Ice Network

Resurgent Tuktamisheva wins gold at Nebelhorn

Fellow Russian Leonova takes silver; Gold grabs bronze; Bell lands fifth
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva scored a personal-best 192.65 points en route to winning her first senior international event since 2011 Trophée Éric Bompard. -Getty Images

A mature and stylish Elizaveta Tuktamisheva served notice that she intends to be a factor this season, performing a solid free skate and winning the Nebelhorn Trophy by nearly six points over countrywoman Alena Leonova.

U.S. champion Gracie Gold was second in the free skate but had to settle for the bronze medal.

The 17-year-old Tuktamisheva has been limited in recent years by injuries, but she looked healthy Saturday. The student of Alexei Mishin landed six triple jumps, including two Lutzes, in her convincing interpretation of the exotic medley of "Batwannis Beek" by the REG Project and "Sandstorm" by La Bionda. Her spins and step sequences gained many +2 Grades of Execution (GOEs) from the judges, and her program components scores ranged up to 8.75. She won the free skate with 127.91 points and finished with 192.65.

"I am very happy that I could deal with my nerves today," she said. "At the beginning, I was not too satisfied with my performance because there were a few small mistakes. When I saw the marks, I almost cried of joy because they were unexpectedly high."

Tuktamisheva, the 2011 world junior silver medalist, burst onto the senior scene in the fall of 2011, winning two Grand Prix events. By last season, though, she was eclipsed by younger Russian teenagers as well as her contemporary, Adelina Sotnikova.

Now, she thinks she is on the way back.

"Finally, I am first again like in 2011," she said. "My main job now is to get back to the position where I was. If I keep making progress, I will be competitive with the younger ones and can qualify for the international championships."

Alexei Mishin, Tuktamisheva's longtime coach, was busy with student Alexander Petrov, who won the Junior Grand Prix event in Tallinn, Estonia. The skater injected a bit of unintentional, but welcome, humor into the press conference when she was asked how it felt to compete without her estimable mentor by the boards.

"Basically, I prepare myself for a competition, and sometimes it is better not to have too much talk (from Mishin)," she said. "He tried to phone me this morning, but I missed his call."

The elder stateswoman of the Russian ladies at the ripe age of 23, Leonova won the silver medal with 186.71 points. She skated an energetic program with her usual high speed, attempting six triple jumps. Her triple flip-triple toe loop combination, which she tried here for the first time, was not landed cleanly, but most of her other elements were solid.

"I am happy that my program went so well today," Leonova said. "My new combination was even a surprise for my coach, because I did not say that I will try it."

Gold's free skate, choreographed by Lori Nichol, included several selections from The Phantom of the Opera, including a vocal to "Wishing You Were Here." Four of her five triples were clean, but her loop was a bit shaky and she singled the second Lutz. Her step sequences and spins were excellent, and her elegant style helped her gain the highest program components of the event.

"This was my first competition, and it was a great start to the season," Gold, 19, said. "I was pretty nervous because a lot of my practices here were not very good, but I [was happy I] could put out a decent performance today. I left some points on the table, but I am looking forward to my next competition at Skate America."

Australia's Brooklee Han, who trains in Newington, Connecticut, had a strong competition, placing fourth with 149.69 points. Two of her five triple jumps were clean, but two others were under-rotated.

U.S. junior silver medalist Mariah Bell climbed from sixth place after the short to fifth overall with the fourth-best free skate.

Performing to music from the Titanic soundtrack, she landed two triple Lutzes but fell on her first triple flip as well as the second part of her ensuing double Axel-triple toe.

"I know it was a tough field, and I am happy to pull up one spot," said Bell, who trains under Kori Ade in Monument, Colorado.

"I did not know what to expect here, so I am happy with the placement, but my main focus was on the performance. I am very happy because it is a big improvement from last season. Now I am able to pull together a performance even after a mistake."