Russia’s Shcherbakova wins women’s short program at worlds

Sports

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP)Anna Shcherbakova, Russia’s three-time national champion, won the free skate Wednesday at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Shcherbakova’s balletic performance flowed in a way none of the other competitors managed. Her triple lutz-triple loop combination was the most difficult of any tried, and she wore a huge smile leaving the ice.

Her 81.00 points placed her early two points ahead of Japan’s Rika Kihira, whose score was damaged by two under-rotated jumps, including a triple axel that only one other skater hit in the short program.

That was Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, whose last appearance at worlds came when she won it in 2015.

”A lot has happened in these past six years,” she said, ”but I think during these past few years I have become way more confident in this (triple axel) and today’s performance I consider to be a little better than the one six years ago.”

Several medal contenders, including Russia’s other dynamo, Alexandra Trusova, struggled with falls and incomplete combinations. That helped the Americans in their quest to secure the maximum three berths at next year’s Olympics. For the United States to get three spots in the women’s field at the Beijing Games, Bradie Tennell and Karen Chen must finish a combined 13th or better.

Right now, they have a total of 11th place.

”I want to deliver the free skate that I know I’m capable of,” Chen said after coming in fourth with a personal best 74.40. ”I’ve yet to show that at Skate America or nationals, so I feel like this is the time.”

Tennell, who has won two U.S. titles, was energetic but flawed in winding up seventh.

Trusova, coached by 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko, seemed nervous and rushing through her program. She only attempted a double axel, but more significant was a major error on her jump combination, stepping out of her triple lutz and failing to complete the combo.

It was a surprisingly weak showing for a Russian woman – they have dominated the sport in the last seven years – and dropped Trusova to 12th.

The women’s free skate is Friday. There are no fans at the Ericsson Globe for worlds, which were canceled in Montreal last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later Wednesday was the pairs short program.

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