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Rika Kihira denies Yevgenia Medvedeva first win in two years

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Japan’s Rika Kihira landed triple Axels in both programs to open her international figure skating season with a victory over Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva at the Autumn Classic in Oakville, Ontario.

Kihira, a 17-year-old who went undefeated last fall before taking fourth at the world championships, totaled 224.16 points after landing two triple Axels in her free skate (one called under rotated). Medvedeva, without the high-scoring triple Axel, finished 6.63 points behind while beating Kihira in artistic scores in both programs.

Medvedeva, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, last won an international event in November 2017. Training partner Alina Zagitova surpassed her for the Olympic title, and last year Medvedeva took third at worlds after moving from Russia to Toronto to train under Brian Orser.

“I’m feeling almost that comfortable, that confident [sic] in myself that I was two years ago, three years ago, four years ago,” Medvedeva told media after the short program.

American Karen Chen took fourth at the Autumn Classic in her first international competition since the Olympics. Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, missed all of last season with a stress fracture in her foot.

Earlier Friday, two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu opened his season by falling on a quadruple Salchow but recovered to top the men’s short program at the Autumn Classic.

Hanyu, beaten by Nathan Chen for last season’s world title, tallied 98.38 points to lead by 3.62 over Frenchman Kevin Aymoz. The field lacks any of the other top 10 men from worlds. Hanyu and Chen aren’t expected to go head-to-head until December’s Grand Prix Final.

The Autumn Classic finishes Saturday with the men’s free skate.

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Alina Zagitova, Yevgenia Medvedeva defeated by 14-year-olds at Russian Nationals

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A pair of 14-year-olds defeated the Olympic gold and silver medalists at the Russian Figure Skating Championships, arguably the deepest competition in figure skating.

Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who are too young for senior international events, went one-two in Saransk on Saturday after Olympic champion Alina Zagitova had a disastrous, 12th-place free skate that included two falls.

Zagitova dropped from first after the short program to fifth, two spots ahead of two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, who rebounded from a 14th-place short program.

Medvedeva was unsurprisingly left off the three-woman team for January’s European Championships, the first time she will miss the event in four season as a senior skater.

Shcherbakova and Trusova each landed a quadruple Lutz, a jump none of the world’s top senior women are doing.

Zagitova still made the Euros team and is likely for March’s world championships, given Shcherbakova, Trusova and bronze medalist Alena Kostornaya are all juniors and thus ineligible.

Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova, who finished fourth and sixth, round out the Euros team. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion who missed nationals due to pneumonia, and Medvedeva are the alternates.

The world team, also three women, will be named some time after the European Championships.

Medvedeva, who went undefeated from 2015 to 2017, hasn’t won in more than a year. She placed second, third or fourth at her last five international events since suffering a broken bone in her foot in fall 2017. She fell in all four of her competitions this season under new coach Brian Orser, who stresses patience as his latest star pupil makes technical changes.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva’s struggles continue at Russian Nationals

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Yevgenia Medvedeva rough season hit another stumbling block Friday. She placed 14th in the short program at the Russian Championships.

The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion botched her opening combination and then fell on a double Axel (video here). She scored 62.24 points, 18.38 behind Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in the deepest national competition in the world.

The second-, third- and fifth-place finishers in the short are all 14- and 15-year-olds that aren’t eligible for senior international events this season. This is key, as Medvedeva is vying for one of three Russian spots at January’s European Championships and March’s world championships.

Zagitova and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is out with pneumonia, would seem obvious candidates for two spots at Euros. Medvedeva’s primary competition for a spot are Stanislava Konstantinova, who was fourth in the short, and Sofia Samodurova, who was sixth.

Samodurova had the best fall Grand Prix season of the trio, placing fifth at the Grand Prix Final in her first senior international campaign.

Russia has in the past named its world championships team after the European Championships, making the latter another selection event.

Medvedeva went undefeated for two years from 2015 to 2017 but hasn’t won in more than a year, placing second, third or fourth at her last five events since suffering a broken bone in her foot in fall 2017. She has fallen in all four of her competitions this season.

Training partner Zagitova edged Medvedeva for gold in PyeongChang by 1.31 points, after which Medvedeva moved from Moscow to Toronto to train under Brian Orser.

Orser, who has stressed patience as Medvedeva processes technique changes for the second act of her career, encouraged Medvedeva after Friday’s skate. They conversed in the kiss and cry as fans would not stop applauding her during the wait for her scores.

“Stand up and wave,” Orser urged her. She obliged, smiling, The scores came up. She nodded and repeated her placement, “14th.”

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MORE: 13-year-old eyes U.S. Championships podium