GANGNEUNG, South Korea — That Russian gold medal drought at the Pyeongchang Olympics is closer to ending.
Teen figure skaters Alina Zagitova or Evgenia Medvedeva will almost certainly take gold in one of the Winter Games’ marquee events after they went 1-2 in the women’s short program Wednesday with the highest scores ever.
Medvedeva had not lost a competition in two years until she was beaten by Zagitova at the European Championships in Moscow. That set the stage for an Olympic showdown, and with the Russian team having no gold medal so far, the spotlight was even more glaring for them.
They responded with world records, Medvedeva with a score of 81.61, then Zagitova besting her minutes later with 82.92.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, the 2017 world silver medalist, stood third with 78.87 points.
The American trio of Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell struggled with early mistakes in each of their programs. Nagasu was ninth (66.93) with Chen (65.90) and Tennell (64.01) right behind her.
Russia had never won Olympic gold for women until Adelina Sotnikova took home the medal in Sochi. Another is looming heading to Friday’s free skate to conclude Olympic figure skating. It should break the Russian gold medal drought unless one of their teammates beats them to the podium.
Medvedeva wasn’t at her best, yet her mark was a record 81.61. A group of Russian fans swayed together in the stands and chanted her name when that number was posted.
“I’m satisfied with my performance today. It was not my best, but it was OK,” she said. “All the battle is still ahead.”
Three skaters later came her training comrade, 15-year-old Zagitova, who put down a more difficult program, including a triple lutz-triple loop combination that outdid Medvedeva’s flip-toe loop combo.
Thus, another world record, 82.92.
And again the Russian fans rocked back and forth, this time chanting Zagitova’s name.
“Well done to her,” Medvedeva said. “She did everything she could.”
Tennell, of Carpentersville, Illinois, fell during her opening combination, such a rare mistake that not even she could remember the last time she made it.
“It was definitely unexpected,” Tennell said of her fall on a triple toe loop, “but things happen. “We’re all human. We all make mistakes. You just have to get up and keep going.”