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Shibutanis jump in front to open 2014 Cup of China

Lipnitskaia takes ladies lead; Dornbush in fourth after men's short program
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Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani took control of the dance event, performing a commanding rendition of their short to paso doble and flamenco rhythms. The Skate America silver medalists totaled 65.20 points en route to a first-place finish. -Getty Images

The 2014 Cup of China opened Friday in Shanghai with the ladies, men's and pairs short programs, as well as the short dance.


Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia took the ladies short program, followed closely by her teammate Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. Kanako Murakami of Japan finished third. Skating to "Megapolis" by Bel Suono, Lipnitskaia hit a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple flip and a double Axel. The reigning world silver medalist collected Level 4 on each of her spins. The 16-year-old earned 69.56 points.

"I didn't compete in a long time and the past season was tough for me. I was very nervous in training, so I am pleased with how I did today," Lipnitskaia said.

Tuktamisheva's performance to "Bolero" by Maurice Ravel included a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple Lutz, a double Axel and two Level 4 spins. The Skate America silver medalist posted a season-best 67.99 points in her short.

"After Skate America, it took me a long time to overcome the jetlag. Only in the last two practices I felt that I was ready for this competition. My practice here wasn't so confident either, so I am glad that I was able to skate a good short program," the 17-year-old said.

Murakami landed a triple toe-triple toe combination and a double Axel in her program to "Think of Me" from the The Phantom of the Opera, but she stepped out of an under-rotated triple flip. The 2014 Four Continents champion scored 60.44 points.

Canada's Gabrielle Daeleman came in fourth with 58.49 points. China's Zijun Li placed fifth with 53.66 points, and American Polina Edmunds sits in sixth with 50.32 points. Christina Gao is in eighth for Team USA with 47.15 points, while teammate Ashley Cain sits in 11th place with 39.80 points.


Maxim Kovtun of Russia topped the men's short program. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu is in second, and Han Yan of China sits third. Kovtun nailed a quadruple Salchow-triple toe combination and a quadruple toe in his program to "Bolero," but then he doubled his Axel. The Russian champion collected Level 4 for two spins and his footwork to earn 85.96 points.

"I landed two quads, although they were not working very well in practice. On the other hand, the Axel worked well in practice and not in the program. In the free skating, I want to fight. I have a technically demanding program, and I want to give the maximum," Kovtun said.

Hanyu opened his routine to a ballade by Chopin with an excellent triple Axel and produced difficult spins. However, the Olympic champion tripled his planned quad toe and stepped out of the triple Lutz. The 19-year-old earned 82.95 points.

"It is my first competition this season, and I took a risk with my elements. I didn't skate my program very well, but I got a quite good score. Tomorrow I want to challenge new things," the reigning world champion said.

Yan stumbled on the triple Axel and stepped out of his quad toe to score 79.21 points.

American Richard Dornbush is in fourth with 77.23 points. Israel's Alexei Bychenko sits fifth with 76.96 points, and Canada's Nam Nguyen is in sixth with 72.85 points.


Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang led a Chinese sweep in the pairs short program. Xuehan Wang and Lei Wang, and Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin finished second and third, respectively. Peng and Zhang delivered a clean short program that was highlighted by a triple toe loop, a triple twist, a throw triple loop and a difficult lift. The Skate America bronze medalists earned 69.11 points, a season's best.

"Today, we performed in front of our home crowd and it meant pressure and motivation at the same time. I am pleased we were able to skate well," Peng said.

Wang and Wang completed a triple twist, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple loop, but Lei fell at the end of the side-by-side spin. The team scored 57.27 points.

"It was a bit surprising to us to be in second place, because our performance was not perfect today. I fell on the spin at the end of the program. This is only our second international competition together, so we were nervous," Lei Wang said.

Yu and Jin's program to "Spirit Dance" featured a triple toe and a Level 4 triple twist, but she missed the throw triple loop. The world junior champions picked up 57.03 points.

Vera Bazarova and Andrei Deputat of Russia are within striking distance of the podium at 56.85 points. Canada's Natasha Purich and Andrew Wolfe are in fifth with 56.14 points. Americans Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu are in sixth with 54.66 points.


Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States sit in first after the short dance. The sibling duo delivered a strong performance that featured Level 4 twizzles and a Level 4 rotational lift, while the paso doble sequence and the side-by-side step sequence merited a Level 3. The team set a new season high with 65.20 points.

"We only had a week since our last Grand Prix at Skate America, but we feel like we have made great improvements on our performance and our program. Our paso levels also improved, so this is just a great step for us for this season," Maia Shibutani said.

Dancing to "Capriccio Espagnol," Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte picked up a Level 4 for their lift and a Level 3 for their twizzles and their first paso doble sequence. The reigning world champions scored 62.70 points and sit in second.

"We were very happy with the way we skated. We skated clean, and we performed well. Clearly, something didn't go quite as planned. But we'll look into that and try to come back strong tomorrow," Cappellini said.

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are in third after completing three Level 4 elements in their routine set to flamenco and paso doble to earn 62.12 points, a new season's best.