Russian girl, 14, leads Skate Canada

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, 14, of Russia performs her short program during Skate Canada International...

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, 14, of Russia performs her short program during Skate Canada International on Friday. (Getty Images)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:02 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA - There is barely an eyebrow raised that a 14-year-old girl is in position to win the Skate Canada International title.

Women’s figure skating has long grown used to the phenom concept. Tiny Russian Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the latest 5-foot wonder kid, scored 59.57 short-program points in her first-ever senior Grand Prix event Friday afternoon at Hershey Centre.

She felt butterflies, of course.

“Yes, very nervous,” she said.

When did that feeling subside?

“After the sixth (of seven elements),” she said with a small grin.

There is an incredible story of dedication involving Tuktamisheva, who initially endured 27-hour train rides from her hometown of Glazov to St. Petersburg to train with Evgeni Plushenko coach Alexei Mishin.

“I used the (train time) to relax,” she said.

But there is not the same dynamic at work as in hockey, where John Tavares, at 15, lobbied for early entry into the Ontario Hockey League, scored 45 goals, was championed as a future NHL first overall pick and fulfilled that lofty prediction.

Tuktamisheva is actually barred from competing at a worlds until 2013 in London, Ont., because of age restrictions. Tara Lipinski’s Olympic gold at 15 spurred sweeping reform to keep the high-jumping, pre-Sweet 16 kiddies at bay.

The Grand Prix circuit, though, remains a free-for-all. That’s how Tuktamisheva ended up at a post-skate press conference flanked by American competitors Ashley Wagner (54.50 points) and Rachael Flatt (54.23 points), second and third heading into Saturday’s free skate.

Wagner, at 20, and Flatt, a freshman at Stanford University, are grizzled veterans compared to the youngster in the lead.

They also know what’s coming — that the Russian’s legacy in the sport will be determined by what she does beginning in her later teens, not over the next few months.

“It’s a lot different skating now than when I was 14 or 15,” Wagner said. “We all know the reasons for it, but I think the biggest change is the mental part. My first year on the Grand Prix circuit, I was so excited to be there. The second year was the toughest for me. The older you get, you expect more of yourself.

“I wish her (Tuktamisheva) the best.”

Cynthia Phaneuf remains Canada’s greatest example of the changes in store. She won nationals at 15, went through a growth spurt, then had to re-invent herself.

She’s 23 and once again the defending Canadian champ. Friday, the notorious slow season starter finished in eighth (48.70 points) after struggling with her triple Lutz.


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