Teenage Russian figure skater makes striking Olympic debut

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Teenage Russian Figure Skater Makes Striking Olympic Debut Teenage Russian Figure Skater Makes Striking Olympic Debut
Valieva is nicknamed ‘Miss Perfect’ and is already anointed by many judges as the greatest female skater in history. Photo: PA Images
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By Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent, Beijing

Fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva lit up the ice on her Olympic debut on Sunday, soaring through her short program in the team figure skating competition and hinting at the record-breaking feats that are to come.

Valieva, nicknamed ‘Miss Perfect’ and already anointed by many good judges as the greatest female skater in history despite having scarcely started her senior career, scored 90.18, just short of her own world record of 90.45 that she set at last month’s European Championships.

Fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva is favourite to claim Olympic gold (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I was little nervous going into the competition,” said Valieva, one of three Russian skaters hailing from the famous Sambo-70 club in Moscow who are expected to sweep the medals in the women’s individual competition.

“I am thrilled to be at the Olympic Games and I did everything I could today. And I am very happy that I brought maximum amount of points to my team.”

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Valieva and her Russian team-mates are set to become the first women to land quads in an Olympic competition later in the Games.

The jumps are barred from the short program, so Valieva contented herself by becoming only the fourth woman in history to land a triple axel at a Games.

Kamila Valieva came close to breaking her own world record (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She is aiming to succeed compatriot and fellow 15-year-old Alina Zagitova, who made history in Pyeongchang by packing all 11 jump elements into the second half of her programme in order to earn extra percentage points, a quirk of the scoring system which was subsequently changed as a result.

Zagitova has taken a step back from her skating career since Pyeongchang, citing motivational issues, and enabling the Sambo-70 trio of Valieva, Anna Shcherbakova and Anna Trusova to assert their dominance.

In the men’s free skate section of the competition, Yuma Kagiyama of Japan emerged as a genuine threat to the big two, Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, posting a score of 208.94 to give his country hope of overhauling Russia when the team event concludes on Monday.

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