Elizaveta Tuktamysheva shed tears as she thrilled her huge global fanbase by scooping silver on a remarkable night for Russia at the World Figure Skating Championships, finishing second to 16-year-old phenomenon Anna Shcherbakova.
Six years after she last competed at the World Championships in Shanghai, Tuktamysheva was overwhelmed by emotion as she made a triumphant return in Stockholm, finishing on 220.46 points.
A relative veteran at the age of 24, Tuktamysheva was unable to overhaul sensation Shcherbakova, who followed in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Alena Kostornaia, to ensure a teenage Russian took the world title for the eighth successive year.
Another 16-year-old, Alexandra Trusova, produced an exhilarating comeback to win bronze and secure a clean sweep on the podium for Russia, attempting five quads as she won the free skate small gold medal and finished with 217.20 points, 3.26 behind Tuktamysheva.
Each of the three dropped at least one spot in their free skates, including Shcherbakova, who was grounded on a quadruple flip but hit back with seven triple jumps including a triple Lutz-triple loop combination.
“I’m really not satisfied with my performance,” Shcherbakova said afterwards, despite her justified grin. “I’m really happy that I’m first overall because it was my goal.
“It was a real fight for me because, from the first element, everything was not like I wanted and in every [remaining] element I understood that I [had to] try to do my best on the element and not lose points.”
Disputes over the scoring continued to rage online, although any rancor was largely replaced by admiration for the winning trio and a chorus of fawning over Tuktamysheva, who also won gold at the European Championships in the Swedish capital in 2015.
As she basked in the glow of her ladies’ singles glory to the strains of the stand-in Russian anthem, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, Shcherbakova laughed at the site of the Russian flag almost falling off its stand before organizers adjusted and re-raised it.
“She is an absolute f***ing legend,” one fan emphatically concluded after seeing Tuktamysheva hit two triple Axels in her free skate. “This will go down in history.”
Another said: “There wasn’t a girl who didn’t fall today – that’s why this was a weirdest championship ever.
“But I’m so, so, so happy for Anya Scherbakova and especially for Liza Tuktamysheva, who is an incredible fighter.”
An editor and figure-skating fanatic said that Tuktamysheva’s absence from the podium had been the longest since Britain’s Daphne Walker took silver in Stockholm in 1947.
“The judging was obviously questionable but this is a huge feat for Liza,” they said. “This just doesn’t happen.”
Shcherbakova will turn 17 on Sunday. “I really didn’t think about it before because I was thinking only of my competition,” she replied when asked how she plans to celebrate.
“But maybe we will do something with my coaches. I really want to say thank you to them. It was a really hard season.”
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