Ice Network

Stolbova, Klimov take slim lead over teammates

Duhamel, Radford in contention despite fall; Séguin, Bilodeau impress
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Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov continued to trend in the right direction, putting out a steamy rendition of their "I Put a Spell on You" short. The reigning Grand Prix Final silver medalists accrued a segment-best 74.84 points to take a 1.2-point lead over the field. -Getty Images

Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov made their point Thursday night in Barcelona at the 2015 Grand Prix Final, and they did it in decisive fashion, topping the short program with a strong routine. They finished 1.2 points ahead of their teammates, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.

World champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are in third place heading into the free, 2.10 points behind Stolbova and Klimov. Team USA's Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim sit in sixth place, 6.70 points out of first place and 4.60 points off the podium.

Stolbova and Klimov landed their triple twist, throw triple flip and side-by-side triple toes. Their twist earned a Level 2, as did their final spin. Their step sequence and lift earned a Level 4.

"This was a good skate for us. We made small mistakes, and it could have been better, but we are happy with our scores," Klimov said. "This year, we had a long time to work on our elements. I think it paid off."

The team also received the best component score of the field, slightly below 9.0 points on average.

"We always want to prove ourselves at every competition. Of course, we are always a bit nervous because we want to do our best," Klimov said.

The team again did not try to perform a quad.

"Of course, this is a goal for us," Klimov said. "We plan to do it -- not tomorrow, but maybe in the second half of the season."

The team garnered 74.84 points.

Kavaguti and Smirnov landed all of their elements, including side-by-side triple toes, triple twist and triple flip. Their twist and spin earned a Level 2, but their lift, step sequence and death spiral earned a Level 4.

"I could enjoy skating today. I'm very happy that we got a Level 4 for our death spiral. It took several years to achieve this level. It is our least favorite element," an ecstatic Kavaguti said, jumping for joy after she saw the team's scores.

Their component score was just half a point behind Stolbova and Klimov's, and they head to the free skate with 73.64 points.

Duhamel and Radford skated a delightful and emotional program to Elton John's "Your Song." They landed their triple twist (which earned a Level 3), and their trademark side-by-side triple lutzes. Duhamel fell on their final throw triple lutz, however.

"It's the first time we've ever fallen on it," Duhamel said. "This was clearly not our best skate, but apart from that fall, it was rather good. I think it's the first time we were on time for our step sequence."

The team promised to turn in a solid free skate.

"We just want to have a strong close to clean skate," Radford said. "It's not gone as smoothly this season. Last year, we found a direction that worked well for us. This year, we wanted to keep going into that direction, with adding more intricacy into our elements and making our connection more visible."

"We certainly plan to land two quads in future programs," Duhamel added. "It's important that pair skating continues one step further. For 20 years, you saw side-by-side triple toes. Now, you see new things. That's how you push the sport."

Duhamel and Radford finished with 72.74 points.

"I don't think we'll see you in Barcelona," Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau said when they left Trophée Eric Bompard one month ago. "We took the bronze at Skate America and then we ended up third after the short program here, and two third places usually doesn't qualify for the Final."

Séguin and Bilodeau happened to be the only skaters to take advantage of the tweaked selection process following the cancelation of the second day of competition at Trophée Bompard, qualifying as the seventh-ranked team. They showed Thursday that they really belong among the top teams of the world.

They produced the most entertaining program of the evening, performing the most lively routine, appropriately skated to "Monde Inversé" from the KURIOS: Cabinet des curiosites soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil.

"Every one note has a step attached to it. So, as soon as we get late in our steps, the whole program is behind. Maybe that's why (it's so lively): We don't want to run late!" they said in Bordeaux.

It's an issue their coach, Josée Picard, emphasized afterward.

"It's an initiation to aerobic dance, in fact! It required lot of work off ice to work on cardio," Picard said. "You really need to hold onto that program; otherwise, it's like in a domino effect: you run late!"

Their program was an instant hit with the audience -- actually, right from the practice sessions, where they were warmly applauded throughout. They topped their season's best by six points, coming away with a score of 71.16. They sit in fourth place heading into the free.

China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Lin turned in a strong performance, landing side-by-side triple toes, an impressive triple twist (which was rated Level 4) and a throw triple loop. They scored 68.63 points for their program and are standing in fifth place.

Scimeca and Knierim had a strong skate as well, apart from Scimeca popping her planned triple Salchow into a double.

"It was pretty good, minus that jump," Knierim said afterward. "I don't pop often; I usually take a fall if it goes wrong. I don't know what happened. It felt fine and then got away from me.

"It's amazing: We're all here for a reason -- not because you're a weak pairs team," Knierim said. "Everyone here is great, and everyone here can fight for a podium at worlds. We're really fortunate to make it."