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Russia names figure skating worlds team; Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva oldest in 14 years

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 7, 2021: Figure skater Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva performs during a ladies’ free skating event as part of the Channel One Figure Skating Cup at Megasport Arena. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)

Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva grabbed the last spot on Russia’s three-woman team for the world figure skating championships and is set to become the first non-teen to compete in women’s singles at worlds for the nation since 2013.

Russia named its roster for worlds -- in Stockholm in three weeks -- after a domestic competition this past weekend.

It’s led by three-time reigning national champion Anna Shcherbakova, a 16-year-old set for her senior worlds debut. Another 16-year-old, Aleksandra Trusova, all but wrapped up the second spot by placing third at nationals in December (and second among skaters old enough for senior worlds).

Tuktamysheva, 24 and the gold medalist at her last worlds in 2015, was seventh at nationals in December. But she was fourth among skaters age-eligible for worlds (and just .38 of a point behind the third age-eligible skater).

At last weekend’s Russian Cup Final, Tuktamysheva placed fourth. But the top three finishers are all 14 years old, and thus too young for senior worlds.

For the last spot on the world team, Tuktamysheva essentially outdueled Aliona Kostornaya, the world’s top skater last season who missed competitions this season, including nationals, after testing positive for the coronavirus. Kostornaya was sixth at the Russian Cup Final.

Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova last competed in December 2019 and is on an indefinite break from competition. Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva hasn’t competed since an early September domestic preseason event, dealing with a back injury and then being hospitalized after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Aleksey Mishin, the venerable coach who turns 80 next week, called student Tuktamysheva a Statue of Liberty for female singles skaters 20 and older, according to Russian media.

Tuktamysheva is set to become the first non-teenage Russian female singles skater to compete at worlds since Alena Leonova, who did so at 22 in 2013.

That same year, Tuktamysheva made her world champs debut at 16. That was also the last year when the world’s top skater was not Russian.

Tuktamysheva will be the oldest Russian female singles skater to compete at worlds since 27-year-old Yelena Sokolova in 2007. Tuktamysheva has yet to make an Olympic team, but should she next year, she would be the oldest Russian Olympic female singles skater since 2006, when Sokolova was 26 and Irina Slutskaya was 27.

Russia could sweep the medals at worlds. It was expected to do so last year, before worlds were canceled, with Kostornaya, Shcherbakova and Trusova having swept the Grand Prix Series and European Championships titles in their senior debut seasons.

Japanese Kihira Rika, who was fourth at the last worlds in 2019, may be the biggest threat.

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