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Throw triple axel propels Germans to pairs lead

Savchenko, Massot land rarely tried element; U.S. pairs sit fourth, fifth
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Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are more than eight points up on the field after the short program in Oberstdorf. -Getty Images

Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany easily won the pairs short program with 74.24 points at the 2016 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.

The world bronze medalists performed a rarely seen throw triple axel (which Savchenko landed on two feet) in their short to the lively "That Man" by Caro Emerald.

"It is the first time we did a triple throw axel in competition, and we are happy Aliona landed it," Massot said. "It was a good beginning of the season."

The Germans opened with a huge triple twist, followed by side-by-side salchows; Massot landed a triple, and Savchenko did a double. Then they tried the throw triple axel, a move very few pairs have ever landed in competition. Their other elements were excellent and gained almost all +2 and +3 Grades of Execution. Their five program components averaged 8.9, ranging up to 9.25.

"My double salchow was not planned," Savchenko said. "You always go for the best, but the triple twist before the salchow was so high. So I did too much before the salchow and missed doing a triple."  

Second with 65.98 points are Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch, seventh in the world last season. Skating to "Tango Jalousie" by Jacob Gade, the Canadians performed a good triple twist, but Iliushechkina touched her hand down on a triple toe loop.

"We feel we are improving, and we felt a lot of emotions from the beginning of the program to the end," Iliushechkina said.

The second German pair, Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert, are third after earning 57.74 points. Vartmann fell on a triple toe loop in the team's short to "They Don't Care About Us" by Michael Jackson, and her spins were shaky as well.

"The most important thing for us is to show the program and to get reactions and opinions," Blommaert said. "There were mistakes, but the season is long and we hope to improve at each competition."

Erika Smith and AJ Reiss, who train under Bobby Martin and Carrie Wall in Boston, sit fourth with 56.20 points. They began their "Tiny Dancer" short with a good triple twist, followed by side-by-side triple salchows, which neither skater landed cleanly. Smith came down from the throw triple loop on two feet, but the team finished the program with an excellent lift and a Level 4 step sequence.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc of Texas are fifth with 52.40 points. Skating to Annie Lennox's version of "I Put a Spell on You," they landed their side-by-side triple salchows and performed a solid lift, but Cain fell on the throw triple flip.

The team has trained together for only four months. Both have pairs skating experience with other partners, but Cain skated only singles the last four seasons and LeDuc worked on cruise ships the last two years. This spring, he decided to return to competition and called Cain for a tryout.

"The twist was the hardest thing to re-learn," Cain said. "The easiest thing was to put our souls into the program."