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Russians lead Gold after ladies short at Nebelhorn

Fall on Lutz puts U.S. champion third; Bell places sixth in senior debut
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Alena Leonova scored a career-best 66.72 points in the short program at Nebelhorn. -Getty Images

Two of Russia's endless supply of ladies, Alena Leonova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, stand first and second heading into the free skate at the Nebelhorn Trophy.

Leonova, the 2012 world silver medalist, earned 66.72 points for her Charlie Chaplin short. After opening with an excellent triple toe-triple toe combination, she followed with a solid triple flip but touched a hand down on the landing of her double Axel. Her spins and steps all rated Level 4.

A year ago, Leonova left longtime coach Nikoli Morozov and is now coached by Evgeni Rukavicin. 

"It was a good opening for the season," Leonova said. "There was a little mistake on the Axel, but overall it was a good start."

The 23-year-old Leonova, who won the world junior title in 2009, was unable to defeat her teenaged rivals at last season's Russian championships to qualify for Sochi. 

"As soon as I knew last winter that I did not qualify for the Olympic Games in my country, I set new goals," she said. "I want to compete at the next Olympics in Korea. This is why I am here."   

Three years ago, Tuktamisheva, then just 14, was a Russian wunderkind, winning Skate Canada and Trophée Éric Bompard. During the last two seasons, though, the student of Alexei Mishin has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. In 2013, she was 10th in the world.  

Skating to Ravel's "Bolero," Tuktamisheva opened with a triple toe-triple toe, over-rotating the second jump. Her triple Lutz and spins were good, and her expression was excellent. She gained 64.94 points.

"I am satisfied with my performance today," Tuktamisheva said. "It is the first time I am here in Oberstdorf, and I like the mountains and the surroundings here.

"It was harder here than at the test event I did in Russia a few weeks ago, because the atmosphere is different at an international competition and there are other emotions," she continued. "I am happy that I could deal well with my nerves."

U.S. champion Gracie Gold, fifth in the world last season, sits third after falling on her triple Lutz. She earned 61.82 points.

Skating to Edvard Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A minor," Gold was unable to complete her planned triple Lutz-triple toe combination, and added a double toe loop to her triple loop. Her spins and step sequence, as well as her presentation, were excellent.

"I think I did a nice short program, except for my first element," Gold, 19, said. "My first jump is always a hard one; anybody can fall on the Lutz because it is a difficult jump. Unfortunately, it did not happen in a practice session."

Gold added that she is well prepared for the start of the fall season.

"I started doing run-throughs of my program in July; I did not have a long break this summer," she said. "It became easier from week to week. I have good memories of Oberstdorf because last winter I was here for 12 days to prepare for the Olympic team event." 

Finn Juulia Turkkila is fourth with 52.57 points. Her triple toe-triple toe was solid, but she singled her Lutz.

Brooklee Han of Australia sits fifth with 52.41 points after performing a near-clean short, including a triple toe-double toe combination.   

U.S. junior silver medalist Mariah Bell, a training mate of Jason Brown in Monument, Colorado, opened her short with a triple Lutz-double toe, receiving an edge call on the Lutz. Her ensuing triple flip was a bit shaky as well, and she gained 50.72 points for sixth place.

"It was my first international senior competition and a great learning experience," Bell said. "I am very pleased with how I skated here, and I am looking forward to the long program tomorrow."