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Russia's Samoilov leads tight men's race in Italy

USA's Hiwatashi takes third in short; Polishchuk, Vakhnov pace dance field
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Vladimir Samoilov of Russia holds a slim lead entering the free skate thanks to recording a new personal-best short program score Thursday at JGP Italy. -Getty Images

The final event of the 2017-18 Junior Grand Prix Series opened Thursday in Bolzano, Italy, with a handful of skaters looking to move one step closer to securing their spot at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December.

Russia's Vladimir Samoilov jumped out to a slim lead in the men's competition by narrowly surpassing Italy's Matteo Rizzo in the short program, while fellow Russians Sofia Polishchuk and Alexander Vakhnov have their sights set on winning another JGP gold medal after taking the top spot in the short dance.


Performing to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," Samoilov shattered his previous personal-best score of 61.63 points by picking up 77.65 for Thursday's short program. The Russian received 10.07 points for his opening triple axel, and the additional 10.50 he earned for a triple flip-triple toe allowed him to grab the slightest of leads over Rizzo, who finished second in the segment with 77.24 points.

The three-time Italian silver medalist accrued 10.40 points for his own triple flip-triple toe element while skating to IL Volo's "Torna A Surriento." He owns a cushion of nearly four points over Tomoki Hiwatashi for second place.

Hiwatashi, the talented American who earned bronze at JGP Latvia earlier this season, executed a triple flip-triple toe during his "Emerald Tiger" short. The 11.16 points he received for the element added to his score of 73.28, which was good for third in the segment.

U.S. teammate Andrew Torgashev, who won silver at the Junior Grand Prix in Belarus, sits fourth with 69.03 points.

Ice Dance

Looking to pick up their second JGP title of the season, Polishchuk and Vakhnov -- who won gold at JGP Australia -- kickstarted their stop in Italy with a winning short dance. The Russian duo registered a personal-best score of 61.44 points for their Cha Cha/Samba to provide themselves with a narrow lead heading into the free dance.

On the heels of Polishchuk and Vakhnov are teammates Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov. The Russian team captured gold at the Junior Grand Prix in Minsk, Belarus, earlier this season, and after scooping up a new personal-high of 61.07 points for their Cha Cha/Rhumba/Salsa program, remain within reach of the top position on the podium.

Canadians Alicia Fabbri and Claudio Pietrantonio (57.28 points), and Ellie Fisher and Simon-Pierre Malette-Paque (55.09) finished the segment third and fourth, respectively after setting new personal-best scores of their own.