How Zagitova qualified for Grand Prix final

Results of the cutest stage of the season: world record, Trankov’s trolling and Tutberidze’s wisdom

This season women's figure skating is even more interesting than last year's Olympic year. Five figure skaters including Evgenia Medvedeva are candidates to go to the final of the competition in Canada before the last Grand Prix series in France. If you said this a year ago, an interlocutor would twist a finger at a temple, while now it's quite real. However, Zagitova's path was almost the most convincing. Nobody questions if Alina deserves a ticket to Canada, and at the Russian Grand Prix stage, she already skated for pleasure. Realnoe Vremya tells about the most important things in women's figure skating.

The cutest stage in the season in Moscow

Nobody doubted who was the obvious favourite of the fifth Grand Prix series in Russia long before the competition. Zagitova who declared her participation in the series was almost the only skater from the top women's figure skating this season. Same Tuktamysheva or Medvedeva have more serious rivals. But it's a problem of those who chose where to compete. In this respect, there is no reason to blame Zagitova, she continues showing her highest level without looking back at others.

Despite the competition list and the presence of Yuzuru Hanyu among men's single skaters, the stands of Megasport, where the competition was held, became full by the appearance of Alina Zagitova in the warm-up. The Olympic champion became a headliner of the Moscow stage, what probably gladdened the tournament's organisers. It was rumoured they even had to pay athletes like free transfer to the venue, it's how other leaders of the season didn't want to compete in the series.

People who have been in the stands these days are unlikely to regret it. Apart from Zagitova, they could see Gracie Gold's attempt to return to the ice, Elizaveta Tursynbayeva from Kazakhstan who is gaining in shape and amaze at new arising starlet of Russian figure skating Sofia Samodurova. The latter has already been on the pedestal in Canada this season and managed to keep the high bar at quite a high level. Sofia couldn't oppose to Zagitova anyway. But we should admit it's unlikely she planned it before the competition.

In the end, regardless of the organisers' fears, the Moscow stage has been almost the cutest this season. That huge number of thrown toys to the ice and the warm atmosphere in the stands turned the venue into a real home where every participant could feel part of a big and friendly family. Zagitova expectedly gathered most presents who was brought a huge teddy bear twice. Several flower girls tried to lift the bear thrown to the ice after free programme in turn, but only four could do it.

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Публикация от Natalia Sechina (@nata_sechina) 17 Ноя 2018 в 10:56 PST

Trankov's childish act and diplomatic Zagitova

It was a bit surprising to see such an atmosphere. Especially after the hype a day before the tournament. All began when Olympic champion and today's coach of Tarasova and Morozov Maksim Trankov frankly failed his communication with the press. The specialist remembered the athletes' inner workings at the Olympics in Pyeongchang either accidentally or deliberately. According to him, it turned out that all people in China supported Medvedeva only considering Zagitova a sort of upstart.

The damage is done, so to speak, and this ambiguous interview instantaneously spread to all major sports newspapers. The next day, Trankov had to work hard to clear his account on Instagram, it was full of fake pages that wrote Maksim many unkind words. All these comments were, of course, attributed to Zagitova's fans. Moreover, Trankov didn't contain himself like a little kid and published an acrid post about what had happened.

Some mass media even started to advise Zagitova to apologise for the incident. But it's not possible to prove it was her fans. It became known later there could be a provocation. But again, there are few facts to be 100% sure.

We can just envy Zagitova and her coaching staff's stamina (it would unlikely be possible without it). After the competition, she was asked about Trankov. In answer, Alina replied in the most diplomatic way and even ''trolled'' the Olympic champion.

Short programme is super. Score for technical elements under question

We should say about the wisdom of Zagitova's coaching staff separately. Unlike Tuktamysheva and Medvedeva's coaches, they didn't throw Alina to a dark pit of backstage intrigues at the beginning of the season. Understanding a possible fall after the Olympics, the coaches thoughtfully fielded her first in the tournament in Germany and then at two Grand Prix stages where the list of competitors allowed Zagitova to calmly show her programmes.

However, Alina herself isn't going to stay idly by. This time, without having obvious competition for herself from her rivals, she did her best in the short programme anyway. She hasn't set a world record but just updated her accomplishment, what awesomely proves the shape she is in. The free programme ended for Zagitova with two under-rotated jumps and a double flip. But even in this state, we can't question her power.

But it will anyway be impossible to escape one of the unpleasant tendencies. Digging in details of judges' decisions, one can find Zagitova's score was deducted in technical elements. The result of 68 points at Rostelecom Cup seriously loses to Alina's main rivals' results – Kihira and Tuktamysheva. It's particularly terrifying given the points for technical elements have been falling for the third competition. So in Germany, Zagitova had 83 points, 74 in Finland and today, she has 68. Something is wrong.

Zagitova is in the final, what about Medvedeva?

Anyway, now Zagitova is calmly waiting for the Grand Prix final together with Tuktamysheva and Miyahara. But five athletes can occupy the remaining three seats, including Medvedeva. To qualify for the final in Canada, she must win in France. An Olympic déjà vu might await Medvedeva where Japanese-born Rika Kihira will perform Zagitova's role. Tuktamysheva already didn't handle the pressure of the young representative of the Land of the Rising Sun. Here we again remember a paragraph about Tutberidze & Co's wisdom. Unlike Zagitova, Medvedeva will have to fight at the eleventh hour. Evgenia won't have a second chance to get to the final, while it will be a big loss for the ambitious athlete to miss Canada. It's possible to lack nerves in the French series, so Medvedeva will have to work hard to fight for a place among the strongest figure skaters of the world. And there are big doubts she will be able to do it.

By Zulfat Shafigullin