Justine Neubarth

Yelena Radyonova tops Miki Ando at Nebelhorn

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Russian phenom Yelena Radyonova, reigning world junior champion in figure skating, claimed gold in her senior international debut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. Radyonova fell on a double Axel in the ladies’ free skate on Friday, but landed seven triple jumps to win over two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan. At 14, Radyonova is too young to compete at a home Olympics in February. She will skate at the senior level in the Grand Prix Series this fall, however, where she will be tested against some of the top ladies in the world.

Ando, the 2007 and 2011 world champion, landed four triples during her free skate to Firebird, but lost points on her spins and footwork sequences to finish second. It was Ando’s first competition following a two-year hiatus. She hopes to earn a place on the Japanese Olympic Team and make her third trip to the Winter Games, where she finished 15th in 2006 and 5th in 2010.  Joining her in Oberstdorf was her infant daughter, Himawari, born in April

 American Ashley Cain finished third in her senior international debut.

The Nebelhorn Trophy is the last opportunity for countries to qualify for Olympic entries. Two-time Olympian Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia qualified for a place in Sochi, while ladies from Australia, Norway, Austria, the Czech Republic and Brazil also secured places for their countries.

 On the men’s side, Vancouver Olympian Nobunari Oda of Japan finished first following the men’s free skate on Saturday, proving that he will be in the mix to make the Japanese Olympic Team. American Jason Brown finished second in his senior international debut. Skaters from Italy, Ukraine, Australia, Philippines, Romania and Israel secured Olympic entries for their countries.

Volosozhar and Trankov throw down the gauntlet at Nebelhorn

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Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, the reigning world champions in pairs figure skating, looked nearly unbeatable at the Nebelhorn Trophy, currently underway in Oberstdorf, Germany. In their free skate on Friday, the Russian duo solidified its position as the gold medal favorite for a home Olympics in February. They beat the rest of the field by 57.08 points overall. (To put that number in perspective, last year they won this competition by 17.65 points.) 

As a smaller international competition, the Nebelhorn Trophy scores don’t factor into the International Skating Union’s official list of the highest scores ever recorded. If they did, however, Volosozhar and Trankov would have surpassed the current top scores in the short program, free skate, and total score. Nebelhorn marks do count in the record of the skaters’ personal bests; in that regard, the team topped all of their previous high scores.

 Volosozhar and Trankov went undefeated last season, finishing off the year with a win over German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the World Championships. While the German team has traditionally been their strongest source of competition, Volosozhar and Trankov have looked increasingly dominant as of late.

The Russians’ free skate is set to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar, with the skaters playing the roles of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Trankov told the Russian press this summer that he sees himself as more of the television version of Jesus Christ, as opposed to the stage version’s, and that he’s not planning on growing out a beard for the role.

The Nebelhorn Trophy is the last chance for countries who haven’t yet qualified for Olympic spots to earn entries to the Winter Games. The event also marks the return of two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who gave birth to a daughter in April. Also of note are the senior debuts of two talented young singles skaters: 2013 World Junior Champion Yelena Radyonova, 14, of Russia and Jason Brown, 19, of the United States.  Radyonova is in first place after the ladies’ short program, and Brown is second after the men’s.