Anna Shcherbakova wins Grand Prix France ahead of showdowns with Olympic favorite

Anna Shcherbakova
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Anna Shcherbakova successfully navigated a bumpy early part of figure skating’s Olympic season. Next comes a series of bigger tests, likely climaxing at the Winter Games in February.

Shcherbakova, who holds the two most prestigious titles as world champion and Russian champion, earned a nervy victory at a Grand Prix in Grenoble, France.

After debuting a first-place short program on Friday, she slipped and fell off the takeoff of her opening Lutz of Saturday’s free skate. She recovered to still post the best score of the day, with a quadruple flip, and total 229.69 points.

“I didn’t understand what happened on my first jump and after the program I was still not realizing what happened,” she said, according to the ISU. “The jumps went well in the warm-up, and I was very confident. The mistake threw me off, and I was very upset, but I did all my elements afterwards, which was very important.”

Later Saturday, world silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama won the men’s title with 286.41 points and five quads between two programs, distancing countryman Shun Sato by 41.42.

American Jason Brown was third, keeping his chances alive of qualifying for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final. Brown landed a fully rotated quad for the first time in 25 career attempts dating to 2015, according to SkatingScores.com, though the landing wasn’t clean, and it received a negative grade of execution.

Favorites also won the ice dance — four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France with the world’s highest score this season of 221.25. And pairs — world bronze medalists Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy of Russia.

Grand Prix France: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shcherbakova defeated fellow Russian teen Aliona Kostornaya by 7.84. Japanese Wakaba Higuchi was third. Americans Karen Chen and Mariah Bell were fourth and fifth.

Shcherbakova won both of her Grand Prix starts this fall after placing second in a lower-level competition.

But none of those included training partner Kamila Valiyeva, who posted the world’s highest scores this season. Valiyeva’s 265.08 from Skate Canada three weeks ago is 28.3 points clear of the world’s second-ranked woman — Shcherbakova.

Valiyeva will likely put that Olympic favorite label on the line multiple times against Shcherbakova and other top countrywomen over the next two months — the Grand Prix Final and Russian Championships in December and the European Championships in January.

First, Valiyeva will compete at next week’s Rostelecom Cup in Russia against a field not including Shcherbakova.

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