Evgenia Medvedeva set to battle close friend Alina Zagitova in Winter Olympics free dance final

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Alina Zagitova starred on Friday.

Evgenia Medvedeva says she is preparing for “war” to deny her close friend Alina Zagitova Olympic figure skate gold after her compatriot set a new world record short programme on Wednesday.

Zagitova displayed maturity far beyond her 15 years in a spellbinding routine to music from the film Black Swan to earn a massive 82.92 points to lead the ladies competition.

Her flawless two-and-a-half minutes on the ice at the Gangneung Arena, featuring a complex triple lutz, triple toeloop combination, gave her a narrow advantage of 1.31 points over her training partner and buddy going into

Friday’s free dance final.

Their closest challenger is Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond on 78.87, with Japan’s Satoko Miyahara in fourth.

“We are friends, we are young girls, we can talk about anything with each other,” said Medvedeva, 18, who like Zagitova is making her Olympic debut.

“But on the ice, we must fight, I feel like it’s a little war, when you skate you are alone,” added the double world champion Zagitova said she is up to the challenge.

“I’ve said many many times, Evgenia and me are very good friends off the ice but in practice or competition I get this feeling of rivalry, it’s not bad or negative or malicious feeling of rivalry but it is there.”

Asked at the post short programme press conference about her maturity and serious nature Zagitova replied: “I am very calm, I don’t show emotions, I don’t splash them around.”

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 21: Evgenia Medvedeva of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes during the Ladies Single Skating Short Program on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 21, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Evgenia Medvedeva in action.

Then almost apologetically she added: “This is how I am, it’s my nature.”

The two skaters are set to fight it out for what could be the first gold of the Games for the Olympic Athletes from Russia — who are competing as neutrals, after Russia were banned for doping.

Medvedeva refused to be drawn on the significance of that, commenting in English: “I’m trying not to think about medals, my main goal is to show a clean free skate, to be satisfied with my performance.”

Zagitova’s world record feat was all the more remarkable given she had watched Medvedeva a few minutes earlier breaking the record she had set last week in the team event with a score of 81.61.

“I was very happy when I saw the score, but I did not expect it,” the girl from the Western Urals said.

“This is the best performance of my life, but there is still room to grow.”

Zagitova has swept all before her in her first senior season, arriving in South Korea unbeaten in her four competitions, culminating in depriving Medvedeva of her European title in Moscow last month.

Medvedeva holds the world record for the free dance and combined, but the Muscovite knows she will have a herculean fight on her hands to deny Zagitova.

Medvedeva was beaten six points by Zagitova at the European Championships, the first time the pair had skated against each other in competition.

But she was also making her comeback in the Russian capital after a two-month hiatus recovering from a broken foot.

In her enforced absence Zagitova had stolen the skating spotlight, and on this form she may well do so again as she attempts to become the second youngest ladies Olympic skate champion behind American Tara Lipinski, who won the 1998 gold medal aged 15 years, eight months and 10 days.

They are trying to follow up Russia’s first ever women’s skate title in Sochi four years ago, with Medvedeva recalling: “I was only 14 then.

“I remember when Russia won gold (with Adelina Sotnikova), it was really amazing, I just sat in a chair and thought ‘I want the same feeling'”.

One of them is likely to experience that come Friday.

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Czech Republic knock USA out of Winter Olympics ice hockey with stunning win to reach semi-finals

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Winter Olympics: Sofia Goggia wins downhill as Lindsey Vonn takes bronze

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Lindsey Vonn’s bid for a second Olympic downhill gold medal came unstuck Wednesday as the US ski star finished third in the women’s blue riband event won by “crazy” close friend Sofia Goggia of Italy.

Goggia described herself as a “samurai” after timing 1min 39.22sec for a first ever downhill title for the Italian women’s team.

The 25-year-old came in 0.09sec ahead of Norway’s giant slalom silver medallist Ragnhild Mowinckel, with Vonn a further 0.42sec adrift.

Goggia made a mistake on the upper part of the polished 2.8km-long Jeongseon course, but produced a magnificent gliding mid-section and strong bottom third.

It reaffirmed the fine form she has shown on the World Cup circuit this season, with two victories and two second places in the downhill, and also second and third placings in the super-G.

“I was really focused, I moved like a samurai,” said Goggia, her head coach Massimo Rinaldi labelling her as “crazyhorse”.

“Usually, I’m really chaotic, but I wanted to take in every little detail, every particular in the morning. I believed in myself — and then what counts. I didn’t take any risks. I just used my brain because I have one sometimes and I use it!”

Rinaldi said it was a “special” day for Italy, adding: “Sofia’s always skiing fast, always skiing 110 percent, sometimes the mistakes come, but she’s always trying to do her best.”

Vonn made few errors in her descent, but it was just not enough, Mowinckel providing a surprise factor with her second place after starting 19.

After the race Vonn, 33, confirmed that it would be her last Olympic downhill and said: “I gave it all today, skied a great race. Sofia just skied better than I did.

“It’s sad. It’s my last downhill. I wish I could keep going, I’m having so much fun and I love what I do, but my body just can’t take another four years,” she said.

“But I’m proud to be competing for my country, giving it all and proud to come away with a medal.”

Mowinckel followed up on her giant slalom podium with another strong showing for Norway, which now tops the alpine medal table with six.

“Well, we do have a lot of snow up there in Norway,” she said. “It’s a great environment for winter sports and there’s saying that ‘we are born with skis on our feet’.”

Vonn’s bronze at least made up for disappointment of her sixth place in the super-G when an error at the bottom cost a podium place in a sensational race won by Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka.

All eyes were again on Vonn, winner of 81 World Cup races, as she started the second race in her Pyeongchang Games campaign in brilliant sunshine.

Dressed in a figure-hugging white catsuit with red and blue stripes, Vonn reached speeds of 115 kmh and flew more than 30 metres off the jumps.

Vonn won the blue riband title at the 2010 Vancouver Games but missed Sochi through injury.

But the gold was beyond her as she finished behind Goggia, whose friendship she has said is based on them both being “100 percent crazy”.

The pair embraced at the finish area, Vonn allowing herself a slight look skywards, a sigh and shrug of the shoulders.

She at least broke the record for oldest female medallist in alpine skiing, previously held by Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister when she won the super-G in 2006.

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