''New Zagitova'' and ''support'' of judges deprived Tuktamysheva of victory in Japan
While Russians are quarrelling between each other, Japanese skaters are catching up
The next figure skating Grand Prix was expected with special attention. One of the leaders of the season, world champion Tuktamysheva was going to fight in the lair of the major rival of the national team of Russia with local figure skaters. The battle took place in the end, and it was at the highest level. But Udmurtia-born athlete couldn't become the winner. The ''new Zagitova'' in the person of Rika Kihira turned out much stronger than expected. Realnoe Vremya tells the most important things at the Grand Prix in Japan.
Tuktamysheva is queen of short programmes
The fourth Grand Prix series in the city of Hiroshima promised to become the hottest since the beginning of the season. Two winners of previous stages at once were going to compete in the tournament. The Japanese were more interested in their compatriot Satoko Miyahara who confidently won the Grand Prix in the USA, while the Russian audience waited for Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva's performance who conquered Skate Canada. There was nobody particular to point out among other rivals, except for 15-year-old Rika Kihira. She's already been called ''the next Zagitova'' in small circles because she's trying to come out of Miyahara's shadow like Alina (in the rivalry with Medvedeva last season).
The expectations lived up in the short programme already. The favourite of the local audience, Miyahara imposed a serious fight on Tuktamysheva and almost went ahead of the Russian with the points. As much as the judges tried to help the Japanese, she couldn't reach Elizaveta's results. But the margin was minimal – just 0,09 points. Such a state of affairs looked bizarre amid the programmes the athletes showed on the ice. The jury demonstrated itself not in a good way again and frankly underscored Tuktamysheva for components and simultaneously added points to Miyahara.
The athlete coming from Udmurtia managed to score 76,17 points even with such a jury, which is her season's best at the Grand Prix. It's noteworthy that only Japanese besides Tuktamysheva and Miyahara has scored more than 70 points in a world series – Kaori Sakamoto. For instance, the same Zagitova demonstrated just 68,90 points at the previous stage in Finland. With this score, Alina would have been just fifth in Hiroshima losing 7 points to the couple of leaders. Such close results meant anything could have happened in free programme, even a sensation.
''New Zagitova'' almost breaks Alina's record
After the draw, Tuktamysheva had a chance to perform penultimate. Some think such a position is much better from a perspective of psychology, but any detail in figure skating can turn an advantageous position into a bad one and put an athlete off the stride. Such force majeure happened to Korean Eunsoo Lim. During the last warm-up with Tuktamysheva, the figure skater crashed into the other almost a minute to her performance. As a result, the Korean failed her programme having made several mistakes due to her nervousness.
It was much harder for the Russian to handle the pressure. However, she seems to have coped with it. But, the words of Ilya Averbukh after the short programme became prophetic. The Russian coach supposed that the toughest fight against the Japanese awaited Tuktamysheva, even if she performed ideally.
But Liza couldn't perform ideally. She made a slip in the first triple Axel. The judges didn't lose a chance to reduce GOE points and generously excluded the jump. However, we didn't have to talk about too low points after the performance. Tuktamysheva got the points her exciting performance deserved. The stands were amazed at the Russian and didn't calm down easily after her programme.
But even such points didn't help Tuktamysheva to keep leadership. Firstly, she definitely lost to Kihira aka ''young Zagitova''. The 15-year-old figure skater performed her programme perfectly, and nobody doubted who was the winner. Kihira almost broke the world record that belongs precisely to Zagitova. But she lacked several points to reach Alina's result. Secondly, Miyahara. The Japanese athlete has got very pleasant points for the second time in the season without having a clearly powerful programme.
Pie in the sky
Anyway, such a success of the Japanese figure skaters isn't accidental. Many people forecasted a rise in their young athletes as early as summer, but it seems Russia got too keen on the domestic fight for medals. While Medvedeva, Zagitov and Tuktamysheva who joined them were concerned about the pie in the sky, Miyahara, Kihira and Sakamoto quietly began to catch up with the Russians. In addition, in this case, we can't blame the judges' scores only, the Japanese really smartly distributed job throughout the distance. Considering that they have at least two Grand Prix stages before the final, the results of the representatives of the Land of the Rising Sun impress.
If there might be some questions about Miyahara's results, Kihira's two triple Axels and a cascade of triple toe loops should seriously concern Medvedeva and Tuktamysheva. Zagitova doesn't need to be included to the list at the moment. But given the programme we saw in the previous competitions, Alina can seriously compete with the Japanese and has enough endurance in reserve.
But now much turns on the Russians themselves. Same Tuktamysheva already managed to claim it was much more important to get to the final, what she successfully did. In case of Medvedeva, the Grand Prix series in France will show everything where she will meet face-to-face not only Kihira but also world champion Carolina Kostner.