Beijing / China

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2017 World Junior Champion Alina Zagitova, of Russia, vaulted from fourth place to first in the Ladies Free Skating at the Audi Cup of China in Beijing on Saturday, winning gold in her Grand Prix debut. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi stayed in second place to earn the silver medal while Russia’s Elena Radionova claimed the bronze.

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Performing to ‘Don Quixote’, Zagitova nailed a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, four more triples of excellent quality, and level-four spins and footwork. The only glitch was an under-rotated triple Lutz. The 15-year-old scored 144.44 points and totaled 213.88 points. “To win the gold medal in my first Grand Prix means a lot to me, but I need to continue to work and I cannot rest on my laurel,” the Muscovite said. “I was not pleased with my Short Program but I was pleased with the free (skate) as I did everything. I was a little tight, but I was able to show what I have been training,” she added.

Higuchi’s James Bond routine was highlighted by seven triples including two triple Lutz-triple toe combinations. The two-time World Junior bronze medalist picked up 141.99 points which contributed to 212.52 points overall. “I think I moved very well on the ice today and I am satisfied with what I did here,” the 16-year-old said. “However, I still have a lot of things to improve in future training and competitions. I have a little regret that I am not at the top here, there is still a gap.”I think I met my goal to go to the Grand Prix Final and I want to show my best there.”

Radionova produced seven clean triples and difficult spins in her program to ‘Rhumba d’Amour’ to score a season’s best of 136.34 points. The two-time European silver medalist was ranked fourth in the Free Skating but held on to third place with 206.82 points overall. “I am happy with the progress I have made in a short time and that I was able to skate without stupid falls,” Radionova said. “I have worked a lot and I skated with more confidence. But this is by far not the limit and I need to progress with each competition.”

2017 Four Continents Champion Mai Mihara (JPN) put out a strong Free Skating performance to move from seventh to fourth at 206.07 points. 2017 World Junior silver medalist Marin Honda (JPN) came fifth (198.32). 2017 World bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) dropped from first to sixth after two smaller errors on jumps (196.83 points). 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) went for a triple Axel, but stepped out of it. With 196.68 points, she finished seventh.

Audi Cup of China is the third of six events of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series that culminates in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Nagoya (JPN) in December. The top six skaters/couples in each discipline qualify for the Final. The global prize money for the Grand Prix is US$272,000.

Full entry lists and results of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2017/18 are available here.  Follow the discussion on social media by using #GPFigure #FigureSkating