She. Is. Back.
Sofia Samodurova (RUS) is the reigning European Champion, so it does not come as a surprise that the hopes were high. Both her Short and Free Programme were clean and especially in the Free to the OST of Burlesque you could see what a blast she was having—you just needed to smile and dance along! Sadly, fun alone was not enough. At the Europeans she got her personal bests and was not able to trump that in these Worlds. Coming 8th, however, is still an amazing feat—she is only 16 after all, so her whole future still lies ahead.
Single skating is H.U.G.E. in Japan and the three ladies coming in 4th, 5th and 6th are the perfect example of Japanese skating. Satoko Miyahara’s performance could best be described as graceful, elegant and beautiful. Every moment of both programmes was exactly this. Even though she did not manage to jump on the podium in the Senior Worlds, she did at the Junior Worlds this year. Say whaaat? YES, she competed in both World Championships! Respect girl—you rock! Rika Kihira only came 7th after her Short, but nailed it in the Free with the second best skate. Seeming like a delicate fairy in her elysian Short Programme, she showed the world what a delicate fairy can do: in her Free Skate she made the crowd go wild with a 3 Axel + 3 Toeloop combination. And last but not least—Kaori Sakamoto was probably my favourite of the three Japanese girls. In her Short she made all her jumps, spins and step sequences look like it was the easiest thing in the world. Her skating was so effortless and divine and matched the angelical music From My First Moment by Charlotte Church perfectly.
And then the moment came: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS) entered the rink and you could see this “I will show you what I can do” look in her eyes. She changed coaches, moved from Russia to Toronto (which I have not often seen in Russian Figure Skating) and now trains with Brian Orser. I think this change has done her good, even though the Russian Skating thinks otherwise apparently, since they picked other skaters for the Europeans and the Four Continents. I guess that explains the look in her eyes and girl, let me tell you, you nailed it! All eyes were on her, I don’t even want to imagine the pressure she was under. But as Tracy Wilson told her after the Short “You owned it!” Yes, she did. And she owned the Free skate too! I am so happy that she could pull it off, because she has truly deserved it. The bronze medal was hers and I am pretty sure, it felt a little like gold.
Silver went to Elizabet Tursynbaeva (KAZ) who wowed audience, me and the judges with two programmes to timeless, wonderful classical music and a quad Salchow! Yes, I said QUAD! The Moonlight Sonata will always give me goose bumps and paired with her sublime skating even more. In Short and Free she managed to get a personal best score. Switching from Brian Orser to Eteri Tutberidze was apparently the perfect move for her. Finally, her exhibition brought tears to your eyes: her skate was a tribute to her fellow Kazakh skater Denis Ten, who was stabbed and fatally wounded last year. You could have heard a needle drop, that’s how silent it was in the arena. Thank you, Elizabet, for bringing Denis to the ice.
Phantom of the Opera and Carmen. I think you can hear these two pieces every year in one of the four competitions. However, Alina Zagitova (RUS) turned Phantom of the Opera into something special with her charme, her outstanding technical components and enchanting performance. The result? A new personal best and number one after the Short. As soon as she started skating in the Free, you had the feeling Carmen was written for her. I have never seen any single female skater interpreting Carmen better than her. She enticed the audience, she enticed the judges, she won. With an “excuse me how big?” lead of almost 13 points.
It will be exciting to see what is going to happen next year, especially with the Russian girls. I have to say, I sometimes lose track of them. Often they are only “here” for one or two seasons, because there are so many amazing talents in the “skating pipeline”. Next year, Alexandra Trusova (the Junior World Champion) and Anna Shcherbakova (second of the Junior Worlds) will be 15 and old enough to compete in the seniors. I will never understand how 15-year-olds can already be seniors?! What will then happen with Medvedeva, Zagitova and Samodurova? And where is Elizaveta Tuktamysheva? She was third in the Grand Prix Final and not even in the Europeans. And what will happen to the 4th of the Europeans, Sanislava Konstantinova? Alexandra Trusova jumped three Quads in her Free Skate! I am pretty sure that she will get a shot in the seniors’ squad. But with only three starting spots, some will need to go. But who it will be, remains to be seen.