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Young Russians own Rostelecom Cup on first day

Lipnitskaia, Kovtun dominate shorts; Germans win pairs, Russians dance
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Cup of China silver medalist Maxim Kovtun of Russia skated 10.69 points better than he ever had before, posting a personal-best 92.53 points to establish a commanding lead. -Getty Images

The 2013 Rostelecom Cup opened in Moscow on Friday with the ladies, pairs and men's short programs, followed by the short dance. Rostelecom Cup is the sixth and last event of the 2013 Grand Prix Series, and thus, the last chance for athletes to earn a spot in the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan, next month.

Lipnitskaia storms ahead in ladies short program

Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia skated to the lead in the ladies short program, followed by Carolina Kostner of Italy and Agnes Zawadzki of Team USA. All three ladies posted a new season's-best score.

Performing to "You Don't Give Up on Love," Lipnitskaia hit a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple flip and impressive Level 4 spins to score 72.24 points.

"Today, for the first time ever, I skated calmly," Lipnitskaia said. "Usually, I am very nervous, and I was nervous before I skated, but once I stepped on the ice this time I was absolutely calm.

"My goal is, as always, to skate clean," she continued. "You should never think about scores; you have to do [your] job and then the score will come."

Kostner's program to "Humoresque" by Anton Dvorak included a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop and two Level 4 spins.The five-time and reigning European champion collected 67.74 points.

"I actually really enjoyed performing," Kostner said. "As soon as I stepped on the ice, I felt a pleasure being here. The 2005 worlds came to my mind. This was the practice rink, I competed there. It is an honor to still be able to skate. It feels very special."

Zawadzki landed a triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz in her routine to Sex and the City to earn 60.45 points.

"I'm so happy with the way I competed today," Zawadzki said. "I finally feel like I was myself and I competed what I do in training. I have been struggling with my confidence, but since yesterday when I stepped on the ice, I felt like myself again. I was so easygoing and calm.

"I'm happy to be back (in Moscow); this is my fourth time here, and I really love it."

American Mirai Nagasu sits within striking distance of the podium with 60.44 points in fourth place, just 0.01 back of Zawadzki. Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamisheva came in fifth with 60.16 points, ahead of Japan's Satoko Miyahara, who registered 56.57 points.

Wobbly Savchenko, Szolkowy take pairs short program

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany claimed the pairs short program, with Russia's Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov landing in second and Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch ranking third.

Savchenko and Szolkowy produced a triple twist, side-by-side triple toe and Level 4 lift, pairs spin, death spiral and footwork in their routine to "When Winter Comes" in an arrangement by Andre Rieu, but Savchenko fell on the throw triple Axel. The couple picked up a season's best with 73.25 points.

"Our skating today was a lot better than our last competition in China, and that was our goal for today," Szolkowy said. "As everybody could see, we had a bad fall on the throw. It is a risky element. Right now, I hope Aliona will be OK for tomorrow."

"I am very sad, but tomorrow is a new day, and we'll try to make the best out of it," Savchenko added.

Bazarova and Larionov's program to "Titine" from the "Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin" soundtrack featured a triple twist, throw triple flip as well as four Level 4 elements, but Larionov doubled the side-by-side toe loop while Bazarova stumbled on a triple. With 69.72 points, the 2012 European silver medalists got a season's-best score.

"Compared to Paris [last week], we were able to fix the mistake on the death spiral," Bazarova said. "We had lost a level there; now, we changed the entry and got the maximum level for all elements. The first jump didn't happen for both of us. It is very upsetting because it worked in training and in the warm-up. Tomorrow, we'll try to fix our mistakes."

Skating to Micmacs, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch completed a triple twist and throw triple loop, but Moscovitch fell on the triple toe. The reigning Four Continents silver medalists earned 65.65 points.

"I think I was working on some yoga poses on the landing (of the triple toe). The ice was a little bit slippery," Moscovitch joked. "We've been skating all week, we haven't missed anything. It happens; that's skating. The rest of the routine felt very good. Aside from the mistake, I think we did everything quite well."

Julia Antipova and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia finished fourth with 62.87 points, and Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim of Team USA placed fifth with 59.56 points.

Kovtun dominates men's field

Russia's Maxim Kovtun won the men's short program ahead of Tatsuki Machida of Japan and Spain's Javier Fernández.

Kovtun reeled off a quadruple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple toe loop, triple Axel and a Level 4 combination spin his Flamenco program to score a personal best with 92.53 points.

"I am very happy today with my performance; everything I planned worked out," Kovtun said. "But, I still can skate better than that. I am waiting with impatience for each competition and for the offseason to work more on my skating in order to get a higher component score. I am still lacking in this area."

Performing to East of Eden, Machida stepped out of the quad toe-triple toe combination but rallied back to nail a triple Axel, triple Lutz and picked up a Level 4 on spins and the step sequence. He tallied 84.90 points.

"I am not in the best condition right now, and considering that, I am happy with how I performed," Machida said. "I am looking forward to performing my free skate to "Firebird" by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky tomorrow in front of a Russian audience."

Fernández's routine to "Satan Takes a Holiday" featured triple Axel, triple Lutz-double toe combination and two Level 3 spins, but he missed the quadruple Salchow. The European champion earned 81.87 points.

"My short program wasn't the best one again," Fernández said. "I have some little problems with the quad and I keep working to fix them. I have been doing quads well in practice and warm-up, but I have a little problem in the pattern. I have to keep my mind clear for the warm-up and competition to pull out a better program."

Russia's Konstantin Menshov placed fourth with 72.43 points, just edging out teammate Artur Gachinski, who has 72.18 points.

American Joshua Farris withdrew from the competition following the morning practice. He sprained his right ankle in practice Thursday.

Bobrova, Soloviev pull ahead in short dance

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia danced to the lead in the short dance. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada sit in second place, and Russia's Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko finished third.

Bobrova and Soloviev's performance of quickstep and foxtrot to "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and "I Will Wait For You" was highlighted by intricate steps and a straight-line lift. The Finnstep sequences and the side-by-side footwork merited a Level 3, while the twizzles and the straight-line lift were a Level 4. The European champions posted a new season's best with 68.42 points.

"Today, before we took our starting pose, I told Katia that we aren't just going to skate: We are going to dance," Soloviev said. "We did that, and we were actually talking to each other during the performance."

Weaver and Poje produced Level 4 twizzles in their dance to 42nd Street, but their Finnstep pattern garnered only a Level 2, and one and their curve lifts was a Level 2. The Canadians scored 61.50 points.

"Andrew and I were actually very happy with our performance," Weaver said. "We felt like we performed like we do it at home, and it felt strong. Unfortunately, it wasn't really reflected in the technical score, but it's no surprise because the Finnstep is a difficult dance and we're going obviously keep working. We hope to get to the Grand Prix Final and skate strong there."

Riazanova and Tkachenko's routine to Chicago included fast twizzles and a rotational lift that got a Level 4, but the other elements were called Level 2's. The couple from Odintsovo earned 58.59 points.

"We are also very happy with our performance," Tkachenko said. "Obviously, the levels we received today were lower than at our previous competition, which is just another sign that you cannot stop working."

Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. finished in fourth place with 57.80 points, while Russians Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin came in fifth with 55.83 points.

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