Figure Skating

Medvedeva leads as Japan trio struggles

Kyodo, AP

Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva won the women’s short program as figure skating’s world championships got underway on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old defending world champion earned 79.01 points, leaving Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond (75.98) and Gabrielle Daleman (72.19) in second and third heading into Friday’s free skate.

“I think it was a good performance,” Medvedeva said. “My goal was to avoid mistakes, and I accomplished that. A score of 79 is something to be satisfied with.”

Osmond, skating in her first worlds since 2014, put her success down to a more focused approach.

“I was just loving every minute of it and completely in the moment,” Osmond said. “I know how to deal a little bit more with the excitement, and hopefully I can just stay that way for the long (program).”

Osmond will skate last on Friday, a position which can put some skaters under pressure. But the Canadian said it “has always been my favorite spot to compete.”

Daleman is following up on her first major championship medal. She won silver at the Four Continents Championship.

“I almost never really truly believed in myself that much, and then over the last two seasons it just kept coming together,” Daleman said.

Six-time world championship medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy struggled in eighth after making a crucial error on a flying camel spin.

With the number of berths at next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics to be finalized here based on the final placings, Wakaba Higuchi (65.87) is ninth, Rika Hongo (62.55) 12th and Mai Mihara (59.59) 15th.

Higuchi skated a solid short program, neatly executing all four of her jumps and only getting marked down on one of her spins before exiting to a standing ovation at Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena.

“I nailed all of my jumps, so I’m extremely relieved,” said Higuchi, who is coming off a ninth-place finish at the Four Continents. “After the Four Continents I went back to the drawing board in training and the practices were perfect.

“I think I prepared well to compete in a big competition. Although I got marked down on my spin, it was a performance I could be proud of.”

Hongo, who skated in the final group, under rotated the final part of a triple-toe loop combination, but was satisfied with her performance.

“I rushed the jumps a little, but my steps and my presentation were really there,” she said. “My coach told me to have fun out there, and I began to get into it with the crowd.”

Mihara, the Four Continents Champion, fell on her final jump and chalked it down to nerves from her first time at the worlds.

“I felt nervous like never before,” she said. “I rushed my final flip. This is a big competition and will decide the slots for the Olympics so it’s important.

“I began thinking too much and that was that.”

China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong lead the pairs after the short program.

Sui and Han skated cleanly to score 81.23 ahead of Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot on 79.84.