Ice Network

Paradise takes lead with heavenly short program

Finland's Marigold IceUnity slots second; U.S. teams finish fifth, eighth
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Reigning world champions Paradise jumpstarted their visit to Colorado Springs with a rousing short program. Performing to Beyoncé's "Listen," the Russian team earned 72.62 points to catapult themselves to the top of the leaderboard. -Getty Images

Russia's Paradise are poised to win their second world title in as many years after delivering a rousing short program at the 2017 World Synchronized Skating Championships on Friday night in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Skating to music from "Dream Girls," Paradise -- who were skating with one fewer skater than the rest of the field -- will enter Saturday's free skate with a 1.74-point lead over Finland's Marigold IceUnity after their short program did more than enough to impress the judging panel. Due to a team member sustaining an injury in training earlier in the week, the Russian squad was left with only 15 active skaters on the roster.

"I know we lost levels because of it, but we wanted to do our best no matter what," team member Elvira Matveeva said. "We had a few little mistakes, but I think we were beautiful today. We showed strong skating."

The team earned Level 4 grading on three of their five elements, while they received Level 3 marks on their remaining two. With postive GOEs across the board as well, it should come as no surprise that Paradise stands in first place with a score of 72.62, even if they are a skater short.

Marigold IceUnity set the stage to earn the team's 11th-career world medal by delivering a solid program of their own. After having been left off the podium in 2016, the Finnish squad -- one of two teams in the field representing Finland -- are poised to carry their momentum into the free skate.

"We really enjoyed every moment on the ice today," team member Mirka Lautola, said. "The audience was amazing. When we finished our program, it was a beautiful moment for us to hear all the cheers."

Skating a matador-themed program, the team performed four Level 3 elements, all of which received positive GOEs. They hold a lead of less than two points over their country mates, RCKT, who earned 69.88 points for their efforts to "Mirror Mirror."

"In Finland, we have a high level of skating in all three of our teams, so it's such an honor to be here together," team member Anna Vuorela said. "It's just great. I'm really proud of our teams and of our country."

The reigning U.S. champion Haydenettes settled for fifth place after a fall on their intersection left them with 63.90 points. While the defending bronze medalists hoped to reclaim a spot on the world podium, the improvements made on the emotional performance of their Gladiator short program prevailed in spite of the error.

"As a team, we couldn't focus on placement," team member Tessa Hedges said. "It's [placement pressure] fueled our practices, but when we go out there to perform, it needs to be more of a team goal, and that goal was showing our emotions, and getting our technical marks there. By and large, I think we did that."

Their teammates, the Crystallettes, also worked through a fall during their "Lean on Me" performance, and they'll head into Saturday's free skate in eighth place with 55.23 points.