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Carreira, Ponomarenko dance to lead in Minsk

Americans seeking second JGP title; Russians lead ladies, men's fields
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Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko have their sights set on claiming another JGP title after winning the short dance Thursday in Minsk. -Getty Images

The opening day of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) in Minsk, Belarus, saw Russian skaters enjoy incredible levels of success once again. Led by Alexandra Trusova and Alexey Erokhov -- who won their respective short programs -- Russia is in line to collect additional hardware. Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko hope to buck that trend, however, as they hold the lead entering the free dance.

Ladies

Trusova, who began her debut JGP campaign by winning the ladies title in Brisbane, Australia, topped her challengers by 6.74 points in Thursday's short program, executing a clean performance to the tune of Peggy Lee's "Big Spender" and "Jumpin' Jack" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

She received Level 4 grading on both spins and her step sequence, and maximized bonus points by completing all three required jumping passes in the second half of the program. A triple flip-triple loop -- the only triple loop combination performed in the event -- notched a performance-high 12.74 points, which led to a segment score of 69.72.

Japan's Nana Araki is Trusova's nearest competitor after notching 62.98 points in her JGP debut to "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" by Sholom Secunda. Araki also bagged two Level 4 spins, plus a Level 3 step sequence that received positive GOEs (Grades of Execution) across the board. She leads Russia's Stanislava Konstantinova by 3.13 points heading into Friday's free skate.

Konstantinova earned the top PCS (program component scores) of the night to open her second JGP season, a score that kept her in third despite falling on her triple flip-triple toe combination. Her components garnered 28.40 points, lifting her to a segment score of 59.85.

Tessa Hong rounded out the top four after the American finished less than a point off podium pace with a personal-best 59.61 for her "Ave Maria" routine.

Men's

Erokhov leads countryman Igor Efimchuk by 1.42 points to give Russia the top two spots in the men's event. Executing three triple jumps to Patrick Watson's "Lighthouse," Erokhov completed an impressive performance without a negative GOE. His highest-scoring element -- a triple flip-triple toe -- earned 11.26 points, which helped raise his total segment score to 77.52.

Efimchuk, who brings 76.10 points into the free skate, animated music from the Anna Karenina soundtrack with an opening triple loop-triple toe combination, followed by two Level 4 spins, a triple axel and a triple lutz. His flying spin and step sequence were each graded as Level 3, landing him solidly in second place, ahead of American Andrew Torgashev.

Torgashev opened his third JGP season to "Moonlight Sonata," and although his opening triple lutz was docked with an edge call, his triple flip-triple toe received bonus points for highlight distribution, resulting in a segment score of 74.34.

His teammate, Nicholas Hsieh, made his international debut by finishing 11th.

Ice Dance

Team USA's Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, who won gold earlier this season at JGP Austria, positioned themselves for a second title with another sound performance. The duo earned 63.77 points for their rhumba/cha-cha/samba performance, receiving Level 4 grading on four of their five elements, including both sections of the required rhumba pattern dance. They lead a pair of Russian teams heading into Friday's free dance.

Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin earned 61.71 for their efforts, leading teammates Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov by 2.09 points. While Skoptkova and Aleshin earned Level 3's on four elements, their PCS of 30.28 topped Ushakova and Nekrasov's 27.80, providing them with silver-medal position.

Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik marked their international debut by finishing in fifth place with 50.37 points.