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Germans overcome wardrobe malfunction to lead

Savchenko, Massot entertain crowd with lively short; Top three teams shine
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Aliona Savchenko suffered a wardrobe malfunction when the side of her dress came undone during her and Bruno Massot's "That Man" short, but she didn't break character once -- and the team benefited from her dedication to the performance. The Germans posted a career-high 77.55 points to take first place in the segment. -Getty Images

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won the short program at the Trophée de France on Friday afternoon. Their 77.55 points placed them ahead of two Russian teams: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (76.24) and Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert (71.36).

Two French teams were removed from the field a few weeks before the event, which reduced the field to six pairs altogether. Low quantity, however, did not prevent high quality, especially for the top three teams.

Savchenko and Massot displayed all their talent during their short to Caro Emerald's "That Man." She in light pink, he in dark grey, they got the crowd into their lively music right from the get-go. The audience roared as Massot launched Savchenko up in the air for their triple twist (which received a Level 2). Their side-by-side triple salchows were perfect and in sync. Their only mistake came on the landing of their throw triple axel. They received Level 4 for their spiral and spectacular step sequence, which was warmly applauded as well, as they played with the audience throughout. Their lift and final spin were rated Level 3.

Savchenko and Massot were asked if they thought they took too much of a risk with the throw triple axel.

"No, that's not risk. We land it regularly," a positive Massot explained. "But landing it in practice and in competition are two different things. During competition, you have all the other elements to concentrate on. So, we'll do it in competition; this is not a risk -- it's a practice!"

During their lift, however, Savchenko had the (unpleasant) surprise of having the zipper on the side of her dress break.

"There needs to be a problem with something," Savchenko laughed afterward. "I just hoped through the end that my dress would not drop before the end of the program!"

Be assured, it did not.

Month after month and competition after competition, Savchenko and Massot are building a specific style of their own, even valuing their difference in size.

"We are like we are," Savchenko offered. "I am small and he is taller, and we look for a style that fits our personality. We like to show different styles, as well."

Tarasova and Morozov skated an upbeat short program to "Glam (Electro-Swing Remix)" that carried them and the audience alike. Their triple twist was crystal perfect, as were their side-by-side triple toe loops and throw triple loop.

"We had a good short program," Morozov said. "Still, we can do more."

Their step sequence and lift were rated Level 4, and their spin and spiral earned Level 3.

Taking the ice just before Tarasova and Morozov, Zabijako and Enbert delivered the first flawess program of the day. Skating to Georgy Sviridov's "Snowstorm," the team landed an incredibly high triple twist, side-by-side triple toe loops and a throw triple loop -- the same elements their teammates performed. Their skating was powerful, yet fast, which made an interesting contrast to their dramatic music.

"Our performance here was better than last week (at the Rostelecom Cup)," Zabijako said. "It went rather well."

"Also," Enbert added, "not only were our elements better but the steps between elements were better."

All three of the top pairs beat their previous personal bests: Savchenko and Massot by 3.31 points, Tarasova and Morozov by one, and Zabjiako and Enbert by 1.6.

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès will enter the free skate in fourth place after earning 66.05 points in the short. They had problems on their twist (it was rated as "Basic") and the landing of their throw triple flip.

"It's not the best we can do," James said, "but it's a good start. This is a new season, a new competition; we have a new way of thinking now. Our elements were done. We should make it if we gain more confidence."

Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran had a few wobbles in their skate but held onto it. They received a Level 4 for their spin, lift and spiral. Castelli fell on their throw triple salchow, however.

"It was a bit out of control," she explained. "It happens."

"We know we can do better than that, so in that respect, we're not happy," Tran added.

The team stands in fifth place with 59.26 points.