As it happened: ROC, U.S. skaters star in women's short program

Posted at 3:07 AM, Feb 15, 2022

One of the most anticipated events at any Winter Olympics, the women's singles figure skating competition, was underway Tuesday, Feb. 15, with the short program.

The three competitors from the Russian Olympic Committee -- Anna Shcherbakova, Aleksandra Trusova and Kamila Valieva -- entered the Games as favorites for a podium sweep. Their stiffest competition came from Japan's Kaori Sakamoto, who managed to place third after Valieva and Shcherbakova and ahead of Trusova.

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The U.S. was represented by Mariah BellKaren Chen and Alysa Liu, all of whom are sitting in the top 15 after the short.

Typically, the top 24 skaters after the short program advance to the free skate. Due to the ongoing appeals and rulings surrounding Valieva testing positive for Trimetazidine on Dec. 25, because the 15-year-old ROC skater is among that number, 25 athletes will move on to Thursday's finale.

Editor's note: Re-live the event as it unfolded in real time with our live blog updates below.

SEE MORE: IOC: No medal ceremony for team event, or women's singles if Valieva is top three

Group 1 feat. Mana Kawabe

5:14 a.m. ET: Aaaand we're off! Anastasia Shabotova of Ukraine gets the women's short underway with some "Carol of the Bells." A fall on her opening triple axel and she scores 48.68 points.

5:21 a.m. ET: Finland's Jenni Saarinen is next up and she scores 56.97 points skating to another well-known tune: "Claire de lune."

5:28 a.m. ET: Austria's Olga Mikutina is into first now with 61.14 points after under-rotating two of her turns.

5:34 a.m. ET: Japan's Mana Kawabe makes her Olympic debut after earning the silver medal at NHK Trophy, the Grand Prix event held in Japan, this fall. She falls on her triple axel but recovers well the remainder of the program; into first with a score of 62.69.

5:40 a.m. ET: Lindsay van Zundert of the Netherlands is her country's only figure skater at the 2022 Winter Olympics. She slides into third with 59.24 points.

5:46 a.m. ET: A breath of fresh air in the sport, Josefin Taljegard comes out to the 1996 Fugees jam "Ready or Not." The 26-year-old Swede scores 54.51 points and is into fifth.

Current top three: Kawabe (JPN), Mikutina (AUT), van Zundert (NED)

Group 2 feat. Mariah Bell

6:17 a.m. ET: Australia's Kailani Craine is first in this group. A fellow NBC employee is very upset he was promised "Heart of Glass" by Blondie and instead received... a very remixed version. Craine opened with a double lutz instead of a triple; scores 49.93 and into sixth -- unlikely to continue on to the free skate.

6:23 a.m. ET: Great music choice by Great Britain's Natasha McKay ("Song for the Little Sparrow"?) who is now sixth with 52.54 points.

6:29 a.m. ET: Georgia's Anastasia Gubanova takes the ice after placing fourth in the team event women's short program (Georgia did not advance to the second half of the team event). A solid 10 days later, she doesn't score as high here but does lead the standings now with 65.40 points.

6:36 a.m. ET: The first of the three Americans here, Mariah Bell, sports an Audrey Hepburn-esque look to the ever-pleasant "River Flows In You." She falls on her opening triple-triple. Fun fact: At 25 years old, Bell is the oldest U.S. women's competitor to reach the Olympics since 1928. Tara Lipinski, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist, compares Bell to a Care Bear. The otherwise graceful performances garners 65.38 points and she is in second.

6:43 a.m. ET: Despite a mistake in what should have been a triple-triple but is instead just the triple lutz with a hand down on the ice, Canadian national champion Madeline Schizas secures her spot in the free skate with 60.53 points. She was third in the team event with this program but her score was nine points higher then.

6:50 a.m. ET: Zhu Yi of China performs to "Paint It Black" and with a troubled triple flip scores 53.44 points and is currently ninth. This was over six points better than her team event score.

Current top three: Gubanova (GEO), Bell (USA), Kawabe (JPN)

SEE MORE: At 25, Mariah Bell makes Olympic debut in women's short

Group 3 feat. Alexia Paganini

7:04 a.m. ET: Eliska Brezinova, who also skated for the Czech Republic in the team event at the start of these Games, earns a personal-best 64.31 points to her "Sweet Dreams" program. She's into third.

7:10 a.m. ET: Donning a stained-glass-esque dress if ever I've seen one, Estonia's Eva-Lotta Kiibus has a strong skate until the fall on her final jump. She is down in seventh with 59.55 points but is guaranteed to be in the free skate.

7:16 a.m. ET: "It's almost as if she's skating on the top of the ice like she's skimming it; there's not a deep edge in sight," Lipinski says as she describes Bulgarian Alexandra Feigin's performance. Feigin takes 59.16 points for that and is ninth.

7:23 a.m. ET: Time to say hello to Viktoria Safonova, who skates for Belarus; into fifth with 61.46 points.

7:30 a.m. ET: Germany's Nicole Schott was sixth of 10 skaters with this program in the team event. She was 18th in the women's event at the PyeongChang 2018 Games and it appears she will finish in a similar spot here as she places fourth so far with 63.13 points.

7:36 a.m. ET: Alexia Paganini, who skated for the U.S. until 2017 is here on behalf of Switzerland. Her "La Cumparsita" short program gets 61.06 points after both jumps in her triple-triple are called under-rotated and she ends this middle group in eighth place.

Current top three: Gubanova (GEO), Bell (USA), Brezinova (CZE)

Group 4 feat. Alysa Liu

8:06 a.m. ET: The penultimate group starts with Korea's Yelim Kim, the bronze medalist at last month's Four Continents Championships. Kim takes the lead here with 67.78 points -- our first new leader in an hour and a half.

8:12 a.m. ET: It's Ellie Goulding's version of Elton John's "Your Song" that leads Japan's Wakaba Higuchi to become just the fifth woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition! We've now seen two triple axels by women at these Games, also a historic mark. The five-time Grand Prix medalist easily takes the lead with 73.51 points.

8:19 a.m. ET: Not Ekaterina Kurakova's best skate. The Polish skater puts her hand down on her opening triple flip that was intended to be a triple-triple. She is 15th for now with a 59.08 and does make that cutoff for the free skate.

8:25 a.m. ET: Alysa Liu takes the ice now for her Olympic debut, something U.S. skating fans have waited all four years of this quad for. She won the 2019 and 2020 U.S. titles at age 13 and 14 and just this season became eligible for senior international competitions. All smiles from warmup through to receiving her score, which is 69.50 and she is second.

8:32 a.m. ET: One of the few women here who are at their second Olympic experience, Belgium's Loena Hendrickx scores 70.09 points and is behind Higuchi but ahead of Liu. Hendrickx was fifth at the 2021 worlds and fourth at this year's European Championships.

8:38 a.m. ET: Azerbaijan's Ekaterina Ryabova ends the group with a "Mambo Italiano" performance. Fun fact: Ryabova is the second Azerbaijani women's singles Olympian ever and first since 1998. She earns a 61.82 and is 10th.

Current top three: Higuchi (JPN), Hendrickx (BEL), Liu (USA)

SEE MORE: Liu makes clean Olympic debut in women's short program

Group 5 feat. K. Chen, ROC Skaters

8:52 a.m. ET: Karen Chen, who was 11th at her Olympic debut in 2018, returns to the ice here after skating in both portions of the team event earlier in these Games. The U.S. placed second in the team event, guaranteeing Chen an Olympic medal. This performance doesn't go as well for her, with a fall on her triple toeloop and looks of devastation after the program ends. Chen is eighth with 64.11 points.

8:59 a.m. ET: The first of three ROC skaters to take the ice in this group, Kamila Valieva struggles on her opening triple axel, landing on two feet. Ending the program in tears, this was clearly a different Valieva on the ice from 10 days ago in the team event, before her Dec. 25, 2021, positive test was known and the saga began that resulting in the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in her favor to compete here. She scores points 82.16 points and is into first.

9:05 a.m. ET: Korea's Young You makes her (senior) Olympic debut after winning the 2020 Youth Olympic gold medal. With a few questionable jumps, You is into third place with 70.34 points.

9:12 a.m. ET: Aleksandra Trusova of the ROC, who earned bronze at last year's world championships, takes a fall on her opening triple axel, meaning we will not see one from the ROC women today. She is in second behind Valieva with 74.60 points.

9:18 a.m. ET: Reigning world champion Anna Shcherbakova of ROC has a clean skate. She is the only ROC athlete not to attempt a triple axel in the short, but she does have quads planned for her free skate. Shcherbakova is second with 80.20 points.

9:25 a.m. ET: It's Japan's Kaori Sakamoto who, as the final skater, wedges herself between the ROC women with her 79.84 points.

Top three after the short program: Valieva (ROC), Shcherbakova (ROC), Sakamoto (JPN)

Not advancing to the free skate: Taljegard (SWE), Zhu (CHN), McKay (GBR), Craine (AUS), Shabotova (UKR)

SEE MORE: ROC's Kamila Valieva nails routine to lead short program