U.S., Russia dominate Grand Prix of figure skating

By Emily Pacenti  |  Oct. 22, 2017 at 8:50 PM
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Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The United States and Russia dominated this weekend in Moscow as some of the world's top figure skaters competed in the Rostelecom Cup for a coveted spot in December's Grand Prix Finals.

The Rostelecom is the opening event of the Grand Prix Series, each skater competing to gain one of six spaces per discipline in the finals.

Here's a recap of the results.

Men's

In a battle between two of the world's top male skaters, American Nathan Chen, 18, edged out the reigning Olympic champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, 22. Chen gained a 6-point lead Friday with a dynamic program set to Benjamin Clementine's Nemesis, a direct response to criticism that he lacked musicality.

Hanyu, Chen's primary competitor, came back to win the free skate, but was unable to make up for the 6-point lead. Chen came out on top overall by only 3.02 points.

This is Chen's second victory of the season, having taken gold at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic last month. His free skate, set to music from the Mao's Last Dancer soundtrack, had some missteps, but remained a powerful performance nonetheless. For Hanyu, this is his second silver.

"I was very pleased with the beginning of my program," Chen told Ice Network. "I got a little tired halfway through the program and started faltering a little bit on the second quad toe, which was a big mistake. I can't let things like that happen in the future. But, this is my first Grand Prix win, and I'm very happy with that."

Despite the narrow loss, Hanyu had many small victories to celebrate with his performance. In Saturday's free skate program set to Seimei, he landed his first quadruple lutz in competition and shared a touching moment with a younger fan who handed the Olympic champion a handmade drawing of himself after his short program on Friday.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan meets a young fan on the ice. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

"The most important thing for me is to rotate each jump, each combination," Hanyu said in reference to his under rotations in the free skate. "That made the 3-point difference."

The bronze medal went to Mikhail Kolyada of Russia.

Ladies'

In an expected victory, Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva, 17, took home gold with a lead of over 15 points. She is the reigning World, European, and Grand Prix Final champion who took gold at this same event in 2015.

Evgenia, known for her dramatic presentation, competed with two moving programs set to Chopin's Nocturne and music from the soundtrack of Anna Karenina. The skater experienced a rare fall, ironically on one of the easiest jump elements in her free-skate program, a double axel, but still maintained a wide lead.

"It was a useful mistake and I will learn from it," she said of the stumble.

Evgenia took off with a total score of 231.32 points, the silver medalist scored 215.98.

Carolina Kostner, 30, a five-time European champion and Olympic bronze medalist, took the silver with a free skate that contained six triple jump elements. She earned 141.36 points for the free program set to Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.

The bronze medal went to Wakaba Higuchi, 16 of Japan. Frequent fan favorite Elena Radionova fell to fourth place after some technical stumbles.

Pairs

A continuation of Russian success at Rostelecom, pair skaters Evgenia Tarasova, 22, and Vladimir Morozov, 24, received gold as well. They performed a successful quadruple twist along with other impressive technical elements such as throw triple salchow level 4 lifts.

"Our program is a boogie woogie and we wanted to express that style on the ice," said Morozov of the pair's evident musicality.

Last season, the Russian duo took home gold at the European championships, as well the Grand Prix Final. With a first place win right off the bat, there's plenty of room for confidence that the returning champions will once again compete at the finals.

The silver medal went to Russian teammates, Ksenia Stolbova, 25, and Fedor Klimov, 27, who experienced a rough start to competition. Stolbova fell on a triple toe loop and throw triple salchow, but the pair still exhibited strong lifts throughout the program.

In a complete Russian sweep of the podium, the bronze medal was awarded to Russian pair Kristina Astakhova, 20, and Alexei Rogonov, 29.

Ice dance

Fan favorites and Team USA brother-and-sister duo Maia and Alex Shibutani, 23 and 26, slid into victory with a unique free dance program set to Coldplay's Paradise. This is their fifth gold medal win on the Grand Prix circuit, continuing a major winning streak.

With stunning technical elements, the Shibutanis received level 4s on spins, twizzles, and lifts and all positive grades of execution in Saturday's free dance.

"Since the end of last season we've been working extremely hard, and today, the free went really well," said Maia Shibutani. "We're proud of the work that we've put in and the potential that both of our programs have."

Less than 5 points behind the Shibutanis, Russians Ekaterina Bobrova, 27, and partner, Dmitri Soloviev, 28, received the silver medal. A flubbed spin on their part was an unfortunate mistake that set the duo back.

"It is rather upsetting, because we skated clean in practice." Soloviev said of the mistake. "It was a regretful mistake that affected our program and came out of nowhere."

The Grand Prix Series continues with Skate Canada on Wednesday and the Cup of China on Nov. 3. The finals will take place starting Dec. 7 in Nagoya, Japan.

The 2018 Winter Olympics start Feb. 9 in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

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