Russian ice skater Evgenia Medvedeva broke her own world record in the women’s short program Wednesday, only to have her compatriot overtake her minutes later.
Alina Zagitova, a 15-year-old skating prodigy, set a huge score of 82.92 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, 1.31 points clear of Medvedeva’s short-lived world record.
The gold medal will be decided after scores from the short program are added to those from the free skate on Friday, which means it’s all but guaranteed that a Russian skater will take the top spot.
For months leading up to the Games, Medvedeva was firm favorite for the gold – she is, after all, the current World Champion.
Zagitova has come out of nowhere however, only entering international competition last year, and going on to win the European Championships in Moscow in January.
On the official Pyeongchang website, she lists Medvedeva as one of her heroes, along with Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.
Speaking after the event, Zagitova said she was nervous going into it and “didn’t expect” such a big score. She added that, despite it being the “best performance of (her) life,” there was still room to grow.
“I could have had more speed going into the jumps, the landings of the jumps could have been smoother, there could have been more emotions,” she said.
“The important thing is to show progress with each competition. You need to get better and better.”
Medvedeva was sanguine about breaking her own record from the team event – only to see it smashed minutes later: “I am not chasing after numbers, but after inner feelings. Today I felt better than in the team event, but I still could have had a higher score if the (jump) combination would have been better.”
While Zagitova has shown why a Gold medal would be well deserved, it would be a heartbreaking loss for Medvedeva, who has laser-focused on these Olympics.
As well as being technically incredible, Medvedeva is also a character. Her world record winning program is built around the theme of “clinical death,” and in the past she’s courted controversy by skating to a track from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” that included audio from the September 11 terrorist attacks.
On the more cheery side, at an event in Tokyo last year, the self-professed KPop and anime fan took to the ice dressed as a character from “Sailor Moon.”
The daughter of a figure skater, Medvedeva began skating aged three, but while her success has brought her parental pride, it’s also caused massive nerves, according to the official Pyeongchang Olympics website.
“My mother never watches my performance,” Medvedeva told Russian media last year.
“Probably, our connection is so strong that mum’s anxiety comes to me even at a distance. That’s why we’ve agreed that she does not go to competitions and does not even watch the live broadcast. It started since I was 13 when I began competing at international junior events.”
CNN’s Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.