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Medvedeva makes statement with flawless short

Radionova sits five points back; Asada third; Gold in medal contention
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Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva nailed her short program, coming away with a personal-best 74.58 points in a flawless performance. The world junior champion landed all of her jumps cleanly to take a five-point lead over the field. -Getty Images

Just one year removed from winning the Junior Grand Prix Final, Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva topped the short program at the 2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona on Friday night. She amassed 74.58 points, a new personal-best score.

She took the lead over teammate Elena Radionova (69.43 points) and Japan's Mao Asada (69.13 points).

Skating to music from the Melodies of the White Nights soundtrack by Isaak Schwartz, Medvedeva delivered a flawless program. Her routine started off with more than a minute and a half of choreographic movements before she launched her main difficult elements: a triple flip-triple toe combination, double axel and triple loop. They incidentally also earned her extra credit for highlight distribution.

"I skated at my maximum," Medvedeva said. "Last year, I was sitting in this same press conference room after winning the Junior (Grand Prix) Final. I think this is really nice! I think I have improved since; I am skating better and am more grown up."

Medvedeva is still quite young, but she has taken the time to cultivate her postures with straight legs, her head up high and her toes pointed. Her components matched Team USA's Gracie Gold's (34.38 points), which was 0.74 points behind Asada's but 1.05 points higher than Radionova's.

"I can tell you that I've worked more on my choreography this year than on my elements," Medvedeva explained. "I knew that I was entering into a more serious competition (advancing to the senior level). I needed to look older and more beautiful. So, I worked on my elements as always, but I worked even more on my choreography."

Radionova opened her performance to "Je t'aime" by Lara Fabian with a solid triple lutz, followed by a triple loop-triple toe combination, which also garnered extra credit, and a double axel. Two of her three spins were rated Level 4.

"I was a bit nervous and had to add the triple toe at the end of the triple loop instead of the lutz, but I was glad that I fought through it," Radionova said. "Doing a triple-triple in the second half of the program is difficult. I had not practiced this -- I just had to make it up on the spot -- but I did it and I'm pleased. I can now say making changes to my program during my skate is a skill I have."

Asada skated to the American rendering of the old Yiddish song "Bei mir bist du schön," which translates to "For me, you are beautiful" in English -- a whole program in itself to which the audience applauded warmly.

The three-time world champion opened with a triple axel, which was high and clear and rewarded with a +1.71 Grade of Execution (GOE). She followed with a triple flip-triple loop, a rare combination which is so beautiful when it is as well executed, as Asada performed it Friday. Both jumps were ruled under-rotated, however, and this time the GOE was negative (-1.20 points). Her only big mistake was popping her planned triple lutz.

"This is my comeback season," Asada explained. "My axel has been quite good. But this season, I started to work on the lutz, starting with the right edge. But, when I'm nervous, it shows, and I lose points."

Japan's Satoko Miyahara had a clean skate, landing a triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and double axel. Appropriately dressed in Spanish red, the world silver medalist skated to "Firedance" by Bill Whelan. She delivered another perfect performance, featuring a triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and double axel. Her three spins were rated Level 4. Her score (68.36 points) left her rather disappointed, although she finished only 1.07 points behind Radionova.

Gold skated last and certainly had a great package to present. She started with a superb triple lutz-triple toe and two of her unique spins (both of which were rated Level 4), but she landed a double flip instead of her intended triple. The jump was invalidated and did not receive any points. Still, she amassed 66.52 points for her program, just under three points behind Radionova.

"It wasn't what I wanted to do here. I'm feeling pretty strong going into the long program but definitely disappointed," Gold said. "I was really nervous going in. For every skater, you can hear applause across the venue and feel it shaking. I've never done a (Grand Prix) Final. There's a hard part to it. Fifth place doesn't sound good, but (three) points out of second doesn't sound bad either."

"The subject for today's lecture is rhythm," is how the lyrics to U.S. champion Ashley Wagner's short program begin. The audience embraced that lecture right away, as they clapped throughout her routine to "Hip Hip Chin Chin" by Club des Belugas. Wagner's performance was far from stellar, however, as she tumbled on the landing of her opening triple flip. She moved her combination to after her triple loop and fell.

"My difficulty in competition under pressure is pulling back," Wagner said. "Regardless of how the jumps ended up, I really did push for them."

Wagner received 60.04 points and is in sixth place.

"Although it's frustrating for people who watch me, it's 10 trillion times more frustrating for me," Wagner said. "Today was sloppy. Of course, I would love to be able to do something very similar to what I pulled off last year. I'm up against a very difficult field."