15-year-old Alina Zagitova set the new highest score ever recorded in the ladies’ short program on Tuesday night to lead the field, including her training partner Yevgenia Medvedeva, who sits second. Both Olympic Athletes from Russia train in Moscow, and are separated by just 1.31 points. Team OAR has yet to win a gold medal in PyeongChang, and either skater could claim the team’s first. The first-ever Russian gold medal in ladies’ figure skating wasn’t captured until Sochi 2014, when Adelina Sotnikova pulled off the feat.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond finished third in the short program with 78.87 points.
Zagitova performed her short program to music from “Black Swan” and turned into the creature by the end of the program: watch her swipe her dress to make the colors change right as she hits her last pose. Zagitova executed a clean triple Lutz-triple loop, a triple flip and a double Axel to score 82.92 points, the newest short program score ever seen.
Medvedeva finished close behind with 81.61 (originally a high-scoring short program before Zagitova skated). Medvedeva’s short program, set to Chopin’s Nocturne, featured a solid triple flip-triple toe jump combination, triple loop and double Axel. The concept of the program is about the “flight of the soul” as it leaves a person’s body at the point of “clinical death.” She tallied 81.61 points.
Medvedeva, 18 years old and unbeatable from November 2015 to January 2018, once looked like an Olympic gold medal super favorite. She comes to PyeongChang as the two-time reigning world champion, the first woman to win back-to-back world championship gold medals since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001.
Medvedeva most recently lost to her 15-year-old training mate Zagitova at the European Championships in Moscow in January, setting up a tight race in PyeongChang. Medvedeva cracked bones in her right foot and was in a cast for parts of November and December. Zagitova won December’s Grand Prix Final with Medvedeva’s withdrawal from the event. Medvedeva returned to the competitive ice at Europeans, where her undefeated streak snapped.
They’re friends off the ice – Zagitova is even inspired by Medvedeva – but once the ice, there’s no question that they both consider themselves top contenders for gold. This is Zagitova’s first season competing as a senior (or elite-level) skater. Their formidable coach, Eteri Tutberidze, trained 2014 Olympic darling Yulia Lipnitskaya in the lead up to Sochi.
Osmond, already a gold medalist in PyeongChang with Canada in the team event, won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships. Her 78.87 points was enough to get her into third place, where she remains a medal contender in the free skate.
2014 Sochi bronze medalist Carolina Kostner from Italy finished sixth with 73.15 points.
Earlier at the Winter Olympics, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple Axel on Olympic ice. She helped the U.S. squad earn a bronze medal in the team event, tweeting later, “they honestly feel like gold.” She placed fourth at the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago before missing the Sochi team in 2014.
Nagasu attempted the jump again in Tuesday’s short program, set to Chopin’s Nocturne. She fell on the jump and but skated clean for the remainder of the program. She is the top ranked U.S. woman headed into the free skate in ninth place with 66.93 points.
Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. national champion, made her Olympic debut with a self-choreographed program set to “On Golden Pond.” Chen made a mistake on her opening jump but recovered later to score 65.90 in the short program. She finished 10th overall.
Bradie Tennell began her individual medal hunt as the first skater in Tuesday night’s short program. The reigning national champion is already a medalist at these Games, taking home a bronze for contributing her short program for the U.S. in the team event.
Tennell picked music from the “Taegukgi” soundtrack, a popular South Korean film, to use as her short program. Despite her characteristic consistency, Tennell fell on her opening triple-triple combination. The rest of the program was clean, however, and she tallied 64.01 points for 11th place.
The free skate is Thursday, February 22 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.
For more in-depth coverage of the ladies’ short program, check out Olympic Ice featuring analysts Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie White and Ben Agosto.