Teen star wins Russian figure skating title
Sofia Akateva topped the podium for the first time among the seniors
Russia crowned a new women’s figure skating champion on Saturday as 15-year-old Sofia Akateva overcame former title-holders Kamila Valieva and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in Krasnoyarsk.
Akateva had led the way heading into the free skate routines at the Russian Figure Skating Championships after registering 85.59 points for her short program on Friday.
The Moscow-born skater added to that tally with a score of 164.15 for her free skate routine, despite an early fall, giving her an overall total of 249.74.
Defending champion Valieva, 16, had to settle for silver.
Valieva had found herself a disappointing fourth after a short program score of 76. 61, but recovered on Saturday to be awarded a tournament-leading 170.71 points for her free skate routine.
That saw Valieva jump up to second overall in the standings with 247.32 – pushing fan favorite Tuktamysheva into third place.
Tuktamysheva earned 82.98 for Friday’s short skate and 158.74 for her free skate routine – giving her a combined total of 241.72.
Akateva is a former two-time Russian junior champion and, like Valieva, is trained by the renowned Eteri Tutberidze.
Remarkably, the last eight winners of the Russian women’s singles title have come from Tutberidze’s stable of skaters.
“To be honest, I’m in shock,” said Akateva of her success.
“It wasn’t a flawless performance, but this is an occasion to work more on the triple axel. I am very grateful to the coaches for working with me.”
Last year’s champion Valieva was unable to defend her title after paying the price for an underwhelming short skate program.
A world record points holder for her routines last season, as well as an Olympic gold medalist in the team event at the Beijing Games in February, Valieva is still attempting to recapture some of her best form.
Her season is also playing out amid the backdrop of the lingering scandal surrounding a positive test for banned heart drug trimetazidine, based on a sample taken at last year’s Russian Championships.
The case has led to a standoff between Russian and global anti-doping officials, and is set to be resolved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.
Tuktamysheva, meanwhile, continues to cement her status as the grand dame of Russian figure skating at the age of 26.
This week’s competition in Siberia was her 15th appearance at the Russian Championships – an event she won in 2013.
Tuktamysheva found herself back on the podium on Saturday for the first time at the tournament since 2015.
There were, however, some big-name absentees in Krasnoyarsk for the women’s event.
Olympic silver medalist Alexandra Trusova was forced to withdraw on the eve of the tournament due to illness, while Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova skipped the competition as she continues her recovery from knee surgery.
In the men’s event which concluded on Friday, the 19-year-old Evgeni Semenenko won gold, ahead of Petr Gumennik in silver and Alexander Samarin in bronze.
Russian skaters have been confined to domestic competitions this season after the International Skating Union (ISU) imposed a blanket ban because of the conflict in Ukraine.