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Diminutive Radionova outshines field at Nebelhorn

Ando wins silver in return; Team USA's Cain takes home bronze
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Reigning world junior champion Elena Radionova of Russia proved she is a major threat on the senior level, capturing the gold by 25.35 points over Japan's Miki Ando. -Getty Images

Elena Radionova, a 14-year-old sprite from Moscow who won the world junior title six months ago, served notice to her elders with a 25.35-point victory at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy.

The tiny skater showed off her warm, engaging personality in a free skate to a rumba and samba medley, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and five other triple jumps, including a sequence of triple loop-single loop-triple Salchow. Her only serious mistake was a fall on the double Axel, but she quickly got up with smile intact. 

Radionova's spins, among the best in the world, were rewarded with Level 4's, and eight of the nine judges gave her a +3 grade of execution (GOE) for her layback spin. She earned 123.52 for her free skate and finished with 188.21 points.

"This competition was new for me because it was my first senior [event]," she said. "I did not expect this result; therefore, I am really pleased.

The support of the audience was great and Oberstdorf is such a nice and quiet place. When I come to the rink I like to walk through the village and see the mountains around me." 

Two-time Japanese world champion Miki Ando won silver with 162.86 points, a successful first step in her comeback after not competing for two-and-a-half years.

Skating to Igor Stravinsky's Firebird, she performed an elegant program with four different triples and two double Axels, but struggled on easy spins that gained just Levels 1 and 2. It was only the fourth-best free skate program, but her carryover score from the short program kept her in second place. 

"I really felt strong and happy today in my free program," said the 25-year-old Ando, who brought her six-month-old daughter Himawari with her to Oberstdorf. "I am excited to come back and see all the competition skaters and not just the show skaters."

Ando made it clear that her goal was to qualify for her third Olympics in Sochi in February. She placed 15th in 2006 and 5th in 2010.

"This competition means a lot to me because I passed the minimum scores which I need if I want to compete in the Olympics again," she said. "I know I was not very good today; some elements were weak, but I am looking forward to train harder in the next few months to get in the top three in my country again and to qualify for Sochi. I promised everyone to get in top shape again, and I hope to keep this promise."

"I felt the sympathy of the audience, especially of the many Japanese people who came to Oberstdorf to support me," she continued.

Texan Ashley Cain made a good international senior debut, finishing third with 162.39 points, only 0.47 points behind Ando. She defeated Ando in the free skate.

After a fall on the opening triple Lutz, Cain did five more triples in her "Ave Maria" program, but two flips were under-rotated. Her dynamic step sequence was her best element and gained two +3 GOEs from the judges.

"Tonight was a dream come true for me because wining a medal in your first senior competition is special," Cain said. "My expectation was to put out a good program, and I did that here. This medal puts my name out there on the senior circuit. I will take away a lot of confidence for the future."

Cain applauded Ando's comeback performance.

"I had been looking up to Miki since I was very little," she said. "It was exciting to compete with her here." 

Skating to selections from Funny Girl, Canada's Veronik Mallet was fourth with 159.67 points. She said she looked forward to competing for one of Canada's two Olympic ladies spots for Sochi.

Brooklee Han of Australia had a solid skate to place fifth with 147.16 points.

Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili was sixth with 144.80 points, despite several mistakes in her free skate. Both she and Han earned Olympic ladies spots for their respective countries.

The following skaters also gained spots in Sochi for their countries:

1. Norway's Anne Line Gjersem

2. Austria's Kerstin Frank

3. Czech Republic's Elizaveta Ukolova

4. Brazil's Isadora Williams

First substitute for a spot is Lithuania. Juulia Turkkila of Finland had a relatively strong free skate and moved up to 14th place, but only qualified Finland as the second substitute. Therefore, the injured Kiira Korpi, a two-time European bronze medalist, will not compete in Sochi unless two other countries give up Olympic ladies spots.