Quad Queen Trusova does just one but still easily rules at Skate America

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America
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It must have felt like a day off for Aleksandra Trusova.

The 17-year-old Quad Queen from Russia was a runaway winner Sunday at Skate America in Las Vegas despite limiting herself to just one free skate quadruple jump, a lutz, because of an unspecified foot injury.

“It was like a day of rest,” Trusova said. “We wanted to skate here with three quads but couldn’t. With the injury, I lost a lot of practice time.”

It was the first time Trusova has attempted fewer than three quads at international competition in 11 events dating to the fall of 2018. She did five clean quads in a national event last month.

The third Grand Prix triumph of Trusova’s career came with a total of 232.37 points, more than 15 ahead of compatriot Daria Usacheva, 15, who was making her senior Grand Prix debut.

Young You, 17, of South Korea, a one-time phenom trying to recapture her mojo, took bronze with a free skate full of powerful jumps.

The third Russian, Kseniia Sinitsyna, dropped from third after the short program to fifth overall.

Trusova’s victory was the eighth straight by a Russian woman in the Grand Prix. They won every event in the Grand Prix season before the pandemic turned the series into domestic competitions last year.

The leading U.S. finisher Sunday, sixth-place Amber Glenn, did a strong free skate that re-established her as a solid contender for one of the three women’s singles places on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team.

Yet even with personal bests by substantial margins in both the free and total (201.02), Glenn was nearly 17 points behind You and nearly 16 behind fourth finisher Kaori Sakamoto of Japan on a day when skater after skater drew big ovations for the quality of their performances.

Glenn’s unexpected second place at last season’s U.S. Championships suddenly put her into the Olympic team picture after a career that had stagnated for several years after she won the national junior title in 2014.

She was not picked for the 2021 World Championships team because inconsistency made her “body of work” results less impressive. Karen Chen, the third finisher at last year’s nationals, got that second world spot and delivered a performance at worlds that was critical to Team USA earning the third Olympic spot.

“I haven’t thought about the Olympics as much as I thought I would,” Glenn said. “For a while there, I never thought I would make a team. During the pandemic, I thought, ‘I’m going to go for it.’ I’m hugely focused on consistency.”

A foot injury forced her to withdraw after the short program at August’s Cranberry Cup International and affected her at last month’s Finlandia Trophy, where she finished 10th after taking a hard fall in the short program. She looked at Skate America as her first big event of the season.

“This was good but still not where I want to be,” she said. “Knowing I was able to put out two stable programs gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”

Trusova, reigning world bronze medalist, may need her whole free skate quad arsenal and a triple axel in the short to earn one of the three spots on the Russian Olympic team. The contenders also include the gold and silver medalists from the 2021 worlds, Anna Shcherbakova and Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva, and the first-year senior sensation, Kamila Valiyeva…and a host of others.

Trusova’s technical element score in Sunday’s free skate was 85.68, a number she has topped seven times internationally with five TES scores in the 90s and a best of 100.2.

While some of that drop here owes to differences in grades of execution on the 12 elements, including 11 jumps, most owes to the lower base value with only the lone quad. Trusova’s score for just that quad lutz (13.8) accounted for 16 percent of her TES total.

Thanks to her best-ever free skate component scores, Trusova’s overall and free skate scores were the fifth highest of her international career.

“Obviously I want to have a higher degree of difficulty in both my short and free programs,” Trusova said.

Trusova, who trains in Moscow, will have a few days off to help the foot heal before preparing for her next event, the NHK Trophy Nov. 12-14 in Tokyo.

Knowing she was going to do so few quads at Skate America did not lighten the pressure.

“It added more because I was not so well prepared,” Trusova said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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