Kamila Valieva began her run-up to the Beijing Olympics in early October by moving to the lower-level Finlandia Trophy, where the 15-year-old Russian superstar broke world records for free skate and total score.
She continued this by breaking those new marks at Skate Canada three weeks later.
And lest anyone think that was enough, Valeeva completed her Grand Prix season in November at the Rostelecom Cup by not only topping her record in the free skate and total program, but also a record in the short program installed. The queen of the quadruple jump finished with 272.71 points, which is better overall this year excluding the world’s four men.
Hard to believe, Valieva, beset by injuries, gave up skating almost three years ago.
It’s not so difficult to project him as the heavy favorite to take Olympic gold next month.
“I just try to do my best. Our whole team works for the result and the rest is not up to us,” Veliva, who also claimed the latest national championship, told Russian sports magazine in a recent interview. Told “Champions”.
In fact, Valieva’s biggest challenge in Beijing may come from her own team.
Known as “The Jumping Fairy”, 17-year-old Alexandra Trusova was the first female skater to land a quad lutz, toloop and flip in international competition. She slowed down from a leg injury last year but still won Skate America, where she beat Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto – one of the few who can challenge Russian dominance – by more than 15 points.
Trusova told Russian media, “I’ve always wanted to do something that no one else does, ever since I was a little girl.” “If it means everyone after me learns to do quads, I’ll do (quintuple jumps).”
The third member of the Russian contingent, 17-year-old Anya Shcherbakova, is the only world champion.
All three Russian skaters work under the watchful eye of Eteri Tutberidze at the Sambo 70 skating club in Moscow, where they tutored Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova and silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva.
“I mean, it’s absolutely incredible what they’re doing, especially their technical elements,” said American skater Karen Chen, who will compete with her in the second Olympics. “It’s no question how amazing it is for someone to do multiple quads and triple axles and things like that. What they’re doing is incredible.”
Chen will be joined in Beijing along with newly crowned US champion Maria Bell and 16-year-old Alyssa Liu, who withdrew from the nationals due to COVID-19 but whose jumping ability puts them among some skaters to rival the Russians. manufactures one.
“None of us have competed yet, and the Olympics haven’t even started yet. I can’t predict how we’re going to do,” Liu said. “I hope we all do really well, just like we want to. But you know — I don’t know how we’re going to do.”
Yuzuru Hanyu has been working on the quadruple axle for years, the 4 1/2-rotation jump that no one has been able to land in a competition. And it could be the key to beating US skater Nathan Chen and winning a third consecutive gold medal.
At its best, Hanyu and Chen are a cut from the rest. But the Japanese have two other contenders in Yuma Kagiyama, who won his Grand Prix assignment at the Grand Premio d’Italia and Internationaleaux de France, and Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno, who won the NHK trophy and finished second in Skate America.
Who defeated Uno there? Vincent Zhou, the American who struggles with dissonance, but can jump like anyone.
Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot broke the dominance of the Russian and Chinese pair at the Pyeongchang Games by giving Germany gold. But there is hope that one of those two powerhouses will regain the top step of the podium in Beijing.
The Russian team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov has been virtually unbeatable, as have their teammates and rivals Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galiamov. The Chinese team of Sui Wenjing and Han Kang won both their Grand Prix assignments and would seek to improve on their silver from Pyeongchang.
France’s Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Cézran are the ice dancing favorites in Beijing, narrowly – and somewhat controversially – after losing the gold medals to Canada’s Tessa Verchure and Scott Moir four years ago.
However, Papadakis and Cesarone are no overwhelming choices, as dance is probably the most widely open discipline at the Beijing Games. Canada’s Piper Gilles and Scott Poirier won their home Grand Prix and finished second behind the French team at the Internationale de France, while Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are the world champions.
Then there are the American teams: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Madison Chalk and Evan Bates, and Caitlin Havec and Jean-Luc Baker. All of them have the potential to land on the podium in Beijing.
The question is not whether the Russians will win gold or not, and which country – perhaps Canada and America – will join them on the podium. If nothing else, the team competition that launched the Olympic figure skating competition could give fans a glimpse of a favorite event for other events.
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