Ice Network

Another week, another Russian: Pogorilaya leads

Two-time U.S. champ just 1.42 points out of first; Leonova takes third
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Despite finishing first in the short program, Russia's Anna Pogorilaya wasn't totally pleased with her performance. -Getty Images

With Elizaveta Tuktamisheva taking a rare week off and countrywomen Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova waiting in the wings for their Grand Prix debuts (at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup, respectively), Moscow's Anna Pogorilaya was on hand in Kelowna, British Columbia, to grab a 1.42-point lead after the short program at 2014 Skate Canada.

The 16-year-old, who finished fourth in the world last season, opened her program to the romantic "Adagio" by Il Diva with a solid triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by an excellent flying combination spin and strong triple loop. She came down awkwardly on her double Axel, however, before recovering to deliver a dynamic Level 4 step sequence. All told, the student of Anna Tsareva earned 65.28 points.

"I am obviously happy with first place but not too pleased with my performance," Pogorilaya said. "It could be better technically because I made a mistake on my Axel, and also I could have interpreted the music better."     

Ashley Wagner, who trains mainly in Artesia but also at other rinks in Southern California, sits second with 63.86 points. Skating to Aram Khachaturian's Spartacus, a program choreographed by Adam Rippon, the two-time U.S. champion opened with a good attempt at a triple flip-triple toe loop; the toe, however, was deemed under-rotated.

Wagner's triple loop was also underrotated, but her double Axel was solid, and her spins and step sequence were excellent.

"I am extremely pleased with my performance today, considering that my first competition (Japan Open early in October) was really horrifying," Wagner said. "I could have been stronger technically, but it is early in the season. I am really trying to teach myself to compete relaxed and not worry about what is going on around me.

"In the last few weeks, I concentrated on training the technical elements; it was calmer than last season," she continued.

Another Russian, Alena Leonova, sits third with 62.54 points. The triple toe-triple toe combination that opened her Charlie Chaplin short was excellent. Her triple flip and double Axel were also clean, and her Level 3 step sequence was quite dynamic, but her layback spin failed to earn a level because it was too short.

"I am not so happy with my program today," Leonova said. "The jumps were good, but I lost five points on my spins, and this is very sad; I did not hold my positions long enough. Still, I am happy I performed the program's emotions well."

Coupled with her silver-medal performance at Nebelhorn Trophy in September, the 2012 world silver medalist -- who failed to qualify for the Olympic team last season, losing out to younger teammates -- seems to be on the verge of a comeback.

"I do not like to speak of a comeback yet -- let's wait until tomorrow," Leonova said. "But I want to continue until the Olympic Games in Korea, this is for sure."

Japan's Satoko Miyahara is fourth with 60.22 points. She under-rotated her triple Lutz-triple toe as well as her triple flip, but her closing layback spin was outstanding.

Fellow Japanese skater Rika Hongo sits fifth, earning 59.10 points for a short that included a solid triple toe-triple toe.

Californian Courtney Hicks hit a powerful triple flip-triple toe loop and executed good spins, but she doubled her Lutz, which is required to be a triple. She, therefore, gained no points for the element and is eighth with 56.36 points.

"I just got ahead of myself a little bit and didn't trust my technique fully," Hicks said. "Going into the long, I'm going to just focus on taking one element at a time and not rushing things."