Ice Network

Led by Tuktamisheva, Russians dominate short

Wagner still in medal contention after missing opening combination
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva took a slight lead over a Russian-heavy ladies field, earning 67.52 points behind a strong short program to "Boléro" by Maurice Ravel. -Getty Images

Russia's squad took the 2014 Grand Prix Final's ladies competition by storm Thursday in Barcelona, as its four respresentatives sit in the top four spots heading into Saturday's free skate. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva took the short program's top spot. She amassed 67.52 points, short of her season's best but 1.28 points ahead of Julia Lipnitskaia (66.24 points) and 3.63 points ahead of Elena Radionova (63.89 points). Team USA's Ashley Wagner sits in sixth place, one point away from fourth place and 3.65 points from the podium.

Tuktamisheva continued the winning form she has enjoyed since the season started. She won at the Nebelhorn Trophy, Finlandia Trophy and the Cup of Nice. Her Grand Prix outings were just as stellar, as she won the silver medal at Skate America and the gold at Cup of China. Her rush from one competition to the next this season has seemed like redemption from her disastrous Olympic season last year.

Tuktamisheva skated a flawless program to "Boléro" by Maurice Ravel -- an original Spanish dance and a crowd pleaser. She opted for a triple toe-triple toe combination, which proved safer than her competitors' choices, and still earned 10.10 points, just one point less than Lipnitskaia and Radionova's more difficult triple Lutz-triple toe combination. Her biggest mistake was a rough landing on a triple Lutz, for which she still gained 4.90 points.

"I was a bit sick when I arrived here and I am glad I was able to skate clean here," Tuktamisheva said. "I noticed a little mistake on my Lutz and that was a shame, because that jump was so strong.

Her program is cleverly built from start to finish, and allowed her to display her new-found technical and artistic maturity.

"I really fell in love with Barcelona," Tuktamisheva said. "I had the opportunity to have a walk in the city, and it is a beautiful city. That may have inspired my performance today."

Skating to "Megapolis" by Bel Suono, Lipnitskaia hit a triple Lutz-triple toe combination that brought her 11.10 points right away. She went on to land her double Axel and triple flip.

"Today's performance felt much more comfortable than my last performances," Lipnitskaia said.

The reigning European gold and world silver medalist collected Level 4s on each of her three spins.

"I tried a new position on my spin and I was a little bit carried away, I think," she admitted.

"I lost a point on my triple flip because of an edge deduction. I will need to correct that," she concluded.

Radionova, the reigning world junior champion, was last to skate after her Skate America and Trophée Eric Bompard victories earlier this season. She opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination worth 11.10 points. Her subsequent flying sit spin was only rated Level 3, and she fell heavily on her triple loop attempt. She quickly recomposed herself, however, and ended her program with two Level 4 spins. Her components were only the fourth ranked of the evening. 

"I can't say that I am satisfied by my performance since I fell on the loop," Radionova said with her usual energy and poise. "I don't know why it happened. Maybe it was tiredness, maybe it was a technical mistake. In any case, I will have to work on that element."

Radionova skated her program to "De mi vera te fuistes (Seguiriyas)" by Pepe Romero, which the audience did not quite follow, but Jennifer Lopez' "Ain't It Funny" that followed was again an instant hit in the arena.

Anna Pogorilaya was certainly one of the main favorites for the overall victory after her strong practice. With her pure line and balletic grace, her consistent jumps were visible at every session. Skating to "Adagio" by Il Divo, Pogorilaya opened her program with what should have been a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. Her slight imbalance on the landing forced her to not launch her second jump, however. She landed her subsequent triple loop perfectly and combined it with a triple toe, on which she fell heavily. Her short program garnered 61.34 points, good for fourth place in the short.

Japan's Rika Hongo was the first alternate after the six events of the Grand Prix Series. Gracie Gold's unfortunate withdrawal allowed Japan to have one entry in the ladies event, to keep their streak alive. Japan has had a ladies skater compete at the last 14 Grand Prix Finals. Skating first, Hongo landed a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple flip and a double Axel to earn 61.10 points.

"I achieved my goal, which was to reach 60 points in this short program," Hong said. "I'm very happy. Also, skating with the top skaters makes me feel good!"

Hongo stands in fifth place heading into the free.

Ashley Wagner's powerful and elegant program to "Adagio" from Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian did not lead her to the performance she had hoped for. It came down to a lost combination saved by strong components. Wagner still managed to reach the 60-point bar, with 60.24 points.

"This program just shows how much you need a triple-triple combination to be competitive at this level," Wagner said. 

Her three spins were rated Level 4.

"The level of my spins and steps saved my day, and my components," she said. "It's just that triple-triple that is missing, and compared to the jumping ability of the younger generation, the second mark will only take me so far. It's frustrating: When you miss that combination, you know right away that it's a death sentence. I really want to get that combination to work. I don't want to let that younger generation pass me. I'm not that kind of a competitor."