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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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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