Zagitova leads Russian one-two to grab Grand Prix Final title

NAGOYA-World junior champion Alina Zagitova on Saturday led a Russian one-two to capture her first Grand Prix Final crown, maintaining a superb performance in her senior debut season.

The Russian triumph came as the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday banned the country from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over a state-orchestrated doping programme.

Zagitova topped the free programme session in style after ending second in the previous day’s short routine, earning 223.30 points in total ahead of fellow Russian Maria Sotskova with 216.28 points.  World silver medallist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada sank to third as she fell on the ice, failing to keep her lead in the short programme.

Zagitova, who won gold on her grand prix debut in Beijing and grabbed another in Grenoble, both last month, opened with a dazzling triple Lutz-triple loop combination.

After eking out the landing of a double Axel-triple toeloop combination, the 15-year-old showed off soaring jumps and elegant spins to Don Quixote. “To be honest, it was hard to skate today,” Zagitova said. “I really wanted to do well and my legs were a bit shaky, but towards the end I pulled myself together and everything went well,” she said.

Asked about the IOC’s ruling at a news conference on Friday, Zagitova declined to comment. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia would allow athletes to compete at the Olympics under a neutral flag after the IOC said clean Russians would be allowed to take part in the Games. The women’s field was also shadowed by the absence of two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who missed the prestigious competition due to an injury.

Earlier Saturday, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany won the pairs title by beating Chinese duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. In Ice Dance, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France claimed the gold medal, beating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. On Friday, American teenager Nathan Chen bagged his first Grand Prix Final title in the men’s field, edging Japanese star Shoma Uno.



China’s  Sui Wenjing and Han Cong compete during the pairs free skating programme.–AFP

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