Ice Network

Sotskova rallies to win ladies gold at JGP Latvia

Ukrainians top pairs podium; Popova, Vlasenko take lead in short dance
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The day belonged to Maria Sotskova, who ran away with the gold medal by 14.5 points. -Getty Images

Maria Sotskova laid down a career-best free skate to win the ladies gold medal Friday at the Junior Grand Prix in Riga, Latvia. Renata Oganesian and Mark Bardei of Ukraine took the pairs title, and Russian ice dancers Betina Popova and Yuri Vlasenko opened up a slim lead over Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.

Ladies

Sotskova earned her third career JGP gold medal, to go with her titles from the 2013 JGP Final and last season's event in Croatia. Her protocol sheet was clean as a whistle: All 11 elements, including her triple lutz-triple toe and triple flip-half loop-triple salchow combinations, received positive Grades of Execution. She earned a personal-best 121.72 points for her Romeo and Juliet free skate and 184.45 overall.

Climbing from third to second was Kaori Sakamoto. The Japanese junior silver medalist made only one mistake -- a fall on her triple loop -- in her free skate to music from The Color Purple. Her reward was a segment score of 112.20 and the silver, her first medal in the JGP Series.

The leader after the short program, Russia's Alisa Fedichkina, came in fifth in the free skate to fall off the medal stand, ending up in fourth.

The beneficiary of Fedichkina's nosedive was South Korea's Da Bin Choi, who snuck onto the podium to take the bronze. The South Korean landed six clean triples in her Les Misérables free skate to help her earn her first JGP medal in five tries.

American Amber Glenn started her Les Misérables free skate in impressive fashion, landing two triple-triple combinations (flip-toe, lutz-toe) in the first minute. She faltered at the tail end of the program, however, and settled for a fifth-place finish.

U.S. skater Rebecca Peng finished 15th.

Pairs

Oganesian and Bardei slipped to second in the free but still won the gold easily. Their 'Interview with the Vampire' free skate was highlighted by clean side-by-side triple salchows and a soaring triple twist. For the Ukrainians, it was their first JGP gold medal; their previous best showing in the series was a third-place finish in Zagreb, Croatia, last season.

On the strength of their first-place free skate, Anastasia Poluianova and Stepan Korotkov climbed all the way from fifth to claim the silver medal. The Russian duo performed two clean throw triples (loop and salchow) and side-by-side double flip-double toe combinations in their 'Bohemian Rhapsody' routine, for which they earned a segment-best 93.15 points.

Poluianova and Korotkov's training mates, Ekaterina Borisova and Dmitri Sopot, took the bronze. Sitting second after the short, the Perm-based team made a number of big mistakes in their 'Lawrence of Arabia' free: He failed to complete his combination, she two-footed the landing and skated into the boards on their throw triple loop, and they both fell on the exit of their last lift.

Despite finishing third in both phases of the competition, the Czech team of Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar settled for fourth overall.

Team USA's Lindsay Weinstein and Jacob Simon moved up one spot from the short to finish seventh.

Ice Dance

Popova and Vlasenko stepped out to a 2.61-point lead over Carreira and Ponomarenko in the short dance. Skating to music from the Russian TV series The Master and Margarita, the four-time JGP medalists performed the best twizzles of the event as well as an excellent diagonal step sequence en route to a segment score of 59.82, just shy of their career best.

Carriera and Ponomarenko opened their 'City Lights' short dance with a superb straight line lift, and their twizzles were also first rate. The Igor Shpilband-coached team amassed a personal-best 57.23 points, putting them in position to win their first medal in the series, after logging fourth- and fifth-place finishes at their two JGP events last season.

France's Angelique Abachkina and Louis Thauron, who are also coached by Shpilband, are a point behind their training mates in third.

Emily Day and Kevin Leahy of the U.S. came in seventh after suffering a fall on their step sequence.