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20 Feb, 2018 12:00

‘Why is she not penalized?’: US columnist attacks ‘strategic’ Russian skater Zagitova

‘Why is she not penalized?’: US columnist attacks ‘strategic’ Russian skater Zagitova

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has launched a scathing attack on Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova, criticizing the teenager’s “strategic” routine and calling for judges to penalize her composition.

Best-selling skating author Brennan bemoaned the “imbalance” of Zagitova’s planned long program at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, which she says is unfairly stacked with seven jumps in the last two minutes of her routine, potentially gaining her a 10 percent points bonus.

Brennan argues that the 10 percent bonus is awarded for jumps attempted in the second half, when the skater’s legs are tired from jumps attempted in the first half, claiming the 15-year-old attains extra points “without having put in the exertion.”

“It wouldn’t be a top international women’s figure skating competition without its share of controversy, however. This one involves one of the Russians. (Of course it does.) It’s the way Zagitova has laid out her long program, specifically her jumps,” Brennan complains.


“They’re all in the last two minutes of her program, every single one of them. She doesn’t do any jumps in the first half of her program, then jumps like mad in the final two minutes – all to get the 10% bonus in points for jumps in the second half of a program.”

Zagitova first grabbed headlines when her spellbinding free skate show ensured the Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) claimed silver in the team competition at PyeongChang. Her routine includes deftly landing an ultra-complicated triple Lutz-triple loop combination.

She and fellow teenager and teammate Evgenia Medvedeva, 18, are expected to complete a Russian one-two in the women’s figure skating competition, which begins Wednesday.

However, bitter Brennan, who authored the acclaimed best-selling skating book ‘Inside Edge’, implied the 15-year-old’s routine lacked creativity and brazenly called for judges to penalize her for “composition of the program.”

Comparing Zagitova’s tactics to chicanery, Brennan makes the outlandish accusation that the teenager is not being punished because “international judges who are in love with both Russian women don’t seem to care,” despite Zagitova’s routine being well within the laws of skating.

Brennan unfavorably compares Zagitova’s routine to that of Team USA member Mirai Nagasu, which comprises eight triple jumps spread through her program: five in the first two minutes, three in the last two minutes.

Zagitova beat Nagasu by more than 20 points in the women’s team competition long program as the USA claimed bronze, behind the Russian skaters.

READ MORE: Alina Zagitova’s remarkable free skate claims PyeongChang silver for OAR in team figure skating

Brennan’s is not the first attack from a US skating figure on Zagitova. Earlier, Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner tweeted her displeasure at the routine. Wagner claimed she “respected” Zagitova’s competitive approach, but moaned the Russian’s routine is “not a program.”

“She killed time in the beginning and then just jumped the second half. It's not a performance. I understand that this is what the system allows but it's not all figure skating is about,” Wagner complained.

Zagitova has endured a wave of criticism since bursting onto the Olympic scene in South Korea, largely from US media. The youngster has, however, managed to win the hearts and minds of many observers, who appreciate her stunning natural ability and initiative on the ice.

By Danny Armstrong for RT Sport

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