Ice Network

Sotskova roars back in free to win Ondrej Nepela

Busy Chock, Bates lead Russians in dance; Voronov sets men's pace
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Maria Sotskova won her second career senior international gold medal in Bratislava, Slovakia, this week. -Getty Images

Russia's Maria Sotskova turned in a terrific free skate Friday en route to a dominant victory at the 2016 Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia. Outdoing her personal bests for free skate score and total score, Sotskova claimed victory over runner-up Julia Lipnitskaia by 24 points.

Sotskova raked in 128.38 points for the segment, checking off two triple-triple combinations while strains of Alfred Schnittke's "Adagio" played in the background. The program's only blemish came on an under-rotated triple lutz; the other 11 elements received positive Grades of Execution (GOEs). She concluded the week with 189.96 points.

Short program winner Lipnitskaia struggled throughout her free skate, enduring four under-rotations, an edge call and an invalidated element. The Russians' free skate score of 102.30 was just the fifth best on the day, but her strong short propelled her to the silver medal, with 165.46 points overall.

After taking home silver from the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City last month, American Mariah Bell earned her second medal of the season, a bronze. She wound up with 161.72 points.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates continued a busy stretch as they kicked off their second event in as many weeks in Bratislava. The reigning world bronze medalists, who are coming off a silver medal-winning showing at the Nebelhorn Trophy, finished first in the short dance with a mark of 72.72. They improved on their score from a week ago by nearly two points despite incurring a one-point deduction for an extended lift.

The Americans lead Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev by about a point and a half going into the free dance. Bobrova and Soloviev returned to international competition Friday after a failed doping test kept them out of the 2016 World Championships.

Fellow Russians Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro are third after the short dance with 68.04 points. Team USA's Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus have some ground to make up as they sit eighth in their season debut.

Russia's Sergei Voronov has a comfortable lead heading into Saturday's free skate. Voronov, who has history of up-and-down performances, executed a nearly clean rendition of his short to music from the movie The Skin I Live In. His performance featured a quad toe-double toe combination and a trio of Level 4 spins.

Canadian Kevin Reynolds, who has dealt with health and boot woes the last three seasons, is comfortably in second place. His short program mark of 75.35 gave him a nearly four-point lead over Russia's Gordei Gorshkov and Team USA's Alexander Johnson, who are third and fourth, respectively.