Resurgent Tuktamysheva leads Russian womens podium sweep

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva crowned her return to form this season by leading a Russian women’s podium sweep at the European figure skating championships on Saturday.

Tuktamysheva, 18, the winner of the Grand Prix final in December, has had a remarkable comeback this season after missing out on the Winter Olympics at home in Sochi.

She pulled out a clean and confident free skate to “Batwannis Beek” and “Sandstorm” to take gold after trailing compatriot Elena Radionova, 16, by just one point after Thursday’s short programme.

Tuktamysheva scored 210.40 points overall, with Radionova having to settle for silver with 209.54, as 16-year-old Anna Pogorilaya took bronze, 191.81.

“Inside my emotions were boiling up, but I tried to stay focused and not to show it,” said Tuktamysheva, a student of famous Russian coach Alexei Mishin.

“I felt good after I did the second Lutz and then the best moment was when I landed the triple Salchow-double Axel sequence, I was like, ‘yes’.

“This gives me confidence. I see that nothing is impossible and I never give up.”

It has been stunning return for Tuktamysheva, who first appeared on the international scene four years ago, and had been tipped among the Olympic favourites.

Aged just 12 years she had been Russian vice-champion, going on to win gold in the first Youth Olympics in 2012, and the following year achieved bronze in the European championships.

But the 2013/2014 season, during which the Olympics were hosted in Russia, were a nightmare for the teenager.

She failed to make the Russian team and ended the season after a serious foot injury.

“It’s very emotional that there’s three Russians on the podium. We discussed it among ourselves, we hope to continue like that and maybe repeat it at the world championships (in Shanghai from March 25-29). It’s in our hands now,” said Tuktamysheva.

It was a return to the glory days for Russia who swept the women’s event at Europeans for four consecutive years between 1999 and 2002.

Russia are also poised to take pairs gold with Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the Olympic and world silver medallists, leading going into Saturday’s free programme.

Stolbova and Klimov, who were also runners-up at last year’s European championships, are ahead of compatriots, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez claimed a third successive European men’s title on Friday, ahead of Russians Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov.

France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won the ice dancing title earlier in the week ahead of world and European champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte.

Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin took bronze.

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