Ice Network

Medvedeva taps into soul to deliver first-place short

Kostner skates clean, sits third in return to Euros; Pogorilaya takes second
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Evgenia Medvedeva was at her best Wednesday, skating a picture-perfect short program that earned the Russian 78.92 points, just shy of the world-record total she posted at the Grand Prix Final last month. The reigning champion at this event will take a sizable 4.53-point advantage into the free skate. -Getty Images

Russia's reigning European and world champion Evgenia Medvedeva proved her domination again, as she delivered yet another flawless performance to take the lead at the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships. She amassed 78.92 points for her short program, only 0.29 behind her personal best but still 4.54 ahead of runner-up Anna Pogorilaya.

Returning to a major championship for the first time in three years, 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner stands in third place with 72.40 points. The third Russian entry, Maria Sotskova, garnered 72.17 points and sits in fourth place entering Friday's free skate.

The top four were the only ones to break the 70-point barrier, and they are far ahead of the rest of the pack. The fifth-ranked skater, France's Laurine Lecavelier, amassed 63.81 points for her short program, putting her 8.36 behind Sotskova.

Medvedeva was, of course, the favorite to win. She landed her triple flip-triple toe combination and double axel with an arm extended over her head, and her triple loop was crystal perfect. Her spins and step sequence were rated Level 4. All seven of her elements received Grades of Execution (GOEs) between +2 and +3, adding more than one point for each. Medvedeva was also the only competitor to land all her three jumps in the second half of her program, which increased their base value even more.

Skating in a bright blue outfit to Lorenzo da Luca's "The River Flows in You," Medvedeva somehow managed to exceed the virtually unreachable standard she has set for herself.

"There are always things to improve," she said afterward. "A jump can be higher. You can rise two arms above your head instead of one -- maybe your feet also!"

Her interpretation has also matured over the season.

"Today, it's not enough to show jumps," she explained. "You have to put your soul into each movement, to transmit an emotion and a story."

Pogorilaya delivered what may be her most masterful short program ever. Not only was it perfect from an athletic standpoint, but it was also inspired and emotional. She landed a triple lutz-triple toe, a triple loop and a double axel. She gained Level 4's on her spins and steps, just like Medvedeva. Her components were slightly lower, however, as she earned 34.69 points on that side of her score compared to 36.92 for Medvedeva.

Skating to Scent of a Woman, Pogorilaya seemed to muse with her music and displayed a balanced package, making each one of her elements a special part of the story she was telling.

"I'm happy to have skated a clean and emotional program," she said at the post-event press conference. "We worked a lot on both sides, the athletic side and the emotion side as well. Nationals was a tough competition, so I suppose it helped me master the program even better. In fact, I think that the focus is more on jumps at the moment, and on clean programs. That's what we try to do."

Two weeks short of her 30th birthday, and 10 years after she won the first of her five continental crowns, Kostner proved that she was still a part of the world elite. Being a comebacker, Kostner took the ice quite early, in seventh position (out of a field of 34). She appeared as elegant as ever, in her light-to-dark-brown outfit. She focused throughout her program, landing all her elements perfectly, from a triple toe-triple toe combination to a triple loop to a double axel. Her step sequence was rated Level 4, as was her camel spin. Her components ranged from 8.61 (for transitions) to 9.11 (for interpretation), the second best of all competitors.

Kostner introduced her new self in the manner of a modern dancer, with unusual choreography featuring broken bodylines and sharp moves. The crowd was not so big at the time she skated, just before noon, but the acclaim she received was. She remained in first place for a total of 3 hours, 23 minutes!

"I'm very pleased about my short program today. I've started my journey not so long ago, and that proved me right, as the joy I received was a lot bigger than the nervousness I had to go through," she explained with her usual humble smile.

Maria Sotskova also landed all her jumps: triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and double axel. The latter two were landed in the second part of her program, and her spins and steps were rated Level 4. Competition after competition, Sotskova has managed to increase both her elements and components in quite a discrete yet efficient way. Her technical mark of 39.66 was just 0.21 points behind Pogorilaya's.

"I'm pleased with my performance, as this was my debut at the European championships," she said as she left the ice. "I feel that I have improved a lot since last season. I changed coaches and (training) atmosphere, and I understand more and more what I'm skating for. That makes me work so hard, and I come exhausted (out) of every single practice session. But I know what my goals are.

"Also, I must say that I'm really excited for tomorrow's practice and Friday's free program, as I will be skating on the same ice as Carolina Kostner. She has always been my favorite skater," Sotskova concluded.

Lecavelier delivered a technically perfect and emotionally engaging program to Ludovico's Einaudi's "Experience," which she dedicated to her deaf sister, adding a few words of sign language to the choreography.

"The music came with my playlist," she explained. "It made me cry, and I knew right away that I would skate my short program to it. Then a dancer friend told me that it reminded her of sign language. It then became so obvious. We worked a lot with Fabian [Bourzat] (Lecavelier's choreographer) and with my sister, to express it as well as possible on the ice."

Lecavelier landed a triple lutz-triple toe (a first for her at this level), a triple loop and a double axel, and ended her program with a few signs.

"They mean, 'But you can hear silence,'" she explained.

What she could hear was a great round of applause.