ZAGREB, Croatia, January 25 (R-Sport) - Russian youngster Adelina Sotnikova skated her best-ever short program Friday to take the lead at her first European figure skating championships.
Sotnikova skated clean to score 67.61, smashing her personal best by six points, and Saturday’s free skate could see the 16-year-old become Russia’s first European women’s champion since Irina Slutskaya in 2006.
“I had a powerful charge of emotion and it worked out for me,” she said.
Her coach Elena Buyanova said the skate was proof Sotnikova had overcome growing pains that had held her back. "Now she's different. She skated a woman's skate here," she said.
Reigning European and world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy could only manage 64.19 for second place after falling on an early combination, while Italian veteran Valentina Marchei staked her claim for a first major medal by taking third with 58.22.
Another Russian prodigy, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, is fourth on 57.18, and the double Grand Prix champion said nerves had got the better of her.
“It seemed like I’d calmed down, and then I went out there and felt I was nervous,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to me. I hope it won’t happen in the free skate.”
Last year’s bronze medalist Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia is down in 16th after an erratic skate scored her 48.75.
Russia already has a gold medal at the European championships after Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov skated to victory in the pairs Thursday.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviev could win Russia a second title if they hold onto their ice dance lead in Friday’s free dance.
The men’s competition ends with Saturday’s free skate, with France’s Florent Amodio leading the standings. Seven-time champion Evgeny Plushenko of Russia withdrew injured after coming sixth in Thursday’s short program.