Ice Network

Led by Medvedeva, Russian ladies vault to top

Radionova close behind in second; Pogorilaya lands in podium position
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Despite stepping out of her double axel, Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia spun out to 1.59-point lead over countrywoman Elena Radionova in the short program Wednesday in Bratislava. -Getty Images

If Russia was allowed more ladies entrants for the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships, the country would likely take not only the podium but also the majority of the top finishes as well.

One month after winning the Grand Prix Final, Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva took first place in the short program Wednesday. She amassed 72.55 points to take the lead over teammates Elena Radionova (70.96 points) and Anna Pogorilaya (63.81 points).

"I'm so nervous for Evgenia. She's not been well in recent weeks," her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, said prior to competition.

Medvedeva looked like her normal self, however, and delivered a strong package.

Medvedeva's program to music from Melodies of the White Nights featured a triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple loop. She only tumbled after she landed her double axel. Her program was choreographed to benefit from the highlight distribution rule, as all of her four compulsory jumps were placed in the second half of her program. Her three spins and step sequence were rated Level 4.

It's impossible to get bored watching Medvedeva's program. She and her coach have managed to create a full story around her program and designed her skate around intricate dissociations between the upper and lower parts of her body. Furthermore, she has enhanced its emotional content.

"In each program I skate," she explained, "I want to put (out) emotion, even when I'm training. I also try to relate to the audience."

Medvedeva's components surpassed her competitors' marks, ranging from 8.21 (for transitions) to 8.64 (for interpretation). The consistency of her components undoubtedly reflected the consistency of her performance.

Radionova was the first skater in the last group to take the ice. She opened her performance to "Je t'aime" by Lara Fabian with a solid triple lutz-triple toe combination that almost led her into the boards. She opted to follow with a triple flip (instead of her usual triple loop) and a double axel. All of her three spins were rated Level 4, as was her step sequence. Her components stood between 7.75 points (for transitions) and 8.43 (for performance).

"I'm very pleased with my performance," Radionova said. "I skated to my maximum. I even took the risk to switch from a triple loop to a triple flip. I took a risk, and I'm happy that I could skate all of my difficult (elements) perfectly. I skated a strong program. I think it was one of the best of the season."

Pogorilaya has displayed a strong temperment and fierce will to succeed over previous seasons. This season, her skating has grown in power. The triple lutz in her opening triple lutz-triple toe combination was impressively long and high. She then made a major mistake, however, doubling her planned triple loop. She earned zero points for this element.

"Obviously, I'm not totally pleased with my performance because of my doubled loop, but it felt easy to skate this program here," she said.

Just like her two teammates, she received four Level 4's for her spins and step sequence. Her components remained in the high 7's (7.85 points in average), except for an 8.0 for interpretation.

"Through the years, I have come to learn that you need to train physically but also mentally," she said. "Moving from junior to senior, you have a lot to change. Even the way you're thinking is changing."

Italy's Roberta Rodeghiero, who skated to a third-place finish in the short program of the Trophée Eric Bompard in November, delivered a clean program, including a triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple flip, and she heads to the free skate in fourth place.

"I'm really happy," she said as she left the ice. "My goal coming here was to reach 60 points in the short program, which I had never done. I scored 61.01 points, which is even better.

Now I've worked on most elements I needed to work on, so I feel much better skating it. The more you like a program, the better you'll skate it. I really love my program and the music, the choreography, so I think it shows!"

Sweden's Joshi Helgesson was warmly applauded by the Swedish corner of the rink, which included her famous sister, Viktoria (who retired last season). Helgesson skated a beautiful fifth-place program to "Too Darn Hot" (RAC Mix) by Ella Fitzgerald. She doubled the planned triple toe of her combination.

"I feel I got the best of my program, considering the double toe," she said. "I felt a bit shaky landing the first triple toe, and I know that when the first triple is not good, the second won't be good either, so I settled for a double. Still, I skated well, and the speed was good."