O Canada! Medvedeva Joined on World Podium by Pair of Surprises


Medvedeva becomes first lady to win back to back World titles since Michelle Kwan in 2001; Osmond and Daleman deliver two-three punch for other two medals.

The ladies event at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki was a high-stakes affair. It was a strong field, with many facing very great pressure to qualify their country two or even three berths for the Olympics. Unfortunately, as often happens in such cases, the pressure got to a number of participants, resulting in a less than pretty event. However, three ladies proved an exception, going close to flawless to make up a strong world podium. The first, the winner, everyone expected. For the other two, it would have been a surprise had either medaled on their own. When they both did, it became the best story of the ladies event.

Medvedeva Flawless in Repeat

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Evgenia Medvedeva, it seems, is immune to pressure. At least, being the prohibitive favorite seems to work for her. Although by the time she took to the ice to skate her free program, the performances of her countrywomen could’ve potentially even put Russia’s three Olympic berths at stake. But they were safe in her hands. That no reigning ladies world champion had successfully defended her title since the legendary Michelle Kwan in 2001 had no effect on her either.

After two competitions of being bored enough to throw in invalid extra jumps, here Medvedeva was all business. She had talked at one point of trying a quadruple salchow jump here. But in the end she stuck with her big ticket element being a triple flip-triple toe loop jump combination, and her free program highlight including two triple-triple combinations. Combining it with her usual technical brilliance and now fully mature expression, it was certainly more than enough. She nearly maxed out the possible score for her step sequence in the long. One judge gave her a perfect 10 for performance in both programs, and another judge joined her in the free. In the latter, she broke her own world record score from last year with 154.40, as well as the overall record total with 233.41.

Canadians Almost as Flawless to Win Silver and Bronze

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It perhaps wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world to see Kaetlyn Osmond in second after a flawless short program with a high-scoring triple flip-triple toe. More surprising, perhaps was her fellow Canadian Gabrielle Daleman in third. One of only two ladies in the top ten not trying the more difficult triple-triples, she instead nearly maxed out on her magnificent signature triple toe-triple toe and rode her high energy and clean skate to it.

It was after Osmond had repeated her triple-triple in the free that everyone expected her to fall apart, especially when she sagged on her next combination. When she doubled a loop halfway through, everyone held their breath. But then, in a change of pace, she went on to absolutely nail the rest of the free. With that done, her power and artistry made the silver medal easy, even when her technical score was actually lower than Daleman’s.

Daleman skated her free almost the same way she’d skated her short. Once again she nearly maxed out her easier triple-triple, and tackled the rest of the program. She actually didn’t quite get through it clean. She almost did, only to trip up a little on the very last jump. But today, most of a program very well done was more than close enough. She was within a point of Osmond’s free skate total, and won bronze by some way. It was the first time Canada has ever had two ladies on the World podium.

Wagner and Bell Struggle, But Chen Delivers

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Ashley Wagner has struggled for the most of the season. Here, the pressure on her to do the heavy lifting for three American Olympic berths had never been higher. Sadly, it seems it got to her. Her short was clean, with her triple flip-triple toe, but a bit low energy. The judges seemed very unimpressed, leaving her in seventh, though only three points behind Daleman. But when she singled the toe after her flip in the free, she got tense, doing only a double axel-double toe right after and underrotating two more jumps and losing energy. She was tenth in the segment and it initially looked like all was lost.

Training mate Mariah Bell was unable to help. She was unable to rotate her triple lutz-triple toe in the short, and was lucky not to fall on it. In the free, she failed to even do the second jump. She skated more well than not outside the triple-triple attempts, but doubled another triple and stumbled on an axel in her long. She ended up in twelfth.

Happily for America, the National Champion came through. Karen Chen delivered a beautiful short, complete with her triple lutz-triple toe. She landed it again in the free and continue to skate clean, despite some tightness at times, until her final two jumps. Then she had a fall and a stepout. But she’d done enough, and enough other ladies struggled, that she ended up fourth. When Wagner held onto seventh overall, the U.S. preserved their berths.

Japan Experiences Turbulence, Loses Third Berth

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Throughout the competition, Mai Mihara made exactly one mistake. Unfortunately, that was doubling and then falling on her flip at the end of her short program. That left her all the way down in fifteenth. From there, she came back to skate a flawless free. She landed the triple lutz-triple toe in both programs, and her triple lutz-double toe-double loop was the hardest three-jump done by anyone in the free skate, though she wasn’t the only skater that night to do it. Also in the judges favor, though they still aren’t scoring her the highest. She was fourth in the segment, and pulled all the way up to fifth.

But even if she’d landed the flip, Japan still would’ve lost their third berth, because neither of her teammates came through at all. Wakaba Higuchi landed the same triple-triple in both programs, and her short was clean enough. But she had multiple mistakes in her long, including a fall on a double axel-triple toe, with the toe fully downgraded to a double. She still doesn’t have enough quality to make up for that, and finished eleventh. Rika Hongo failed to do any triple-triples, and her long had multiple errors and downgrades, enough to leave her all the way down in sixteenth.

Sotskova and Pogorilaya Suffer Disaster in the Free Skate

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It was a good thing for Russia Medvedeva could win so easily, meaning they only needed one other skater in the top twelve. After the short program, that didn’t look like too much of an ask. Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova both skated clean with their triple lutz-triple toes. They were fourth and sixth respectively, and a podium sweep looked very possible.

Sotskova’s free program started well, with a lovely triple-triple and more grace through the next elements. But then she doubled one jump, fell on a fully downgraded lutz, did only a double axel-double toe, and underrotated her solo axel. Eleventh in the segment, she held onto eighth by barely two tenths of a point. At least she got the needed top twelve finish.

Pogorilaya did not. Her program started with disaster and continued with more disaster. When she fell for the third time, she was so slow to get up it was alarming. She was crying even before she was done skating. Fifteenth in the segment, she fell to thirteenth. It was not a good day for either of Medvedeva’s co-medalists from last year.

One Old Lady and Two Young Ones Make the Top Ten

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Also benefiting from the struggles of the Russians and the Japanese was Carolina Kostner, who finished sixth despite not skating her best. She was the other lady doing only a triple toe-triple toe, and she didn’t even do it clean in the long. In the short she also had a spin gone awry, and in the long she had a single and a double in her other two combinations. Her artistry, however, remains as strong as ever. Her presentation scores were especially strong in the free, the third highest of the night.

But benefiting even more so were Elizabet Tursynbaeva and Da-Bin Choi, who managed to make the top ten and earn Kazakhstan and South Korea two Olympic berths apiece. They also helped themselves by having very good skates. Tursynbaeva put the best pair back to back she has in some time. Her short was even clean, and had the triple lutz-triple toe. Her free had a handful of errors and only an easier triple salchow-triple toe, but she ultimately held it together enough for ninth. Choi ended up behind her mostly due to lower presentation scores, but she went clean through the whole thing. She landed the triple lutz-triple toe in both programs, plus the same three-jump as Mihara.

Chinese Ladies Finish Behind, in Unexpected Order

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Quite a few eyes were on Zijun Li after all the Chinese drama last week. Although there was reason to believe then that she remained the best Chinese lady and their best chance for two Olympic berths, ultimately that proved not the case. She ended up all the way down in twenty-first, failing to rotate either an easy triple-triple in the short or a harder one in the free. Outside one other underrotation she landed her other jumps, but just didn’t land them well enough.

This would’ve been bad enough, but then she who went with her finished higher. Xiangning Li went for the triple flip-triple toe in both programs. She didn’t rotate it in either, and she had a couple more rough jumps. But the rest of her jumps she did much better, and she also performed with more presence, character, and energy than her elder. She finished fourteenth, unfortunately for Zijun Li, since that wasn’t high enough to preserve the second berth. She is now no longer favored to go, or even to deserve to go.

View full competition results here.

Final Distribution of Olympic Berths

Twenty-four of the thirty Olympic berths in each singles competition go out at Worlds.

Three: Russia, Canada, United States

Two: Japan, Italy, Kazakhstan, South Korea

One: China, Belgium, Slovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia

Next: Sui & Han Win World Pairs Title

The remaining six remain up for grabs at the Nebelhorn Trophy.