1. Elena Radionova, Russia, 66. 90 (39. 04+27. 86) Serafima Sakhanova, Russia, 64. 75

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By SS in Sofia

1. Elena Radionova, Russia, 66.90 (39.04+27.86)

2. Serafima Sakhanova, Russia, 64.75 (38.32+26.43)

3. Evgenie Medvedeva, Russia, 63.72 (37.12+26.60)

4. Satoko Miyahara, Japan, 63.57 (37.84+25.73)

5. Amber Glenn, USA, 56.58 (32.90+23.68)

6. Karen Chen, USA, 56.09 (31.58+24.51)

7. Alaine Chartrand, Canada 54.68 (31.43+24.25 -1 for a fall on the second jump of her first element, a triple Lutz to triple toe loop)

8. Jenni Saarinen, Finland 53.69 (31.54+22.22)
Getting the maximum Level 4 and the maximum +3 Grade of Execution is normal for the young Russians, who are lying in the top three places in the massive field of 41 entries from 32 nations here in Sofia. (The count was 42 from 33 but the entrant from the Philippines, who placed 18th last year, withdrew.)

The Russian girls have come to expect that they will earn the maximums and don’t even bother to count how many they earned!

For the record, the leader going into Sunday’s Free Skate, Elena Radianova, and the second placed Serafima Sakhanovich received all 4s for the four elements in the SP which get levels, while the third placed Evgenie Medvedeva, gained “only” three 4s, and her step sequence was “only” Level 3.

Elena, who drew to skate 35th, got one +3 for her Step Sequence and five +3s for her incredible last move, a spectacular layback spin which concludes with a development from a Biellmann with the non-skating leg pulled up into almost into a split position, yet with her head still back so she’s looking at the ceiling.

She shrugged off the number of +3s, saying, “That is normal for that spin.”

Meanwhile Serafina, who performed four skaters after Elena, received “only” two +3s, one for her opening element, the layback spin, and another one, from a different judge, for her step sequence.

And Evgenie, who drew to skate 32nd and performed to a selection of music from the ballet, got one +3 for her opening double Axel, another for her step sequence and three for her final move, the layback spin. Oddly, in addition to those +3s, one judge gave Evgenie’s layback “0”, which, while it means satisfactory in every aspect, is hardly in the +3 league. So what did that judge see, that the others did not?

Elena, who appeared in a dramatically beautiful outfit of bright yellow, lime green and orange, skated to the dramatic “Anna Karenina, Two Step from Hell.” She started skating when she was three after her father consulted a doctor about his only child’s “club” foot, and was recommended to put her in skating boots.

She turned 15 on January 6 and therefore was too young (by just over six months) to be considered for the Olympic Games. How did she feel about that? She replied, “Well, that’s just the way it is. It is just fate. It was the same for Yu-na Kim and Mao Asada. They were too young for the 2006 Olympics but they went on to be first and second in the next Games. “Adelina (Sotnikova, the current Olympic champion), is from my rink in Moscow, so she’s the skater I look up to. We see each other every day and we are on very good terms. I saw how she prepared for the Olympic Games. She is very hard working.”

Elena has already made quite a splash internationally. In her senior international debut last summer at the Nebelhorn Trophy in the south of Germany, she won gold ahead of a fading Miki Ando of Japan, who finished more than 25 points behind her.

Serafima, who turned 14 on February 9, is from St. Petersburg. She skated to Mark Minkov’s “Do Not Deny If You Are In Love”. She lies just 1.03 ahead of Evgenia, another 14-year old, who was born on November 19, 1999.Evgenia won her two Junior Grand Prix events in Latvia and Poland and finished third in the Jr GP Final in which Serafima earned silver.

Elena, naturally was pleased with her first place. “Today I had a good performance. It was very confident and precise. Overall, I was calm when I went out for the warm up and for the competition. Maybe that’s why everything worked out today. It is tough.”

How did she feel about being too young for consideration for the Olympic Games. “This is just the way it was supposed to be. It’s fate. Yuna Kim also was 15 years old and too young for the Games (in 2006) but became Olympic Champion (in 2010). Mao Asada was also 15 years old (in 2006 and not age eligible).”

How does she combine school and training? “I am home schooled. I do everything at home and only go to school for the exams.” Does she ever get tired of the grind and hard work? She has a very mature approach to this situation. “Each athlete has such moments, but it is just for a few minutes, then you realize that you already have invested so much time. I am used to being at the ice rink and when I am on vacation, I am resting for one week, but by the second week I want to go back on to the ice. Life is boring without ice.

Serafima agreed with Elena. “I am also very happy with my performance today. It was clean and I liked it, all my jumps were done ideally with plusses and I got a level four for the spins and footwork. I think I never skated better than that. I got a level four for the first time for the footwork. I always had a Level 3 before. I was a little nervous. For a clean triple-triple +3s do come up, but I know they are rare.

I can’t tell how Adelina (Sotnikova, the new Olympic gold medalist) and Yulia (Lipnitskaya, who is the new European champion and fifth in Sochi) prepared as I am living in another city, but I talked with them and I am very happy for them, especially for Adelina, who worked towards this medal for such a long time. And I am happy for Yulia, (who made the age minimum by just a couple of weeks). She did not let down the team and got her team gold.”

Asked about the secret of the Russian ladies’ success, Serafima said, “A new and very strong generation is growing up in Russia and I think this is the merit of our coaches. We all have very good coaches. We are pushing each other in each competition. Sometimes, there is just some hundredths of a point between us.

“In this sport not everything is as easy as it looks like. To make the team is a big goal. It is very hard. You have to work for it. Some girls make the team, but then they get sick or injured. Two girls could not come here and I am very sad for them.

“As for my training, I have practice in the morning, then I go for three or four classes to school and back to training. I take my homework and tests and do it at home and return it the next day.

“Of course, occasionally you think it is all too much. It is easy to stop, but you would regret it later. These down moments come, when you are so tired, you feel that your legs are falling off. And sometimes, you can take a day off.”

Evgenia said, “Today, I gave a quite clean and good performance, but I feel that is not my limit yet. There is still room to grow. For me, as well as these other girls (the three medalists), I generally get +3s most of the time for my layback. I get plus threes on the spins but rarely for the jumps.”

She agreed with the other medalists’ praise of Adelina and Yulia. “I’ve seen how they work. Adelina did a great job. She worked for this medal for a long time and you could see it in her competition. I liked her performances. She had clean performances, almost clean, there was just a small error.

I absolutely agree that it is very competitive in Russia. We are very close to each other in each competition. Everybody has their own secret about how to prepare for the competition and to skate clean.

“The most important thing for me is to skate my programme well and then everything comes with it. You have to prepare well and work. Then you get into the team. I want to wish health and well-being to the girls that did not come here. I am sad for them. I know how it is to stay home and to watch how the others are working.

I am also home schooled. I must go to school once a week, on Friday to be tested. That is my day off skating. Yes, there are moments when you want to stop, but when there is a vacation or a longer time without competitions, your life feels empty and boring. There is nothing to do! My world is skating.”

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