Aliona Kostornaya tops Rostelecom Cup short program

Alena Kostornaia
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Aliona Kostornaya didn’t have the triple Axel, but she didn’t need it to top the short program in a battle of Russian Olympic medal contenders at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow on Friday.

Kostornaya, 17 and the world’s top skater last season when she incorporated the Axel, instead had three clean jumping passes. They included a triple flip-triple toe loop combination for 78.84 points.

Aleksandra Trusova, a 16-year-old who can perform a triple Axel and quadruple jumps, fell on her opening triple Axel attempt and had it downgraded. Trusova, like Kostornaya, won her first two Grand Prix starts last season to stamp her name as the Beijing Olympics near.

Trusova tallied 70.81 points on Friday, trailing both Kostornaya and 2015 World champion Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva, who had a triple Axel but erred on her two other jumping passes for 74.70 points.

Rostelecom Cup, typically one of six Grand Prix Series events that gather the world’s top skaters, is largely a domestic Russian affair this year due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel precautions.

Full results are here. All of the free skates are Saturday, streaming live on Peacock Premium. NBC airs TV coverage on Saturday and Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Earlier, Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili outscored the top Russian men with a short program that included two quads. Kvitelashvili, 25, improved from 24th at the PyeongChang Olympics to place third at last January’s European Championships.

In pairs, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov edged European champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by 1.05 points. Mishina and Galliamov were the top Russian pair at last December’s Grand Prix Final (bronze), then placed fourth at the Russian Nationals and were not among the three Russian pairs sent to Europeans in January.

World silver medalists Victoriya Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov topped the rhythm dance by 6.67 points.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov, who upset French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeorn to win the European title in January, will look in 2022 to put Russia back on the Olympic dance podium. The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games marked the first Olympics without a Russian or Soviet couple among the medalists.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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