Alina zagitova evgenia medvedeva

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Alina Zagitova admits battle to keep up with young training partners | Olympic Channel

Just eight months after adding the world title to her Olympic gold medal, Alina Zagitova has reached a career crossroads.

The 17-year-old Russian has had to watch as her three younger training partners – Alexandra Trusova, Anna Shcherbakova, and Alena Kostornaia – sweep all before them in their first senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating campaign.

The jumps which took Zagitova to gold at PyeongChang 2018 have been eclipsed by the trio, and she admits she needs to do something different.

Speaking after finishing a distant second to Kostornaia at the Internationaux de France, Zagitova told reporters that quadruple jumps were not on the agenda just yet, instead focussing on improving the artistic content of her routines.

“For now, I can’t skate like Carolina Kostner yet. But I’m working at it.” – Alina Zagitova

Former world champion and Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Kostner is recognised as one of the most graceful skaters of recent times, regularly receiving high Program Component Scores (PCS).

Alina Zagitova during her free skate at the 2019 Internationaux de FranceAlina Zagitova during her free skate at the 2019 Internationaux de France

The struggle to keep pace

The past two years have been nothing short of a whirlwind for Zagitova.

At PyeongChang 2018, she edged out Evgenia Medvedeva to become Olympic champion three months ahead of her 16th birthday.

The next season saw her beaten in the Grand Prix Final by Rika Kihira and finish only fifth in the Russian nationals where Shcherbakova took victory from Trusova and Kostornaia.

Zagitova bounced back to become world champion in March, but the three first-year seniors – who all train with her under Eteri Tutberidze – have won all five of the Grand Prix events so far this season.

Kostornaia is the only one of the three who does not perform quads, although she did land two triple Axels in beating Zagitova by 20 points in Grenoble.

📰 Teen sensation Kostornaia grabs gold on Grand Prix debut 🇷🇺🥇
🔗 https://t.co/zHIzoSrYBr
#⃣ #GPFigure #FigureSkating pic.twitter.com/c9KnwqUjR8

— ISU Figure Skating (@ISU_Figure) November 2, 2019

She even sympathised with the Olympic champion’s position, saying, “There are two ways to succeed: either you skate like Carolina Kostner, who takes your heart and each move is perfect. The other way is to do what the young girls are doing.”

But Zagitova, who meets Kostornaia again at the NHK Trophy, says she is not ready to attempt quads yet.

“Quads are too dangerous for me for the time being. I will need to prepare for them physically and mentally. I will also need to lose some weight, something like 3kg, to decrease the risk of injuries.”

“If it’s really necessary for me to land a quad, I may train for landing one. But it will be difficult. It won’t be a quad Salchow or a quad toe, though, as they wouldn’t be the easiest for me.” – Alina Zagitova speaking after the Internationaux de France

While Medvedeva was seen as the more artistic of the two in PyeongChang, Zagitova’s choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz believes she is up to the task of raising her PCS scores and becoming more competitive.

He told NBC Sports, “Alina is a really beautiful skater. She is amazing. When we make a program, she always makes something bigger than a program.

“She always comes up with new ideas: ‘Why don’t we do this?’ ‘Why wouldn’t we try that?’ She is such an artist.”

Daniil Gleikhengauz with Alina Zagitova and Eteri Tutberidze in the kiss and cry at PyeongChang 2018Daniil Gleikhengauz with Alina Zagitova and Eteri Tutberidze in the kiss and cry at PyeongChang 2018

But Gleikhengauz admits Zagitova faces an uphill struggle in the future simply due to timing.

“When Alina was younger, no one thought of quads for ladies. She learned the most difficult jumps of that time.

“Then we asked ourselves, ‘What’s next?’ We thought that maybe quads would be coming up, and we taught quads to the newcomers. They learned harder jumps.

“Learning a quad is a question of mentality. When you are 11 or 13, you’re falling every day, as you are learning triple jumps. Then you master them. You start learning triple Axels and quads – and again you fall, fall, fall. And then you master them and you don’t fall anymore.

“The current generation will learn quads and land them for several years. Quads will be there for 10 to 15 years. So those girls who are mastering quads will have many more years.” – Zagitova’s choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz speaking to NBC Sports

Alina Zagitova (OAR) – Gold Medal | Women’s Free Skating

The women’s single free figure skating competition was held at the Gangneung Ice Arena on 23 February 2018.

Role reversal

Having arrived on the scene as the most technically adept skater, Zagitova now finds herself playing catch-up.

She said, “I also was one of these junior skaters who did all their jumps with a hand above their heads.

“I was one who did their jumps in the second half of their program, because it gave you more points. I was even the first one to land a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, also in the second half.

“Rules have changed since, what can I do?” – Alina Zagitova

Zagitova did find time to praise the new crop of skaters, including her training partners, world silver medallist Elizabet Tursynbaeva and US champion Alysa Liu, saying, “I think that those girls who do quads are great.”

But she knows that unless things change quickly, she may be unable to defend her world title in March in Montreal with a maximum of three skaters permitted per nation.

The relationship between Russian figure skater Yevgenia Medvedeva and now former coach Eteri Tutberidze has turned icy, with the coach intimating Medvedeva wanted 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova kept in the junior division last season and held out of the PyeongChang Olympics.

Medvedeva announced Monday she will be coached by Brian Orser. More on that here.

Zagitova and Medvedeva went one-two in PyeongChang, with Zagitova rising in the two months before the Winter Games to supplant the returning-from-injury Medvedeva, who had won the previous two world titles and gone undefeated for two years.

Zagitova, in her first senior international season, became the second-youngest Olympic singles champion after Tara Lipinski.

Tutberidze, who coached both skaters, shared a conversation she had with Medvedeva in PyeongChang in this Russian TV interview.

“There was this really childish phrase: ‘Couldn’t you have kept Alina in the juniors for one more year?’” Tutberidze said, according to an Associated Press translation. “I said … we have to give everyone the same chance.”

Medvedeva declined to comment on the exchange later Monday, according to R-Sport. An image was shown on the broadcast of Tutberidze’s text messages to Medvedeva that went unreturned.

“Rumors had been circulating, of course, and I had been writing by that time, but I hadn’t received any answers to my texts, and she wasn’t answering my phone calls,” Tutberidze said, according to a TASS translation. “That’s why I realized had left us when I heard it on Channel One news.”

Medvedeva, now 18, started training under Tutberidze at age 7. She became world junior champion in 2015 and world senior champion in 2016 and 2017.

She went undefeated for more than two years — the longest streak in women’s singles since Katarina Witt in the 1980s — and looked primed for Olympic gold in PyeongChang before being sidelined by a foot injury last fall.

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Alina Zagitova vs. Evgenia Medvedeva: Teenage Russian Figure Skating Phenoms to Skate for Gold

If you think Evgenia Medvedeva will cruise to the Olympic gold medal in figure skating, think again.

Medvedeva’s 15-year-old training partner, Alina Zagitova, proved she can challenge for the gold. Zagitova won the team event free skate by 20 points on Monday, scoring only 2.38 points short of Medvedeva’s record.

That should set up a tantalizing all-Russian contest for the women’s gold on Feb. 21 and 23. Still, Zagitova swears there’s no rivalry with Medvedeva, who broke her own record in the team short on Sunday.

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“Zhenya congratulated me, and I congratulated her yesterday,” Zagitova said, referring to Medvedeva by her Russian nickname. “We’ve really bonded during these competitions.”

As Zagitova finished her “Don Quixote” themed long program, Medvedeva applauded her warmly, as did American skater Adam Rippon.

Both Russians have been wide-eyed at their first Olympics, each saying they expected the Olympic Village to be, well, more of a village.

“To be honest, I thought they’d be little houses,” Zagitova said of the gray tower blocks.

Zagitova said she was nervous for Monday’s skate, but the pressure will be less for the individual competition.

“In the team you’re not just responsible for yourself, but for the whole team, the whole result. But in the individual, it’s just you,” she said. “Psychologically, you need to be calm about it, like any other competition.”

The Russians train together under coach Eteri Tutberidze, who also coached team event gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya — also 15 at the time — at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. On that occasion, Lipnitskaya failed to medal in the individual competition as Russian teammate Adelina Sotnikova won gold.

But both Medvedeva and Zagitova have demonstrated a level of consistency that Lipnitskaya never quite managed.

Since moving up from juniors in the summer, Zagitova has won the Grand Prix Finals, plus the Russian and European titles. Medvdeva was on an unbeaten run stretching over two years and including two world titles until Zagitova beat her at the European championships last month — though back then Medvedeva was still recovering from a foot injury which she now says is fully healed.

Potential rivals like Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy have been far behind on scoring and would likely need major slip-ups from both Russians.

Technically, Zagitova and Medvedeva aren’t representing Russia at the Pyeongchang Games. Instead, they’re “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — part of the country’s punishment for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. While skaters don’t wear national uniforms, whoever wins individual gold will accept the medal in an International Olympic Committee-approved neutral red tracksuit as the Olympic anthem plays.

“Obviously there’s not a great attitude to us, but even though they’re tracking us very carefully, we are fulfilling all the IOC demands,” Zagitova said.

The Russian duo are now heading to Japan to train away from the Olympic Village before returning to South Korea to compete against each other.

“I do everything in training well, all the elements,” Zagitova said. “So why can’t I do that in competition, too?”

Watching a fellow human jump into the air, spin three times and land on a thin piece of steel—all the while balancing on slippery ice—is an awe-inspiring experience.

Figure skaters execute their routines so elegantly, they make it look easy—an illusion that quickly dissolves with our own trepid first step in an ice rink. Clinging to the side walls for dear life, feet stinging from the awkward display of ice walking, first-time ice skaters can barely skate in a straight line, let alone balance on one foot. Although it may seem Olympic figure skaters have befriended the ice gods and coaxed the laws of physics to work in their favor, what they have really done is rewire their brains to suppress their reflexes.

If one tilts one’s head backward far enough, the body’s reflexes will kick in. Neurons that are responsible for firing when the brain senses the body is off-balance will set off a cascade of signals from the inner ear to the brain stem, then to the spinal cord and finally to the muscles that tell the body to lurch forward for the save. In sports like figure skating, the body is frequently in such unlikely positions. So how do skaters convince their brains that it’s totally okay the body is halfway to a face-plant?

According to researchers, practice can lead to new maps of neurons in the cerebellum, an area in the back of the brain. So when the skater moves into a position anticipated by the cerebellum, it fires neurons to cancel out reflex signals that would interfere with the desired movement. If someone is slipping on ice and someone else is deliberately jumping, “they might be moving through the world in exactly the same way,” says Kathleen Cullen, a neuroscientist at John Hopkins University who in 2015 showed this brain mechanism in an experiment with monkeys. In one case, you want your reflexes to work; in the other, you don’t. The brain learns to quell reflexes when there’s a match between what it expects and what actually happens, she says.

Skaters are also masters at avoiding dizziness. Here again, their brains have learned to subdue a reflex—this time in the eyes. As we move about the world, our eyes automatically move to compensate for slight head movements so we can stare at the same point in space. Normally, if we spin around in an office chair and suddenly stop, we feel like we’re still moving. That’s because fluid in the inner ear responsible for detecting movement continues to whirl around due to inertia, making your brain think it’s still in motion. Because your eyes continue moving to correct your view, you feel dizzy. According to Cullen, what a skater’s brain learns to do—through a similar mechanism in the cerebellum—is to ignore the false sense of motion at the end of a spin and greatly reduce that eye reflex.

Training the brain takes time, and that’s why “it’s only practice that makes perfect,” says Rui Costa, a neuroscientist at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute who also studies the neuroscience of movement. When you look at how seamless most of these routines are, he says, “I mean, it’s just amazing.” For proof that the brain is continuously working and calibrating itself to help the body adapt to new motions and environments, just step out of the rink after some time skating. The ground will feel weird, as if your brain expects it to be made of ice.

Get Inspired: How to get into ice skating

How do I start?

If you’re a beginner you can check out Skate UK, – a 10-stage programme to help get you started.

But what is it?

There’s figure skating and speed skating – sports you may have seen at the Winter Olympics. But skating doesn’t have to be competitive. You can put on a pair of skates (which you can hire at rinks) and start gliding across the ice. It’s best to make sure you can skate in a straight line before you attempt jumps and turns.

Is it for me?

Ice skating is for anybody and easy to learn, whether you just want a bit of fun with friends or are serious about joining a team.

What to expect when I get there?

  • If you haven’t skated before, you might be scared of taking a fall on the ice. But don’t worry, most people will take a tumble at some point and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your balance will improve.
  • There’s an emphasis on quick foot movement and supple knees, so you’ll also improve your flexibility.
  • The focus on lower-body movement will help build leg muscles.
  • Concentration is key, so ice skating can be mentally stimulating.
  • You can start young – Skate Tots is a training programme for pre-school children to enjoy.
  • Inclusive Skating is an organisation that is striving to make ice skating accessible, and they have devised a scoring system that allows disadvantaged skaters to compete alongside able-bodied competitors.

To get you in the mood …

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Christie teaches Williams to speed skate

All clubs need a chair, secretary and treasurer to help things run smoothly as well as officials, coaches and judges. Whatever role you’re interested in, Join In has opportunities to volunteer in your area.

Are you inspired to try ice skating? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired, visiting us on Facebook or email us on [email protected]

If you ever skated on a frozen lake, surrounded by beautiful nature, you may know what the feeling of freedom and speed is. But skaters from Sweden, Henrik Trygg, and Mårten Ajne are experiencing more than this; they’re the enthusiasts of skating on very thin ice.

Last December freelance photographer Trygg filmed his friend Marten Ajne skating on a freshly frozen lake outside of Stockholm. In this short film, the skater glides across the surface as his weight cracks the ice, producing a sound unlike any other. The style they employ is Nordic skating, a long distance ice skating on lakes and skaters usually cover from 50 to 100 kilometers a day.

“I have been skating for 25 years, I started out with some climbing friends, just to get some more adventure on home turf during the long dark winters!” Trygg told Bored Panda. He also published two books about Nordic ice skating and many articles for different magazines. “So maybe you can call me winter activities professional,” Trygg said.

Trygg explained that so-called black ice is a phenomenon when the ice is new, pristine and barely holds for to skate on it.

“The reward is to hear it singing, bending and cracking without falling through. It’s not so dangerous when you know what you’re doing and have the right equipment and know how to use it.” Trygg explained. “We fall through at least a couple of times every winter, but that’s not so dramatic, because you’re up pretty quickly and also we have dry clothes with us, so we can continue skating.” the photographer elaborated on possible obstacles on and how they overcome them.

But how so that the skaters do not fall through the ice? Trygg quotes the skater Mårten Ajne: “Three-dimensional stress-distribution prevents the ice-cover from breaking. the same principle as for an arch or a dome.”

“The skater’s weight causes the ice to bend like an arch. Even if a crack forms, the compressive force from the surrounding ice laterally pushes the separation together” Trygg added.

Watch the video below and listen to the amazingly weird sounds of ice!

More info: Henrik Trygg

Skaters from Sweden, Henrik Trygg and Mårten Ajne, are enthusiasts of skating on very thin ice

Last December Trygg filmed Marten skating on a freshly frozen lake outside of Stockholm

Nordic skating is a long distance ice skating on lakes and skaters usually cover from 50 to 100 kilometers a day

The skater glides across the surface as his weight cracks the ice, producing a sound unlike any other

Trygg has been skating for 25 years and has already published two books about Nordic ice skating

“The reward is to hear it singing, bending and cracking without falling through” says Trygg

The so-called black ice is a phenomenon when the ice is new, pristine and barely holds for to skate on it

“The skater’s weight causes the ice to bend like an arch. Even if a crack forms, compressive force from the surrounding ice laterally pushes the separation together”

Watch the video and listen to the sound of ice

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This Video Of Evgenia Medvedeva’s Free Skate Is Literally Flawless & I Can’t

Hello and welcome to another article where I’m just basically going to drool over the incredible grace and athletic ability of an Olympic figure skater and probably work in some self-deprecation. Evgenia Medvedeva is the 18-year-old Russian skater competing her heart out against her biggest rival (and teammate), Alina Zagitova, in the 2018 Winter Games. If you didn’t know her before, you will now. Tonight, in Evgenia Medvedeva’s free skate video, you can see that this athlete from Russia is literally flawless.

Listen, this girl is a powerhouse. In her short program on Wednesday, Feb. 21, the announcers basically sh*t their pants watching her skate. They threw around phrases like, “different from anybody we’ve seen,” “nothing phases this girl,” “absolutely breathtaking,” and “this is an Olympic champion in the making.” Medvedeva killed it, earning herself a final score of 81.61. For a brief moment, it was the highest score in a female figure skating short program of all time. The world stood still.

Just minutes after Medvedeva slayed, her teammate and rival Alina Zagitova took the ice, and suddenly, all bets were off. Though Medvedeva has been the frontrunner for the Olympic championship, 15-year-old Zagitova sort of came out of nowhere and quickly caught up. According to Vox, Medvedeva was undefeated in the figure-skating circuit until Zagitova pulled ahead of her in the 2018 European Championships. Then, in the 2018 Olympic short program, Zagitova bested Medvedeva by 1.31 points, with a final score of 82.92.

What the actual… ?

On Friday, Feb. 23, Medvedeva came to right that wrong.

Take a look at her incredible performance.

You can see a full video of the performance on NBC Olympics.

Amazingly, as stunning as it was, it wasn’t enough to win gold — but only because her friend and fellow athlete was better. Though both Medvedeva and her teammate Alina Zagitova took home the same score of 156.65 from the free skate, Zagitova’s 82.92 from the short program put her just 1.31 points ahead — but it was enough to give her the gold, while Medvedeva went home with silver.

In 2017, Medvedeva spoke candidly with the International Skating Union about how she felt about the pressure from her fans and home country going into the Olympics. She said,

I don’t see it as pressure. During the Grand Prix, a whole lot of people did not sleep at night, they stayed up to watch it live. I didn’t think that a fan, sitting in front of the TV and watching me says ‘You have to (win)! If you don’t do it, you don’t need to come home’. That would be pressure. I think that the real figure skating fans are sharing the excitement with their athletes, they want them to get onto the podium and to skate clean, and this is support. The people are watching, they are rooting for you and they put into the skating of their athletes a little part of their soul and that gives us strength.

Ok, but what about her relationship with Zagitova? In a press conference after the short program, the girls had an opportunity to discuss their friendship. Medvedeva said,

We are humans, we communicate as usual, we are friends, we are girls, young girls. We can talk about everything to each other… When we take the ice this is sport and we must fight. In every competition I feel like a little war. This is sport, this is war. We must show our best, no matter if you are nervous or not. When you take the ice you are alone. Yes, your friend is competing here, but you have to fight.

And fight they did. Congratulations to both women on their extraordinary performances!

Erin Jackson is an inline skating world medalist and roller derby MVP. She dreamed of skating in the Olympics, but to do that, she had to get on ice. She took her first steps on a long-track course in 2016 and started training professionally in September 2017. Four months later, she qualified for the Olympic Winter Games. Check out Elite Daily Insights’ video on Jackson’s incredible story:

A Figure Skater Turned Comedy Writer’s Guide to the Olympics Ladies Free Skate Competition

Thursday night’s ladies’ free skate is shaping up to be one of the greatest face-offs in Olympic history. 20 years after the Nagano Olympics, I feel like I’m witnessing the rivalry between Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski all over again, except this time the rivals are Russian and I’m old enough to down a bottle of wine while watching.

In 1998, Michelle Kwan was seen as the favorite heading into the Olympics, but her dreams of gold were spoiled by the shriek-worthy excellence of a 15 year-old challenger, Tara Lipinski. This year, Evgenia Medvedeva is sitting in that Michelle Kwan spot. For years, the 2018 Olympics were seen as Medvedeva’s to lose. Many have already called her, at the age of 19, the greatest skater of all time. Medvedeva is a two-time World Champion, and was undefeated in competition for over two years. In October, however, Medvedeva suffered a fracture in her right foot, and was forced to withdraw from several events. Suddenly, the impossible seemed possible. We had proof that Evgenia Medvedeva was human.

At the same time, a new star was on the rise: 15 year-old Alina Zagitova. Last season’s Junior World Champion, Zagitova moved up to the senior level this year and won every one of her Grand Prix assignments, including the Grand Prix Final (which Medvedeva sat out due to injury). Then, at the European Championships a month ago, Medvedeva and Zagitova finally went head-to-head. And much to the shock of the skating world, Alina Zagitova won. Suddenly, the Olympics were a two-horse race. Okay, “horse” isn’t exactly the right comparison for these tiny teens, but “two-bird race” doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s take a second to look at each of these Russian phenoms individually before examining at the poor unfortunate souls competing for bronze:

Evgenia Medvedeva (Olympic Athletes from Russia)

Evgenia Medvedeva of  Russia competing in free dance at Gangneung Ice Arena , Gangneung, South Korea Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Day 13, Gangneung, USA – 21 Feb 2018 Ulrik Pedersenmdash;CSM/REX/

The combination of artistry and athleticism in Evgenia Medvedeva’s skating is almost unmatched in the history of the sport. Technically, she’s brilliant; the way she completes jumps with her arms over her head is almost a brag, as if to say, “These jumps were getting too boring, I had to make them harder or I’d fall asleep.” Artistically, she’s so wonderfully expressive that she draws in the entire audience with a single movement. You can’t tear your eyes away from her. It’s not just that you’re not checking your phone while she skates; Medvedeva makes you forget that you ever owned a phone.

In the Olympic short program, Medvedeva skated flawlessly to the music of Chopin and set a new world record. She must have breathed a huge sigh of relief, “Surely THAT will keep the little jumping bean off my tail!” It was like that moment in a Halloween film where Jamie Lee Curtis is certain that she has finally killed Michael Myers, despite having absolutely no proof. You can guess what happened next; Alina Zagitova set a new world record, toppling Medvedeva’s by 1.31 points. Now, Medvedeva must come from behind to fulfill her destiny of winning. By no means would I count her out. She has more international experience than Zagitova and her program component scores are the gold standard. I’m very worried though, because Medvedeva will be skating to Anna Karenina for her long program. I’m sweating over the idea that this music choice could be unintentionally symbolic if Medvedeva becomes a tragic Russian heroine herself, crushed by an unstoppable oncoming force. Okay, that was a bit much. Zagitova isn’t a train. But you get the point. This could be a rough night for Medvedeva.

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Read more: The Most Exciting Events to Watch Before the 2018 Winter Olympics End

Alina Zagitova (Olympic Athletes from Russia)

Alina Zagitova of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes in the Figure Skating Team Event on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea on February 12, 2018. Xin Li—Getty Images

Alina Zagitova is peaking at the exact right moment. And while I’m trying my hardest not to make this Russian rivalry into an All About Eve narrative, Alina isn’t helping me out with her music choices. She literally skated to a medley of Black Swan (the story of a ballerina driven mad by the threat of being usurped) and Moonlight (a movie that won Best Picture over the presumed frontrunner). The symbolism is right there! Am I the only one seeing this or has my lust for strong female rivalries driven me mad? Alina’s short program broke the world record for a reason; her presentation was electric, her jumps were fearless, in every moment she was fully alive.

If you thought Zagitova’s short program was impressive, get ready for her free skate to Don Quixote. Alina is pulling off a mathematical trick to increase her score that reminds me of something out of an Air Bud movie – the flustered referee throwing his hands in the air while a dog slam dunks, “Technically there’s nothing against it in the rules!” In skating, a 10% bonus is added to the value of any jump that is completed in the second half of a program. And this bonus has a valid reason; landing a jump on tired legs is way more difficult. For years, skaters have put jumps at the end of their programs to milk this bonus for more points. But then Alina had the gall to come along and ask, “What if I did ALL my jumps in the second half?” Some call it an ugly way to arrange a program; others just call it unbalanced. Zagitova essentially kills time with spins and footwork for the first two minutes of her program, before launching into a non-stop jump-a-palooza at the halfway mark. And it kind of… works? Zagitova’s explosive jumps combine with the powerful music to make you feel like you’re watching a human fireworks show. I truly expect the International Skating Union to change the rules to end this sort of strategic back-loading. But for now, I’m kind of tickled that Zagitova is pulling off such a stunt. If she skates cleanly, I really don’t see how she can lose the gold. And with that sentence, my jinx on Alina Zagitova is firmly planted.

The Battle for the Bronze Medal

While Alina and Evgenia duel for gold, it’s up to the rest of the field to battle it out for bronze. I guess, mathematically, it’s possible for these skaters to end up winning it all, but only in the way that it’s technically possible for Betsy DeVos to become president in the line of succession.

Kaetlyn Osmond (Canada)

Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada in action during the Women Single Short Program of the Figure Skating competition at the Gangneung Ice Arena during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 21 February 2018. Figure Skating – PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, Gangneung, Korea – 21 Feb 2018 How Hwee Young—EPA-EFE/REX/

Reigning World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond couldn’t have asked for a better skate in the short program, and currently sits in third place. Skating to an Edith Piaf medley, Osmond nailed all her jumps while exuding a flirty sensuality reminiscent of Cyd Charisse. Is that reference too old? For the kids in the audience, Cyd Charisse is sort of like an old-Hollywood Catherine Zeta-Jones. And if you tell me you don’t know who CZJ is, you can stop reading right now because you don’t deserve my insights. Osmond set a new personal best in the short program, but she has struggled with putting together two clean programs in one event. If she can avoid a major disaster in the long, she’s in a solid position here to make it on the podium. And at the end of the day, is there anything more Canadian than doing your best and being happy with your bronze medal? Shout out to Canadian bronze-snatching icon, Joannie Rochette!

Satoko Miyahara (Japan)

Satoko Miyahara of Japan in action during the Women Single Short Program of the Figure Skating competition at the Gangneung Ice Arena during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 21 February 2018. Figure Skating – PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, Gangneung, Korea – 21 Feb 2018 How Hwee Young—EPA-EFE/REX/

Satoko Miyahara was truly living up to her potential in her Memoirs of a Geisha short program. The four-time Japanese national champion has struggled with health issues, so it was a joy to see her execute all her jumps cleanly. Though her choreography was impeccable, there was a bit of an emotional distance between Miyahara and the audience, something she’s going to need to break through to place higher on the international level. While technically she has a shot at gold, Miyahara was depressingly realistic in an interview after the short program. When asked about her chances to make the podium, she replied, “I reckon only about 20 percent. I am not really at the level yet where I can take on the skaters at the top, and it is all I can do to win the battle with myself.” That quote makes me want to grab her by the shoulders, look her in the eyes and say, “Satoko! You. Are. Enough!” On the other hand, Miyahara has a habit of under-rotating her jumps, so I’d say 20 percent is about right. God, she’s so sensible!

Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)

Kaori Sakamoto of Japan in action during the Women Single Short Program of the Figure Skating competition at the Gangneung Ice Arena during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 21 February 2018. How Hwee Young—EPA-EFE/REX/

17 year-old Kaorki Sakamoto is making a splash in her first season on the senior level, winning the Four Continents Championship in January, and defeating Miyahara in the process. Sakamoto’s short program to “Moonlight Sonata” was absolutely entrancing, one of those powerful pieces that reminds you why figure skating forbade lyrics in music until a few years ago (no shade to the Belgian girl who skated to Madonna’s “Frozen”). Although she’s in 5th place heading into the long program, I don’t expect Sakamoto to earn a medal in Pyeongchang. Then again, I thought it was crazy for TIME to put no-shot-at-gold Sarah Hughes on the cover before the 2002 Olympics and she went ahead and won the whole thing. Do not make Vegas bets based on my predictions.

Carolina Kostner (Italy)

Carolina Kostner of Italy competing in free dance at Gangneung Ice Arena , Gangneung, South Korea Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Day 13, Gangneung, USA – 21 Feb 2018 Ulrik Pedersen—CSM/REX/

Artistically, Carolina Kostner is my favorite skater in the world right now. Her short program to Celine Dion’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” is exquisitely choreographed such that every moment strikes you right in the gut. Technically, however, she disappointed in the short program, doubling the second half of a triple-triple combo and putting a hand down on a triple loop. For that reason, Kostner is only in 6thplace heading into the free skate and is going to need some mistakes from the ladies ahead of her to repeat her bronze medal finish from Sochi. That Kostner is still competing with these teenagers is a feat in itself. Carolina Kostner is 31-years-old in a sport that considers 25 year-olds basically Crypt-keepers. You’ll notice that commentators are always calling her “mature” so we don’t forget her age. I understand wanting to give her credit for her longevity, but maybe we should ease up on treating her like she’s Angela Lansbury? On the other hand, when Kostner was Alina Zagitova’s age, Alina Zagitova was being born, so it’s a point worth making. Regardless of how Kostner places, she will remain a legend long after Pyeongchang.

The Americans

AP/;Getty Images

You’re going to have to tune in a little earlier to see the American ladies in this event, because none of them placed high enough to skate in the final group in the long program. Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen, and Bradie Tennell sit in 9th, 10th, and 11th place respectively after a set of shaky short programs.

Of these three, Nagasu has the best chance of jumping up in the standings, as she will be attempting a triple axel in her Miss Saigon long program. When she completed that jump in the team event, she became only the third woman to ever land a triple axel cleanly at the Olympics, helping solidify Team USA’s bronze medal. In the short program, however, she over-rotated the jump and fell badly, leaving her without a realistic shot at a medal.

Karen Chen was the U.S. National Champion last year and placed 4th at the World Championships, but has struggled this season. Perhaps the most complete artist of the three Americans in the event (the other two are more well known for their jumping prowess), Karen choreographed her programs herself, including her beautiful short program to On Golden Pond. Much like Nagasu, Karen made a costly mistake on her first jump and won’t be in the running for the podium.

If I had written this preview before the short program, I would have told you that U.S. National Champion Bradie Tennell is incapable of falling. And then, on her very first jumping pass in the short, Bradie Tennell FELL. If there’s one thing this girl is known for, it’s consistency, but she doesn’t have a ton of international experience yet and it seems the nerves got to her. Skating to Cinderella in the long program, you can tell Bradie wanted this to be her fairy-tale moment, but unfortunately her carriage turned back into a pumpkin well before midnight. Outside of the team event and ice dance, it’s been a rough Olympics for U.S. Figure Skating.

I hope you’re excited for the epic showdown between Zagitova and Medvedeva tonight. It’s all-too-common in our culture to pit women against women and revel in female conflict (see: half the programming on Bravo). But then again, unlike say, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who are only “competing” on an abstract level, Medvedeva and Zagitova are quite literally competing for one thing: an Olympic gold. By all accounts, Medvedeva and Zagitova are training partners and friends. They have the same coach and won the team silver for the Olympic Athletes from Russia together. So fine, I give in, they’re probably rooting for each other… to win silver. See, I can’t help myself! “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

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Alina Zagitova Wins Gold and Evgenia Medvedeva Takes Silver as Russian Women Dominate Olympic Figure Skating

With talent and gamesmanship, the Russian women proved they deserved to be at the top of the Olympic figure skating podium.

There was no doubt as to which country would claim the newest Olympic figure skating queen; the only tension surrounded which skater she would be. Entering the free skate on Thursday night, Alina Zagitova of Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) led the field with a record-setting score after the short program, followed by her training partner and OAR teammate Evgenia Medvedeva.

By the end of the event, Zagitova retained her lead with a total of 239.57 points, followed by Medvedeva for silver and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond for bronze.

And for the U.S. ladies, it was the third Olympics in a row in which they failed to reach the figure skating podium. (Sasha Cohen earned the last Olympic medal, a silver, in 2006).

Alina Zagitova of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes during the Ladies Single Skating Free Skating on day fourteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 23, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Harry How—Getty Images

For a teen at her first Olympics who just earned a gold medal by outskating her older training partner and rival, Zagitova admitted to feeling oddly calm. “I did not quite get the feeling that I won an Olympic gold medal,” she says. “When I learned I came in first I felt very, very happy but also empty inside because for so many years, for 10 years I have been skating and had high moments and low moments, and injuries, and I have gone through all that and finally achieved a gold medal in the Olympics. It’s hard to explain.”

For Medvedeva, it was a bittersweet end to a difficult season that she began as the clear favorite for the top of the podium. After her injury in November, she stopped competing for three months. Would things have turned out differently had she not gotten hurt? “I didn’t think about it, and I don’t want to think about it,” she says. “Because I am living this moment and I don’t want to go back.”

Zagitova emerged on the senior competitive figure skating stage this season, as Medvedeva struggled to recover. The world junior champion in 2017, 15-year-old Zagitova stormed the senior ranks with her consistent and seemingly unstoppable jumping ability, which continued right into PyeongChang. The reason for her mind-boggling scores? She saves all her high-value tricks like jumps for the second half of her routine, where they earn bonus points.

“When I first heard about this I was very nervous and did not know if I can make this right,” she says of the idea of matching the swell of the music and packing all the harder jump elements toward the end of the routine. “But when I first did the clean program then I understood that I can do it.”

The strategy has paid off handsomely for the ballerina-like Zagitova, who says she is named after a Russian gymnast. She’s the current Russian national, European and now Olympic figure skating champion.

In her Don Quixote free skate, Zagitova made a rare error missing the second jump in a two-jump combination, but easily tacked it on to the end of another jump a few seconds later — not an easy thing to do when the jumps come rapid fire one after the other.

Even before the Olympic figure skating competition began, Zagitova seemed to already be looking far beyond the next few hours. While most skaters are struggling to contain nerves and keep focused, to warm up for the main event Zagitova whirled off a string of five triple jumps in a row, her way of laying claim not just to the current Olympics, but most assuredly the next Games as well. To put it in perspective, no men’s or ladies skater tries a triple-triple-triple combination; most three jump series include at least one, if not two, double jumps.

Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva took silver in the women’s single figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. ROBERTO SCHMIDT—AFP/Getty Images

Medvedeva, 18, who dominated international competitions since the 2014 Olympics, trains with the same coach, Eteri Tutberidze, as Zagitova does in Moscow, and has been overshadowed a bit by Zagitova’s rising star over the past few months. Medvedeva does not back-load her programs in the same way as her training partner does; a more lyrical skater, Medvedeva opted for the less challenging triple-triple jump combination in her Anna Karenina free skate, and moved her highest value two-jump combination to the very top of her program where it couldn’t earn the additional points.

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“I have reason now to do higher technical scores and I agree I need higher scores so I will work for it,” she says of upping her technical content to match her almost unreachable components scores that reflect her skating skills, choreography and transitions.

The U.S. ladies stayed where they were after the short, ending the Olympics in ninth, tenth and 11th places with better free skates that still were still strewn with mistakes.

Mirai Nagasu planned a perhaps an overly ambitious nine triple jumps in her four minute program to “Miss Saigon,” including the triple axel. After popping the axel, for which she received no credit since she didn’t complete any rotations, she popped a triple lutz later in the program as well, which cost her valuable points and landed her in 10th place, behind teammate Bradie Tennell.

Nagasu admitted to perhaps giving it all in the team event, for which she helped the U.S. win bronze, and having little left to fuel the individual event over the past few days. “It wasn’t the program that I came here to do. But I delivered when it counted for me and really felt like I skated for the team. I haven’t stopped crying since. I set out to win a medal and I did it.”

Tennell made up for her fall in the short program with her Cinderella routine, but she too showed signs of nerves as she missed a jump combination and had to make up for it later.

Teammate Karen Chen had a fall and stepped out of a jumping sequence and fell to 11th place.

Claiming the top spots on the podium, as the U.S. has done in the past with Olympic medalists like Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen, and Sarah Hughes, may take some rethinking about how to push senior skaters to keep innovating while encouraging young talent to develop. The two feed into each other; if younger skaters see those at the elite levels trying riskier technical and skating skills such as the more difficult triple-triple jump combinations, for example, or even triple axel jumps like Nagasu is doing, then they too will train more high level material and end up raising the level of skating. But if top skaters remain ensconced at the senior level with stagnant skills, then it’s less likely the pipeline of skaters behind them will be motivated to master riskier moves.

It’s something U.S. men’s national champion Nathan Chen noticed as an up and coming skater; at international competitions, he saw his rivals from Japan and Russia trying quadruple jumps, even though no one at home was doing them, and decided he needed to learn them too in order to stand on the international stage.

There’s nothing like competition to push athletes— it certainly worked for Medvedeva and Zagitova, who duel daily when they practice. Competing on Olympic ice was just another training day.

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Figure skating: Defending champion Chen takes strong lead in men’s short program

TOKYO (Reuters) – Defending world champion Nathan Chen of the United States took a commanding lead in the men’s short program at the World Championships on Thursday with a dynamic skate, while home favorite and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu came in third.

ISU World Figure Skating Championships – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – March 21, 2019. China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong in action during the Pairs Free Skating. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Chen, 19 and juggling training with courses at Yale University, produced a series of clean, crisp quad jumps in his playful and energetic routine that brought a rousing reaction from the audience at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena.

“I felt great going up in the air, in the air, felt great and coming down,” said Chen, a three-time U.S. champion who took 107.40 points for a season-best score, outstripping compatriot Jason Brown by more than 10 points.

“At the same time I am really happy with how I skated today. It’s not a reflection of any other skaters, but I’m just happy with the way I skated.”

Brown, 24, was a surprise second with a fluid, clean performance that bucked current trends in men’s skating by not including even one quad jump.

“It feels amazing,” said Brown, who switched coaches this season to join Hanyu and Russian skater Evgenia Medvedeva under Canadian Brian Orser and whose eyes widened when his score, 96.81, came up.

“For my free skating I have the same goals that I had before, I just want to give it a try and I would like to put out another personal best.”

Japanese idol Hanyu, who returned to the ice after a four-month break from competition due to an ankle injury, performed a compelling but flawed skate that saw him double his planned quad Salchow.

“I couldn’t concentrate. After I missed my first jump, my mind went blind. I guess I was a bit rushed for the first jump,” the 24-year-old said.

Hanyu staged a comeback for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after another ankle injury that kept him from practicing jumps until just before the Games, and fans are hoping for a similar miracle this time.

“I have a lot of experience in this type of environment despite not competing for the last few months, and I am not happy about the fact I couldn’t perform at my best for the short program. What I can do from here is to fix my mistakes and rest well,” he said.

PAIRS TRIUMPH

Earlier on Thursday, China’s Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took the pairs skating crown after a breathtaking free skate.

Despite a season blighted by injury, the 2017 world champions skated a lyrical, moving program for a season’s best 155.60 (234.84 combined), drawing a packed crowd to its feet with their clean jumps and gorgeous lifts.

“This has been a difficult year for us, we’ve had injuries and other issues,” said Sui, who laughed as Han pumped his fists at the end of the routine.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“But our coaches and team gave us support that we were able to turn into strength.”

Russians filled out the rest of the podium with second place going to Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov after a regal but mistake-marred program that included the latter putting his hand to the ice in the wake of their Triple toe loop.

The World Championships continue at the arena north of Tokyo until March 23.

Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Nick Mulvenney and Christian Radnedge

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Opinion: For Gracie Gold, 13th at U.S. Figure Skating Championships never looked so good

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Adam Rippon goes through everything that a figure skater has to pay for, from skates to coaching. USA TODAY

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The audience knew the performance it had just witnessed at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships wasn’t very good and certainly wouldn’t lead to any kind of a medal. Nonetheless, the spectators cheered warmly. Some stood and applauded. Their ovation lingered.

Gracie Gold knew what was happening.

“I just think it was the story,” she said minutes later. “They weren’t standing for the skating.”

A comeback in figure skating is a rare occurrence, if only because careers are usually so short that they often end even before a skater gets that second chance. Gold, 24, a popular two-time U.S. champion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist, last skated at the nationals in 2017.

Now here she was, trying again three years later. Where had she been? “Retired. Out of shape. Off the grid. Mentally ill. The whole works,” she said.

After undergoing treatment for what she said was depression, anxiety and an eating disorder in 2017, and missing the 2018 Olympic season, Gold attempted a comeback in 2019 but fell short of the nationals.

This time, she made it, and she arrived with the hope that the lofty promise her sport once had placed in her had come along too. Her strong practices here this week had only added to the optimism. Perhaps Gracie really was back.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a little too much to expect. The years away caught up with her; although she looks as fit as she has in quite awhile, her nerves kicked in and some old mistakes returned. When her uneven short program was over Thursday, it earned just 54.51 points, far below leader Bradie Tennell’s 78.96 and good enough for just 13th place in a field of 18.

“In comparison to where we started the season, which was like not even registering (for minor events), to see it from where we started, it was a 9 out of 10,” Gold said afterward. “But like overall, 3 out of 10.”

With her scintillating talent, pitch-perfect last name and movie-star looks, Gold appeared destined for the career of her dreams. She nearly won an individual medal in the women’s event at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, finishing fourth, and she did help to lead the Americans to the bronze in the inaugural Olympic team competition. She was just 18. Who knew what wonderful things would come next?

But Gold then began an alarming and precipitous slide, starting at the 2016 world championships in Boston, where, in first place after the short program, poised to win the gold medal in her own country, she slipped to fourth overall.

What had come so easily suddenly seemed incredibly difficult. After a disappointing fifth-place finish at Skate America several months later, Gold spoke boldly about the pressure she felt.

“You don’t often see — there aren’t that many — you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons. It’s just difficult when you’re trying to do the difficult triple jumps. It’s something that I am addressing but it’s obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition.”

Soon, she was gone from the sport.

“I was very out of shape,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my retirement. This is documented in photographic evidence. There’s no secret I was not in shape to be an athlete let alone a figure skater.”

After her time in treatment at an Arizona clinic, Gold said she “threw away everything. Everything was in the garbage. I sent the dresses back home. We were done.”

And then she wasn’t. She moved to a rink in the Philadelphia area, and slowly, methodically, got back into skating shape. She doesn’t weigh herself anymore. “I don’t get into those numbers,” she said. The jumps returned, and with them, her drive to continue in the sport she has loved since childhood.

“I guess the beauty in it was that I didn’t know where I was going to end up and I didn’t need to know,” she said. “I was just going to take it one day at a time and see where my second chance at skating took me.”

In a sport that increasingly rewards tiny teen jumping rather than mature mastery of the ice, Gold’s competitive future isn’t particularly bright. She will be fighting to catch up with a new generation of American skaters, plus the latest handfuls of jumping beans Russia is producing.

But on this night, there was no need to look ahead quite that far. In some ways, 13th place had never looked so good.

“America loves a comeback story,” Gold said. “We just do.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Christine Brennan on Twitter @cbrennansports.

In 2013, Gracie Gold was second at the U.S. national championships, putting her in the spotlight as a skater to watch for the 2014 Olympics. Russell Isabella, USA TODAY Sports Gracie Gold began skating at age 8 and has a twin sister who also competed in the sport. Here Gold is shown at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey, Getty Images In January 2014, Gracie Gold won her first national title at the senior level, at TD Garden. She was 18. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Shown with Ashley Wagner (left) and Polina Edmunds (right), Gold was part of the U.S. team that won bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports At the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Gracie Gold finished fourth in the women’s competition. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports Gracie Gold won her third national title at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul. Hannah Foslien, Getty Images In 2016, Gracie Gold led after the short program but finished fourth at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden in Boston. TIMOTHY A. CLARY, AFP/Getty Images Gold underwent treatment for what she said was depression, anxiety and an eating disorder in 2017 and missed the 2018 Olympic season. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports In her only Grand Prix competition in 2018, Gracie Gold was last after her short program. She struggled with her jumps and withdrew before the long program. SERGEI ILNITSKY, EPA-EFE Gracie Gold skates in the Ladies Short Program during the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Greensboro Coliseum. Matthew Stockman, Getty Images

Interested in this topic? You may also want to view these photo galleries:

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Nathan Chen begins his quest for a fourth straight U.S. figure skating title, while the pairs’ and dance champions will be crowned, live on NBC Sports on Saturday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of every program for subscribers starting at 1:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC and NBCSN also provide live TV coverage starting at 2:30.

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the first man to win four straight U.S. titles since Brian Boitano in 1988.

His competitors include two-time U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou and 2015 U.S. champion Jason Brown, both aiming to join Chen on the three-man team for March’s world championships.

Later Saturday, Olympians Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim try to become the first pair to win three U.S. titles since 2002. After the short program, the Knierims lead three other U.S. pairs who have won national titles.

Finally in dance, Madison Chock and Evan Bates look to become the first skater or couple in decades to go five years between national titles. They lead two-time U.S. champions and training partners Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue after the rhythm dance.

Saturday TV, live stream schedule (ET)

Key Skate Times
2:37 p.m. — Nathan Chen
2:56 — Vincent Zhou
4 — Jason Brown
7:52 — Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier
8:27 — Ashley Cain-Gribble/Timothy LeDuc
8:45 — Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea
8:54 — Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim
10:29 — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
10:37 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
10:44 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Adam Rippon, Britney Spears, and Mariah Bell’s amazing routine | Olympic Channel

The crowd were on their feet long before the end of routine. Mariah Bell landed a triple lutz jump and the audience went wild. The 23-year-old collapsed with emotion at the end of the routine in clear elation. She had secured a second place behind 14-year-old Alysa Liu at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Her selection for the world championships had become a formality.

In 2018, Mariah was a second alternate for the Olympics. Now, her coach and mentor Adam Rippon says ‘the sky is the limit’ for Mariah.

The Olympic Channel went to find out why adding a little bit of Britney into the mix has made such a big impact.

Mariah Bell (centre) celebrates at U.S Nationals with coaches Adam Rippon (left) with and Rafael Arutyunyan (right)Mariah Bell (centre) celebrates at U.S Nationals with coaches Adam Rippon (left) with and Rafael Arutyunyan (right)

  • Ladies’ Free Programme | Toyota US Championships – Greensboro

    Watch the US Figure Skating Championships and follow the ladies’ free programme

  • Ladies’ Short Programme | Toyota US Championships – Greensboro

    Watch the US Figure Skating Championships and follow the ladies’ short programme

Britney Spears and Mariah Bell

Olympic Channel: So, tell me about putting together a short program with the Britney Spears song ‘Work’. It’s a little different than what you’ve skated to in the past, Mariah. Was that Adam’s idea? Was it your idea? How did that come together?

Mariah Bell: It was definitely Adam’s idea. I think it was after nationals last year (he came) to work with me a little bit. And he was just like, ‘You should skate to Britney’. And I was like, ‘Oh, wow’. It’s different for me, but I loved it and I was a little bit nervous just because it was super out of my comfort zone. I’ve never done anything like that. But it was so much fun to create it. We worked hard. I was a little uncomfortable at the beginning with some of the movements

Podcast: Figure skaters Mariah Bell and Adam Rippon

The crowd went wild for Mariah Bell at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships. Her routine had the audience on their feet and Mariah with tears of joy. Coach and mentor Adam Rippon joined her on the Olympic Channel Podcast to dissect how the 23-year-old has gone from second alternate for PyeongChang 2018 to top U.S. pick for the world championships. Mariah Bell skates to Britney Spears in the Ladies Short Program during the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating ChampionshipsMariah Bell skates to Britney Spears in the Ladies Short Program during the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Mariah Bell: I remember when we first started working, I was almost embarrassed to do it. I would go back home and with all the other coaches and skaters, whatever, nobody was judging, obviously, but I would be almost embarrassed almost to do it. And then I got to this point where I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to train it, though. So, I just have to forget’. Like, it doesn’t matter. Breaking through that in practice helped a lot. For sure, it helped me as an overall total performer.

I would be almost embarrassed to do it – Mariah Bell on skating to Britney Spears

Adam Rippon: I think as a coach and a choreographer, sometimes you kind of need to trick your student into becoming more comfortable with something that they are uncomfortable with. And I think that was the mentality.

I think if you can skate to something with confidence that you’re not comfortable with, when you then go to something that you’re comfortable with, it becomes your bread and butter. It doesn’t become your crutch. Everyone knows that Mariah’s a beautiful skater. But if we can get Mariah to skate in this different style, it’s going to get Mariah to skate even more beautiful because she’s going to really feel at home.

You better work. 👏⛸👏Mariah Bell, Short Program | #IFP2019

Posted by U.S. Figure Skating on Friday, November 1, 2019

Memories from the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Olympic Channel: Can I take you back to that moment you created at the 2020 U.S. Nationals? How does it feel thinking back?

Mariah Bell: It’s so funny because I was talking to my parents. I don’t have thoughts when I’m skating, so it almost feels like I didn’t actually do it when I watch myself. But I also remember it very vividly. I was telling Adam that I couldn’t hear my music at the end and that was so cool. That’s a moment that I think I’m going to remember forever. I just feel really fortunate to have had that moment and for him to be here was really, really cool.

It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen anyone do – Adam Rippon on Mariah Bell’s U.S. nationals performance

OC: Adam, what are you thinking watching her, just, you know, especially at the end when the tears were already flowing?

Adam Rippon: Everything kind of flows through your mind. I remember where Mariah was last year, where I felt like she was so close to that perfect performance. And then this summer, we sat down together and we talked about what can she do differently to take her skating to a different level. And. I felt like for Mariah, this year, this skate was just a culmination of what she’s been doing all year. It’s a different emotion to do it at the national championships and when I take a step back, and I think about like the moment she created, I think that in my skating life, it’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen anyone do.

It’s like Michelle Kwan-esque of like what happened in that arena. To have you enter your last spin and you can’t hear the music, and then when you’re in your last spin, everybody’s already standing. It’s like one of those amazing moments. It’s the reason I started skating is because of moments like that.

Everybody knew that they were going to stand up. It was just figuring out the logistics! But the energy is just something like I’ve never felt before.

Mariah Bell breaks down with emotion at 2020 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships

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Mariah Bell reacts after skating in the Ladies Free skate during the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Greensboro Coliseum

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Mariah Bell is 23-years-old

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Mariah Bell: I couldn’t hear my music at the end

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Emotional Mariah Bell cries at 2020 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships

At Nagano 1998, silver medallist Michelle Kwan performed an emotional skate to On My Own from the hit musical Les Miserablés.

OC: For you, Mariah, is that joy that you had after the last jump – is that something that can only ever happen in competition?

MB: I do try and put myself in a competition setting. Obviously, it’s extremely difficult at home when there’s like four people on the ice and nobody watching. But I do. And I try to also visualise how it would feel to land the last Lutz (jump).

I promise you, I thought about like landing the last Lutz exactly that way, like since I got here because I knew it was possible. But the biggest change, obviously, is the support that you have from the fans. We’re so lucky to get to skate in front of fans and for them to be so accepting of what we’re doing.

Even around my second to last spin, they were already getting really loud!

Adam Rippon on ‘new’ Mariah Bell: “I think she performs the best”

Mariah Bell is leading the U.S. women’s team at the figure skating world championships. The 23-year-old has never skated better, and Olympic team bronze medallist Adam Rippon plays a major part in her success story.

OC: What did you guys say to each other afterwards?

MB: I don’t even remember. I was crying, but there weren’t really tears coming out yet.

AR: It was really emotional because I’ve seen Mariah do so many run throughs. I’ve seen her skate like that at home. But when she skates like that, of course, she doesn’t get worked up because she knows that, you know, either me or (coach) Rafael (Arutyunyan) is going to ask her to just do two more long programs like that. So, there’s no emotion tied to it. I think that’s been the biggest change in Mariah. I think that’s why she’s so solid. I think that’s why she’s so reliable.

She’s really showing the whole skating world that it really doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been skating, that when you apply yourself and you put your mind to it, you can have the best years of your career. Age is just a number, especially in this sport.

It’s just as inspiring and, as equally as difficult to create the moment that Mariah created, as it is to land a quad.

Quad jumps versus artistry

OC: There’s always a tension between artistic ability and physicality in figure skating. When you see the Russian teenagers landing quads – is that intimidating for you? Do you focus on that or concentrate on creating those more artistic moments?

MB: I think it’s a mix of both. I think like I’m focusing now on what I can do, but I definitely don’t have a cap on what I think I’m capable of. I’ve been working on some triple axels and I’ll continue to do that. I’m definitely capable of that. This is my seventh senior nationals, but I feel like I’m just now like starting on this journey.

AR: I think that what’s so great about skating is that there’s room for so many kinds of skaters and there can be so many different kinds of personalities in an event, I think it leads to something more exciting. At the end of the day, you want to collect as many points as you can get. Mariah is one of my favourite skaters, and I think that’s what she brings to the table. And I think when you look at somebody like like Alysa (Liu). Alysa brings this incredible technical aspect, she’s 14, and she skates very well.

Alysa Liu skates to victory at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating ChampionshipsAlysa Liu skates to victory at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

AR: I think the presentation that Mariah brings is obviously different, but I think, at the end of the day, you want to get as many points as you can get. And that’s what Mariah and I have been focusing on. I think that’s what I’ve told Mariah to keep the focus on so that

How is Alysa going to get the most amount of points? Well, she’s going to put out all of these elements. Well, that’s good for her. Where are you going to do? And the focus has been to do what she can do the best, of course. The goal is to have triple axels in the program next season and hopefully in the Olympic season, too. But the sky’s the limit.

Adam Rippon and Mariah Bell were guests on this week’s Olympic Channel Podcast. Find more figure skating interviews and how to subscribe here.

The questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Alysa Liu, 14, wins second consecutive title at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

CLOSE Alysa Liu, 14, performs during the senior ladies free skate at the U.S. women’s figure skating championships Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Alysa Liu completed several difficult jumps on Friday. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Champion Alysa Liu performs her free skate. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Mariah Bell performs Friday night. Bell finished second. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Mariah Bell celebrates near the end of her program. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Mariah Bell reacts after her performance. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Bradie Tennell took third in the figure skating championships. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Bradie Tennell falls during her free skate. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Karen Chen prepares for her program. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Gabriella Izzo performs a spin on Friday. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Gabriella Izzo got emotional on Friday. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Amber Glenn strikes a pose. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Alyssa Rich gestures during her free skate. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Gracie Gold performs a jump Friday. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Gracie Gold reacts as her scores are announced. Gold took 12th. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Mariah Bell reacts alongside coach Adam Rippon in the kiss and cry area. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Alysa Liu reacts after seeing her scores. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Mariah Bell congratulates Alysa Liu on the medal stand. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Alysa Liu poses with her trophy. It is her second consecutive U.S. title. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Left to right: Mariah Bell, Alysa Liu, Bradie Tennell and Karen Chen pose with their medals. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Alysa Liu, 14, shows off her medal. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — A year ago, Alysa Liu became the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in history at the age of 13. At 4-7, she was so short she needed a helping hand from the two women she defeated to reach the top spot on the medal podium.

Friday night, Liu became the youngest two-time U.S. women’s skating champion at the age of 14. Now 4-10, she is still so short that she again needed another hand from the same two women she defeated to reach the top spot on the medal podium.

“We can help you up again,” runner-up Mariah Bell kindly offered as Liu approached the podium.

Bell is nine years older than Liu. Third-place finisher Bradie Tennell, the 2018 national champion, is seven years older. They have this down by now. With big smiles and a delighted laugh from those in the audience who remained in the arena to watch the medal ceremony, each woman extended a hand and pulled Liu up to her rightful place — the very top of U.S. women’s skating.

“We recreated that moment from last year,” Liu said with a laugh.

If Liu stays healthy and the skating gods oblige, it’s likely they’ll recreate it next year, and even the next, which will be when it really matters, the 2022 Winter Olympic year.

For the second year in a row, U.S. national figure skating champion Alysa Liu, 14, aces the competition but needs a helping hand from the women she defeated to reach the top spot on the medal podium. Watch: pic.twitter.com/bw4Na32la3

— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) January 25, 2020

If the United States is to finally win another Olympic medal in women’s figure skating after being shut out in 2010, 2014 and 2018, Liu is by far the nation’s best bet to do it. She became the first woman to attempt a quadruple jump in the history of U.S. nationals Friday with her quad lutz 40 seconds into her four-minute long program, and even though it was under-rotated, it was a breathtaking achievement — and an important signal that she can play ball with the seemingly endless stream of tiny jumpers Russia keeps producing.

In the days of Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, beautiful skating won the day. Not anymore. It’s great if a teenage skater can attain an air of maturity on the ice — and Liu is in the process of doing just that with choreographer Lori Nichol, who worked wonders with Michelle Kwan a generation ago — but she must be able to land jumps in competition that were unthinkable for women’s skating even a few years ago.

In the first 65 seconds of her long program, Liu landed two triple axels — the toughest triple jump there is, the one done almost exclusively by men for several generations — and made that game attempt at the quad. Then she reeled off six more triple jumps. That is how to compete with your fellow tiny teenagers in the increasingly high-stakes world of international jumping contests we call figure skating.

Interestingly, Liu took the ice for her majestic long program as the crowd was still buzzing over the strongest performance of Bell’s career. In any other year, Bell would have won her first national title with a seven-triple jump program that brought spectators to their feet well before her music finished. She was in tears and overjoyed, but not as giddy as her choreographer, part-time coach and friend, 2018 Olympian Adam Rippon, who paced and leaped through every glorious moment of Bell’s performance, then swallowed her in a mighty bear-hug, raising her arm as if she had just won a prize fight.

Entering to a raucous ovation for someone else might have spooked some young skaters. Not Liu.

“I didn’t get nervous or excited,” she said. “I was just kind of like, ‘OK, she did well and so I also have to do well.’ “

When it was over and the crowd was again on its feet and she had become the first woman to repeat as U.S. champion since Ashley Wagner in 2013, the 14-year-old offered her unique perspective on the evening’s developments.

Meanwhile, Gracie Gold, 24, the two-time national champion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist returning after three years away from this championship, earned a sustained and emotional standing ovation, finished 12th in a field of 18 skaters and vowed to keep at it for at least another year.

Follow columnist Christine Brennan on Twitter @cbrennansports.

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