused!

Many girls in Russia are getting great results in juniors. You are coming up as a senior. Do you think it plays a role in your career?

This is true! I didn’t have that great results in the junior ranks. But maybe it was better that way for me, as I had less pressure when I arrived in the senior [ranks, this season].

What elements do you feel you need to work at in order to improve toward the world championships? Quads?

You know, I tried triple Axel two years ago. I think I’ll develop into that direction in the future, in order to land that jump. But for now, I need to work on steps (in my step sequence), on my transitions, and on the quality of each one of my elements.

Do you have a favorite sportsperson to look up to?

Yes: it’s Martin Fourcade, the French biathlete [Note: he who won five Olympic gold medals, two in Sochi in 2014 and three in PyeongChang in 2018]. I’d like to be like him, show solid performances regularly and compete at the highest level all the time. His career is stable at the top. I’d be like that: stable.

Would you like to have a long career, just like Carolina Kostner and Javier Fernandez?

Yes, I would, definitely.

Samodurova does speak English, but she elected to give her answers in Russian. Her words were translated in English by Irena Zakurdaeva, a Media Coordinator in Moscow.

MORE: European Championships analysis: Female Russian skaters stars rise fast, but burn out too soon

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world 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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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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Noah Lyles wins duel with Christian Coleman in Shanghai

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Noah Lyles won the first of what will hopefully be multiple head-to-heads with Christian Coleman this season, taking a 100m at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai on Saturday.

Both U.S. sprint phenoms clocked 9.86 seconds, with Lyles coming from about fifth place at 50 meters to edge Coleman by .006 with a lean.

“This was a message to myself,” Lyles said, according to the IAAF. “The 100 has never been my dominant thing so I wanted to make sure this year that everybody knew I was a 100 and 200 runner, and not just a 200 runner kind of running the 100.”

It’s a personal best for Lyles. Coleman has run 9.79.

Lyles, undefeated in outdoor 200m races since finishing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 18, beat Coleman for the first time in three career senior 100m head-to-heads.

While Lyles prefers the 200m, Coleman has said he hopes to qualify for this fall’s world championships in both the 100m and 200m.

If Coleman follows through on that, he and Lyles will face off in the 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July. Saturday marked Coleman’s first individual race since Aug. 31.

“It is always a struggle to get in good form after such a long time away from competition, so I didn’t have any specific expectations for today,” Coleman said. “In general I am fine with 9.86 today.”

Full Shanghai results are here. The Diamond League next visits Stockholm on May 30.

In other events, Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba won his anticipated duel with Rai Benjamin in a matchup between the second- and third-fastest 400m hurdlers in history. Samba, who took up the event full-time two years ago, clocked 47.27 seconds, which would have been the fastest time in a decade if not for Samba and Benjamin’s rapid times last June.

Benjamin, born in the Bronx and raised partly in Antigua and Barbuda, was passed before the last hurdle and crossed in 47.80. Last June, Benjamin won the NCAA title in 47.02, then matching Edwin Moses as second-fastest in history. Samba ran 46.98 later that month.

Kevin Young remains the longest-standing world-record holder in men’s track racing, setting 46.78 in the 1992 Olympic final.

Sydney McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, was an impressive second in the 400m in her Diamond League debut. The 19-year-old pro, whose focus is the 400m hurdles, clung to world 400m silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser in the final straight and crossed in 50.78, just .13 back of Naser.

Naser hasn’t lost to anyone other than Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the last two years. Miller-Uibo was absent from Shanghai.

U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs won her senior international 100m debut in 11.03 seconds, beating a field that included Olympic champ Elaine Thompson. Hobbs did so two weeks after fracturing a wrist playing laser tag. Thompson, who last won a Diamond League race in 2017, was third in 11.14.

Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha won a battle among the three fastest active 5000m runners, bounding from Selemon Barega to win by .55 in 13:04.16. Barega won last year’s Diamond League Final in 12:43.02, the world’s fastest time in 13 years.

MORE: Allyson Felix on the 2 most terrifying days of her life

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