Teen Zagitova dethrones European figure skating queen Medvedeva

by Nick REEVES
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Figure skating: Teen Zagitova dethrones queen Medvedeva

Figure skating: Teen Zagitova dethrones queen Medvedeva

Moscow (AFP) - Russian teen Alina Zagitova dethroned champion Evgenia Medvedeva to be crowned European women's figure skating champion in Moscow on Saturday.

The 15-year-old has enjoyed a sensational first senior season, capped here by a flawless free skate routine to take gold with 238.24 points.

Medvedeva, champion in 2016 and 2017, had to settle for silver with 232.86 while Italian veteran Carolina Kostner took bronze on 204.25 pts.

Zagitova, who as a four-year-old had not even tried on her first pair of skates when Kostner was winning the first of her five European titles in 2007, produced four minutes of magical skating to Don Quixote.

Leading after Thursday's short programme, she was nerveless on her European Championships debut to set the bar just a little too high for her training partner and three years her senior Medvedeva.

The little girl in red seduced the judges and the Megasport Palace crowd who showed their appreciation by throwing bundles of bouquets and bears onto the rink after her four minutes of magic.

"To skate at home is on the one hand harder, because you don't want to let down your home and your fans. On the other hand it is easier, because you get so much support," said the Western Urals-born champion.

Zagitova is unusual in that she backloads her jumps to the second half of her routine, and so it was fully two minutes before her blades leapt off the ice for her opening triple lutz-triple loop combination.

She followed that with a double axel and triple toeloop with a dazzling array of jumps following.

A few minutes later Medvedeva had her hands on her hips as if to say job well done after her routine to Anna Karenina.

But the 18-year-old Muscovite had her eyes closed as her result came through with her 154.79 compared to Zagitova's 157.97 falling short of her free skating personal best.

Medvedeva was making her comeback after breaking her right foot which ruled her out of the Grand Prix Finals and Russian championships, both won in her absence by Zagitova.

"My main victory is that I am standing here," said the runner-up.

"The bigger the break in competing, the worse it is. But I am happy and when the whole audience is shouting your name it is simply incredible."

The two Russian skating stars will next clash at the Olympic Games in three weeks time where they look set to battle it out again for gold.