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Sotnikova leads Kostner by two points in Zagreb

Russian teen hits triple-triple, while Kostner falls

Adelina Sotnikova earned a 67.61 score and a first-place finish on Friday.
Adelina Sotnikova earned a 67.61 score and a first-place finish on Friday. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2013) - Adelina Sotnikova made a stunning debut at the European Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb on Friday, performing a sparkling short program to lead defending champion Carolina Kostner by two points.

Skating to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," the 16-year-old from Moscow, who had previously been too young to compete at senior ISU championships, performed flawlessly. She hit a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and an excellent triple flip, and all three of her spins, plus her energetic step sequence, gained Level 4 and many +2 GOE's (Grades of Execution) from the judges.

This was Sotnikova's first clean short program of the international season, and the judges rewarded it with program components that reached an average level of 7.6. She takes 67.61 points into the free skate.

"This is the highest score I have ever had," Sotnikova said. "I have no words at the moment. I feel such a strong emotion.

"I am so pleased with myself, so happy. I really wanted to present my program from the very beginning. During the steps after the other main elements I could do that especially well, and I skated fast and relaxed. I could let out all my emotions. The audience was great, they helped me all the way through."

Kostner, the four-time European champion and reigning world champion, sits second with 64.19 points. Skating to "Transylvanian Lullaby" and "Devil's Trill," with choreography by Lori Nichol, she began her program with an excellent triple loop out of steps, but fell on the second jump of her triple toe-triple toe combination.

The rest of her program was very good, including a dynamic, Level 4 step sequence for which she gained +2's from all nine judges.

"Apart from the fall, it was all right. But I am a bit angry with myself," Kostner said. "Usually I am nervous at competitions, and today I was as well."

The 25-year-old Kostner, who made her Europeans debut in 2003, did not compete on the Grand Prix this season, although she won the Golden Spin of Zagreb event held in Zagreb in December.

"It is a big success to be around in figure skating internationally for 11 years," she said. "It makes me happy to do competitions for such a long time, but of course, after 11 years it is more difficult to motivate yourself. I am not the strongest person in competitions, but I like to practice and to get stronger."

Asked whether she thinks she can compete against younger up-and-coming skaters, or returning Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim, Kostner replied that she did not like comparisons.

"I respect every competitor for the work he or she does and I do not compete against anybody special," she said. "I have a lot to fight with myself and I do not want to waste energy to compare myself with others."

Italy's second skater, Valentina Marchei, who trains in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, is third with 58.22 points. Marchei skated a clean program with seven good elements, including a triple Lutz-double toe and a solid Salchow.

"Everything went as planned today and I am very pleased," Marchei said. "During the warm-up I was nervous, but I am happy it did not affect the program. Franca Bianconi, who coaches me here, put me back on my feet. Tomorrow I will start from zero and will not think about the result or [the possibility of] a medal."

Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who like Sotnikova is 16 and competing in her first European Championships, sits fourth with 57.18 points after completing a double Lutz-triple toe instead of a triple-triple in her tango short program. She also two-footed the landing of her double Axel.

"My triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination didn't work out; I wasn't confident enough going into it," she said. "I love the tango; the passion, that is my style."

Joshi Helgesson, the younger of the two Swedish skating sisters, is fifth with 55.04 points. Her triple Lutz was good, but she stepped out of her triple Salchow-double toe combination. Her older sister Viktoria is sixth with 54.77 points after having the second triple toe of her triple-triple combination judged under rotated, and stepping out of the landing of her triple loop.