Japan’s Satoko Miyahara takes part in the short programme on Wednesday. © AFPOlympic Games News
Date : 21 Feb 2018
Gangneung, Korea, February 21, 2018: They may not be representing their flag or their National Olympic Committee, but there is no disguising the panache and precision of the formidable figure skaters from Russia. At the Gangneung Ice Arena on Wednesday, the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) skaters Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva produced two world record-breaking short programmes to take control of the first day of the ladies’ single figure skating.
The Japanese podium challenge is far from over, however, as both Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto are handily placed to keep the pressure on their rivals in Friday’s free skate. Unless the OAR skaters slip up badly, however, a bronze medal is as good as Japan can hope for – and that’s a result that would have been regarded as a success coming into the PyeongChang Games.
Zagitova leads the way with 82.92 points after breaking the world record set by Medvedeva of 81.61. In the seats of the arena, Russian flags and supporters were almost as numerous as those of Korea and Japan, as athletes compete under the OAR banner due to the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee in a doping scandal.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond is third on 78.87, ahead of the Japanese duo Miyahara, fourth on 75.94, and fifth-placed Sakamoto on 73.18. Both Japanese skaters rose to the Olympic occasion by recording season’s best totals in the short programme – but Medvedeva then Zagitova went one better with new world records. Miyahara, a four-time national champion who is known for her elegance and consistency, was not completely satisfied with her display.
“I wanted to be more expressive and more open,” she said. “I hope I can do that in the free programme.” When asked how she felt coming into the Winter Olympics, she replied: “I thought I would be more nervous, but it was not so bad for me. It was very special – and I am happy to skate here on this dynamic stage. I am looking forward to the long programme.”
Another excellent performance came from Korea’s Sapporo 2017 Asian Winter Games champion Choi Dabin, who is eighth with 67.77 – a personal best. With the unenviable, impossible, task of stepping into the skates of Korea’s retired figure skating “Queen” Kim Yu-na, the Vancouver 2010 champion and Sochi 2014 silver medallist, Choi delighted the home supporters with a calm and smooth performance under the Olympic spotlight.
“I was really nervous because I wanted to do a clean short programme like I can in practice,” said Choi. “I had good practices and I think that’s what made it possible to score a personal best.” On the experience of competing in an Olympic Games in Korea, Choi added: “For all athletes it is very meaningful to perform in the Olympic Games, especially in your home country. These are unforgettable moments.”
Other qualifiers for the long programme included Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva (15th, 57.95), Korea’s Kim Han-ul (21st, 54.33) and China’s lone skater, Li Xiangning (24th, 52.46).
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