Tuktamisheva shines in Skate Canada short

Russian takes 5.07-point lead; Wagner in second

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva has a five-point lead heading into the free skate.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva has a five-point lead heading into the free skate. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford and Alexandra Stevenson, special to
(10/28/2011) - Youth was served in Mississauga today.

Tiny Russian wunderkind Elizaveta Tuktamisheva lived up to her glowing advance billing, hitting a triple Lutz-triple toe combination in her short program at 2011 Skate Canada to take a 5.07-point lead into Saturday's free skate.

"I'm happy to be in the lead," the 14-year-old said through an interpreter. "I didn't know what to expect, but I did a good performance, and I hope to skate well in the free."

A trio of top U.S. ladies -- Ashley Wagner, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu -- is well positioned for the podium, sitting second, third and fifth, respectively.

Making her international senior debut, Tuktamisheva opened her short to a Piazzolla Tango with her triple-triple, worth 11.50 points. It was the only clean triple-triple of the event.

Clad in sophisticated black, the world junior silver medalist followed up with a triple loop and double Axel, and then showed off some stylish spins and steps to earn 59.57 points.

The skater, who is coached by Svetlana Veretennikova and Alexei Mishin, moved up to compete on the Grand Prix circuit after winning both of her Junior Grand Prix events last season and placing second in the Junior Grand Prix Final.

While older skaters have plenty to fear from Tuktamysheva this fall, they can relax later this season. The Russian teen is not eligible to compete at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, due to ISU age restrictions.

"I am just thinking about doing well in the competitions I have," she said. "I am very happy to be at Skate Canada."

Skating with the confidence to match her bright red costume, Wagner turned in a solid performance to music from the Pollack soundtrack.

The 20-year-old, who relocated from Delaware to California this summer to train under John Nicks and Phillip Mills, hit a splashy triple flip-double toe, accentuated with both arms overhead on the second jump. Her second jump, a triple Lutz, had a shaky landing and got an "edge" call from the technical panel, resulting in a minor deduction.

Wagner finished strong with a nice one-foot section in her step sequence and a Level 4 flying sit spin, earning a solid 54.50 points.

"Overall, I'm very satisfied," the skater said. "I would prefer the triple Lutz to not be such a death-defying move, though.

"This was a great kickoff to the Grand Prix season and hopefully tomorrow [the free skate] will be the same."

Wagner said a triple-triple was never in her plan for Skate Canada, adding that she hopes to add it later in the season.

"Mr. Nicks and I are just taking baby steps so far," she said. "Everything is so new."

Flatt shrugged off the stress of her recent move from Colorado Springs to California to deliver a controlled yet emotional performance to East of Eden highlighted by a solid triple flip-double toe and effective steps.

"I'm incredibly excited to have a performance like this at the beginning of the season," Flatt said.

When asked about the many changes in her life -- the move, enrolling in classes and working with her new coaches, Justin Dillon and Lynn Smith -- the skater smiled.

"I'm setting realistic goals," she said. "I have to stay positive. Of course, doing [both] college and skating keeps me a little sleep-deprived, but it also keeps me organized. It's entirely worth it.

"They tell me [college] is the best four years of my life, so why not do everything you like?"

Japanese veteran Akiko Suzuki's elegant short to "Hungarian Rhapsody" placed her fourth despite a subpar triple toe-single loop combination. She earned 52.82 points.

Nagasu's sophisticated and polished Tango short gained strong program components scores, but the skater fell on her triple Lutz. Still, she is well within striking distance of a medal with 52.73 points.

"I learned a lot this past year," she said. "Skating is what I do, not who I am.

"Falling is not a big deal. It's not pleasant, but it's part of skating. Tomorrow is another day, and I live in the moment."