Ice Network

No doubt: Tuktamisheva wins world title in runaway

Miyahara takes silver, Radionova bronze; Gold, Wagner finish strong
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After all but assuring herself the world crown following a stunning short program, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva cemented her spot atop the world podium with a 132.74-point free skate. The European champion finished with a competition total of 210.36 to become Russia's first world ladies champion in a decade (Irina Slutskaya). -Getty Images

Last February, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva watched the Sochi Olympics on television at her home in St. Petersburg. At age 17, many considered her a has-been. A few years earlier, she had been Russia's rising star, but injuries, coupled with the natural changes of puberty, had relegated her to the sidelines.

Tuktamisheva withdrew from her Grand Prix events in the fall of 2012 with a knee injury and placed 10th at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships. Last season, as the defending champion, she finished 10th at the Russian championships. A foot injury followed, delaying her preparation for this season.

In Shanghai on Saturday, after winning Russia's first world title since 2005, Tuktamisheva thanked her coaches, including primary coach Alexei Mishin, and the Russian skating federation for helping her triumph over her difficulties.

"They believed in me even if I did not believe in myself anymore," she said. "I realized that I am very capable and that this is not the end and that I just have to survive this moment."

In the summer of 2014, Tuktamisheva regained her on-ice form. This season, she competed in an astounding 10 international competitions, winning eight of them. She won the Grand Prix Final and the European championships. Now, at age 18, she has won the world title, and although her free skate was not brilliant, no one can say the crown is undeserved.

Tuktamisheva's free, set to modern Middle Eastern music, opened with a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination. Five clean triple jumps followed (none of which was a triple Axel). Her spins and steps were very good, and her program components averaged around 8.3.

"I am very pleased with my performance and that I was able to put out a decent program," she said. "I am full with emotions now."

When she was asked if she feels like a queen, she laughed.

"No, I don't feel like a queen. I still have to work a lot to be able to feel like that," she said.

Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara, who celebrated her 17th birthday the day of the short program, won the silver medal with 193.60 points. Six of her seven triple jumps were clean, but she nearly fell on her second triple Lutz.

"I feel sorry that I fell on my Lutz, but I am happy to get my best score (ever)," Miyahara said.

Russia's Elena Radionova dropped from second after the short program to third overall with 191.47 points. The 16-year-old, who defeated Tuktamisheva at Skate America and the Russian championships, skated despite suffering from the flu, which affected many skaters in Shanghai.

After opening her free with a shaky triple Lutz, she landed a clean triple flip and triple Lutz-triple toe combination. A couple of other landings later in the program were a bit wobbly, but her closing layback spin was excellent. 

"I made some minor mistakes on my jumps, but this competition gave me a good experience," Radionova said. "I had a fever before the short program, but thank God today I did not have a fever, (although) after the illness I still felt a bit of a weakness."

The three U.S. ladies, all of whom train in California, placed fourth, fifth and eighth. Those placements guarantee the U.S. three ladies spots for the 2016 World Championships in Boston, but the medal drought did continue: No U.S. lady has landed on the world podium since 2006.

Gracie Gold, eighth after the short, performed the second-best free skate of the event and finished fourth overall with 188.96 points.  

Skating to "Phantasia" and a selection from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, she opened with a strong triple Lutz-triple toe combination, followed by a double Axel-triple toe. She landed two more clean triples later in the program, but she faltered on her triple flip and second triple Lutz.

All of her spins, particularly her layback, were excellent. Her program components ranged up to 8.75 points, with an average around 7.9.

"That is what I had trained for: to come here and do my job for myself, Frank [Carroll] (her coach) and the United States," Gold, 19, said. "After a rough short program, it's tough to come out with your guns blazing.

"It was a good feeling to skate a great program," she continued. "I've been very consistent, so I knew that I have to bend my knees and take my breath, and skate the program like I do at practice."

U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, 11th after the short, skated the third-best free of the day and ended up fifth with 185.01 points. She began with an excellent double Axel, which gained one GOE (Grade of Execution) of +3, followed by a triple Lutz-triple toe combination in which the toe was judged under-rotated.

Five more triple jumps followed, three of which were clean. Her interpretation of songs from Moulin Rouge was quite strong, giving her the second-highest program components in the field, with an average of 8.1 points.  

"Today was a huge accomplishment for me," Wagner said. "It might sound silly, because I'm 23 years old, but I'm still learning in this sport. I was a late bloomer. To go out there under such immense pressure, to redeem myself in a way -- that's something I'm very proud of.

"If anybody looks at my track record, this season has had a lot of ups and downs," she continued. "Last year, I got the technique, and now I'm working on the mental side of it."

Wagner spoke about Tuktamisheva, who in Shanghai became the fourth woman (after Midori Ito, Tonya Harding and Mao Asada) to land a triple Axel at the world championships.

"She is someone who came on to the scene very young and then disappeared for a bit," she said. "I admire her so much for coming back and bringing a whole new level of difficulty to the sport. Triple Axels will be mandatory (for ladies) before we know it."

Polina Edmunds, seventh after the short, placed eighth overall. She opened her Peter Pan program with a good triple Lutz-triple toe combination and added three more clean jumps, but three others were deemed under-rotated.

"I'm feeling happy that I skated a clean program," Edmunds, 16, said. "It could have been a little stronger, for sure. I'm happy that I fought through all of my elements. I'm kind of disappointed in my score. I feel it was low for what I executed. But I'll keep working and be better and better every year."

Shanghai slings: The ISU Council decided that next season's Grand Prix Final will again be held in Barcelona, Spain, as it was this season. The event will take place December 10-13. ... Russia and Japan, in addition to the U.S., earned three ladies spots for the 2016 World Championships.