Getty Images

Alina Zagitova tops Grand Prix Helsinki short program

Leave a comment

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova leads at Grand Prix Helsinki despite a short program jumping error in her first top-level event of the season.

Zagitova, who in PyeongChang became the second-youngest singles gold medalist after Tara Lipinski, singled the back end of her opening triple-triple combination on Friday.

She scored 68.9 points and leads by 5.13 going into Saturday’s free skate after the other top women also made mistakes. Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa is in second place, followed by Belgian Loena Hendrickx.

Zagitova’s score is 11 points fewer than she tallied at a lower-level event in September. The 16-year-old later noted she is two inches taller than at the Olympics.

“I don’t really know why everybody is so interested in how much I’ve been growing,” Zagitova said through a translator.

Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto was Zagitova’s biggest threat going in, but she fell twice and into seventh place.

Earlier, Italians Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise topped the pairs’ short program.

Later, Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin led the rhythm dance with 78.18 points. U.S. couples Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter and Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko were third and fourth.

Nobody in the Helsinki field has won an Olympic or world pairs’ or dance medal or a Grand Prix event.

GP FINLAND: Full Results | Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, can afford mistakes this week given her top rivals — namely Olympic silver medalist and former training partner Yevgenia Medvedeva — are not in the Helsinki field. Zagitova will not face Medvedeva until December.

Sakamoto earned silver medals at the last two Skate Americas and ranks third among the deep Japanese on the early season.

Another Olympic champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, makes his Grand Prix season debut in Helsinki on Saturday. Hanyu has never won his Grand Prix season debut.

This is the first top-level event with both reigning Olympic singles champions since the 1992 World Championships.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Medvedeva thanks Brian Orser for late-night Skate Canada talk

Satoko Miyahara wins Skate America; U.S. women miss podium

1 Comment

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara repeated as Skate America champion, while the U.S. failed to put a woman on the singles podium for the second time in the event’s 40-year history.

Miyahara, a two-time world medalist and fourth at the Olympics, became the first woman to win back-to-back Skate Americas since Yuna Kim in 2008 and 2009. She topped the short program and free skate, totaling 219.71 points and winning by 5.81.

She relegated countrywoman Kaori Sakamoto to silver at Skate America for a second straight year. Russian Sofia Samodurova, a 16-year-old in her Grand Prix debut, held on for bronze as the top of the standings went unchanged from after Saturday’s short.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell entered Skate America with the best total score of the field this season, but she had trouble with her triple Lutz-triple loop combination both days.

Tennell finished fourth, one spot lower than at her Grand Prix debut breakout at Skate America a year ago. The difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combo was done by just one senior woman last season — Olympic champion Alina Zagitova.

“I came into this competition feeling very prepared, and yesterday’s [triple-triple combo] mistake kind of threw me off a little bit,” Tennell, the only U.S. Olympian doing two Grand Prix events this fall, told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN. “But I’m proud of how I recovered from that, both in that [short] program and this [free skate]. I have a lot to work on.”

The only other time the U.S. didn’t put a woman on the Skate America podium was 10 years ago, when it was also held in Everett, Wash.

Miyahara, 20, has been the leading Japanese woman for most of the last four years, filling the void left by Mao Asada. Only 4-foot-11, Miyahara hasn’t challenged top Russians Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva in jumping consistency, but her artistry has helped her make the podium in 10 of 12 Grand Prix starts.

Miyahara is arguably the top threat to the Russians this season with world champion Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada taking the year off and Italian Carolina Kostner out of the Grand Prix series with a hip injury. Two other Japanese may have a strong say — 16-year-old Rika Kihira, who landed two triple Axels in her senior international debut last month, and world silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi.

Earlier Sunday, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue earned the U.S.’ 10th straight Skate America ice dance title. More on the new leading U.S. couple here.

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Skate Canada featuring Olympic silver medalist Medvedeva with coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Nathan Chen wins Skate America by record margin

Bradie Tennell trails at Skate America after rare error

Leave a comment

Bradie Tennell burst onto the podium at 2017 Skate America by nailing all 15 of her jumps. She missed on her first jumping pass at the same event Saturday and sits in fifth place going into Sunday’s free skate.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara topped the short program with 73.86 points, looking to be the first woman since Yuna Kim to repeat as Skate America champion. Countrywoman Kaori Sakomoto, runner-up at last year’s Skate America, is again in second place, 2.57 behind.

Tennell, the U.S. champion and top American at the Olympics (ninth) and worlds (sixth), trails by 12.14.

She struggled with her opening triple Lutz-triple loop combination, managing just a single loop on the back end. It’s a new combo for the 20-year-old, one that only Olympic champion Alina Zagitova performed last season among senior women.

“It’s very, very rarely does that happen,” Tennell told Andrea Joyce on NBC Sports Gold. “I think I just hesitated a little bit, but these things happen. We’re all human. It’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

The Skate America free skate airs live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Sunday.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Tennell is the marquee U.S. female skater of the moment. Olympians Ashley WagnerPolina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu are taking the Grand Prix season off. Gracie Gold is coming back in two weeks but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

Only ardent skating fans knew of Tennell at this time last year.

She had been sixth and ninth at the previous two U.S. Championships and wouldn’t make her Grand Prix debut until last season’s Skate America on Thanksgiving weekend. There, she posted the top score by a U.S. woman in a year and a half, earned bronze and became a clear favorite to make the three-woman Olympic team.

Though Tennell made uncharacteristic jumping errors in PyeongChang and at worlds, she opened this season by beating Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia at a lower-level event in Canada last month.

Medvedeva and Zagitova make their Grand Prix season debuts the next two weeks.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Starr Andrews, next leading U.S. woman?