Alina Zagitova

Photo: Susan D. Russell

The ladies free skate, the final event of 2018 Rostelecom Cup, was up and down from start to finish. All nine skaters were hit with under-rotation calls on one or more jumps, Alina Zagitova included.

Zagitova, 16, opened her “Carmen” routine with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination followed by a triple Salchow, but midway through the routine she under-rotated the triple Lutz (in a two-jump combination). Seconds later she had the same problem with the triple flip (in combination with a double toe-double loop) and popped the next jump — a planned triple flip — into a double.

The reigning Olympic champion was still far and away the best skater of the day, accumulating 222.95 points overall, ultimately winning the event by a 22.04-point margin. With her second Grand Prix Series title of the season, Zagitova punched a ticket to the Final. “I can’t say my performance was that good today, but I am glad I was able to pull my combinations together,” she said. “On the last jump I made a stupid mistake. I will keep working.”

Many questioned Sofia Samodurova’s choice of music for the long program this season. Though she failed to sell the routine — set to the “Burlesque” soundtrack — at Skate America, she had a much keener awareness of the music and phrasing in Moscow. Samodurova executed six clean triples, with only the opening triple toe deemed under-rotated, and captured her first silver medal on the senior Grand Prix circuit with 198.01 points.

“I am happy I was able to skate two clean programs,” said Samodurova who is coached by Alexei Mishin. “There were some mistakes … my skate was not so clean and this motivates me to work even harder.”

Samodurova is on the cusp of earning a berth to the Final but will have to wait until the final Grand Prix event in France takes place next week to know whether or not she will be heading to Vancouver.

In her first season on the senior circuit, South Korea’s Eunsoo Lim moved up from sixth after the short to claim the bronze medal following a solid performance in the long program. The 15-year-old, who is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan in California, earned a personal best score of 127.91 for the free and a combined total of 185.67. “I didn’t do my best performance, but I tried to do better than in the short program,” said the native of Gyeonggi-Do. “I have to skate better in my next competition, but overall I am satisfied. This season is really important for me, because it is my first senior season.”

Despite falling from third to fourth after the long program, Switzerland’s Alexia Paganini was ecstatic to earn personal best scores for the free skate and combined total (182.50 points). Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa finished fifth with 180.93 points, slightly ahead of Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva, who dropped from fourth to sixth (180.45 points). Mako Yamashita of Japan finished seventh with 161.22 points.

Gracie Gold of the U.S. withdrew before the free skate citing the need to put her mental and emotional health first. “I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it,” Gold wrote in a Twitter post. “I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months and I feel that competing the free skate would be damaging to both my confidence and mental health.”