Get to Know Russian Olympic Hope Alina Zagitova

Ann Santiago
February 23, 2018

The two Russians early on February 21 stood in first and second place in the still-ongoing competition for the gold and silver medals in women's figure skating at the Winter Games in South Korea.

Evgenia went first, skating to a program whose theme is just some light clinical death (hey, she's Russian) and set yet another new world record.

For Zagitova, that's meant putting seven triple jumps, two double axels, and a double toe loop in the final two minutes of her four-minute free skate. Like Zagitova, she was 15 when she made her Olympic figure skating debut, and performed an exceedingly hard triple toe loop-half loop-triple salchow combination with just 12 seconds left in her program.

Zagitova, born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics, scored 82.92 points, giving her a 1.31-point lead over Medvedeva going into Friday's free skate.

"The most important thing is to show your best, to give 100% so that the coaches, the judges, the audience and yourself are pleased", Zagitova said of the possibility of winning OAR's first gold of PyeongChang. It was very special and on this dynamic stage and I am happy to skate here.

In 2018 Zagitova began to step out of the shadow of teammate and motivator Evgenia Medvedeva.

Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation have yet to win a gold medal at the games, but both skaters shrugged off the prospect of changing that. She's been seen awaiting scores while holding a plush toy of Luna, Sailor Moon's cat and companion. For her free skate, to Afternoon of a Faun, she may be wearing a spangled green jumpsuit that has already prompted comparisons to Gumby. Team USA did not have a great start to its campaign; both Mirai Nagasu and Bradie Tennell fell during their jumps and are in ninth and 11th positions, respectively.

Medvedeva, 18 years old and unbeatable from November 2015 to January 2018, once looked like an Olympic gold medal super favorite.

There was disappointment for the United States when their men's ice hockey team, missing NHL players after a row over money, crashed out 3-2 in the quarter-finals against the Czech Republic.

Zagitova has come out of nowhere however, only entering global competition a year ago, and going on to win the European Championships in Moscow in January. She'll have to find a way to lay down two ideal programs to make the podium. This is Zagitova's first season competing as a senior (or elite-level) skater.

"I didn't really think that I would be here competing at the Olympic Games", Zagitova commented. Ashley Wagner, a 2014 Olympian and a US alternate in Pyeongchang, tweeted her displeasure while watching Zagitova's performance during the team competition. She uncharacteristically fell on her opening triple-triple combination, which left her with 64.01 points. The 23-year-old picked up silver at the 2017 world championships, breaking the Canadian record in the process. "I'm not very fond of being in the first warm-up [group]".

How good are her jumps?

Americans Nagasu and Tennell wish their recent success could have carried over into the short program.

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