The day belonged to Alena Kostornaia, who led a Russian sweep of the top spots in the ladies short program at the 2020 European Championships.

Kostornaia, the only lady in a field of 35 to include a triple Axel in her routine, shot to the lead with a stunning performance of her program set to Max Richter’s “Departure” (from “The Leftovers” soundtrack) and “November.” She opened the routine with a triple Axel followed by a triple Lutz, and a triple flip-triple toe combination, earning Level 4s for her spins and footwork. In the end her score of 84.02 gave her a 6.97-point cushion over her closest rival. Despite her success, Kostornaia was not satisfied with her performance. “I did all my elements, but I would love to improve with every competition and it seems I went down,” the 16-year-old said with respect to her score.

“I think every athlete wants to be the best, to do something first. Anna (Shcherbakova) and Sasha (Alexandra Trusova) are competing to do ‘firsts.’ I just try to skate as clean as possible.”

When asked about being at the top and staying there, Kostonaia said that “figure skating develops so much now, and if previously the ladies were skating until 25 … for sure, now the younger girls get to the top. Unfortunately, the careers are shorter because of the elements that adults probably physically can’t do. There is always a generation who will overtake you.”

Shcherbakova, the first to skate in the final flight, delivered a solid performance of her routine to “The Perfume” soundtrack, which included a double Axel, a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple loop combination. Like her teammate, she earned Level 4s for her spins and footwork. “I was nervous. I am glad I overcame that and did my elements,” said the reigning Russian champion who earned 77.95 points to finish second.

“Of course we want to do things first and be the best. Because of the development of figure skating, Russia especially, is on top. But, we have tough competition and that pushes us and makes us develop faster.”

Trusova had an uneasy landing on her opening double Axel but recovered immediately and went on to land a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. She earned 74.95 points and sits in third. “My coaches explained to me what the error on the double Axel was. It is an easy jump and I want to do a triple Axel so badly,” said the two-time World Junior champion. “I sometimes land it, but not always. I haven’t yet competed since the New Year so it will have to wait.”

Switzerland’s Alexia Paganini placed fourth with a personal best score of 68.82. Right behind her is Finland’s Emmi Peltonen (66.49). Ekaterina Ryabova of Azerbaijan rounds out the top six sixth 62.22 points.