Drought about to end: Russians 1-2 after short program

Bradie Tennell of the United States performs during the women's short program figure skating in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) 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 had set the previous mark for a short program in the team event, when her team won silver. Zagitova handled the free skate.

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.

So, 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.”

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, the 2017 world silver medalist, stood third.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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