Russia names figure skating worlds team; Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva oldest in 14 years

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
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Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva grabbed the last spot on Russia’s three-woman team for the world figure skating championships and is set to become the first non-teen to compete in women’s singles at worlds for the nation since 2013.

Russia named its roster for worlds — in Stockholm in three weeks — after a domestic competition this past weekend.

It’s led by three-time reigning national champion Anna Shcherbakova, a 16-year-old set for her senior worlds debut. Another 16-year-old, Aleksandra Trusova, all but wrapped up the second spot by placing third at nationals in December (and second among skaters old enough for senior worlds).

Tuktamysheva, 24 and the gold medalist at her last worlds in 2015, was seventh at nationals in December. But she was fourth among skaters age-eligible for worlds (and just .38 of a point behind the third age-eligible skater).

At last weekend’s Russian Cup Final, Tuktamysheva placed fourth. But the top three finishers are all 14 years old, and thus too young for senior worlds.

For the last spot on the world team, Tuktamysheva essentially outdueled Aliona Kostornaya, the world’s top skater last season who missed competitions this season, including nationals, after testing positive for the coronavirus. Kostornaya was sixth at the Russian Cup Final.

Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova last competed in December 2019 and is on an indefinite break from competition. Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva hasn’t competed since an early September domestic preseason event, dealing with a back injury and then being hospitalized after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Aleksey Mishin, the venerable coach who turns 80 next week, called student Tuktamysheva a Statue of Liberty for female singles skaters 20 and older, according to Russian media.

Tuktamysheva is set to become the first non-teenage Russian female singles skater to compete at worlds since Alena Leonova, who did so at 22 in 2013.

That same year, Tuktamysheva made her world champs debut at 16. That was also the last year when the world’s top skater was not Russian.

Tuktamysheva will be the oldest Russian female singles skater to compete at worlds since 27-year-old Yelena Sokolova in 2007. Tuktamysheva has yet to make an Olympic team, but should she next year, she would be the oldest Russian Olympic female singles skater since 2006, when Sokolova was 26 and Irina Slutskaya was 27.

Russia could sweep the medals at worlds. It was expected to do so last year, before worlds were canceled, with Kostornaya, Shcherbakova and Trusova having swept the Grand Prix Series and European Championships titles in their senior debut seasons.

Japanese Kihira Rika, who was fourth at the last worlds in 2019, may be the biggest threat.

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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