Ice Network

Chen blitzes competition on Day 1 at Rostelecom

Medvedeva wins ladies short in style; Shibutanis hold lead in ice dance
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Nathan Chen won the first part of his showdown with Yuzuru Hanyu, landing two quads during his dynamic performance of his short to the song "Nemesis" by Benjamin Clementine. With a score of 100.54, the reigning U.S. champion leads Hanyu by almost six points. -Getty Images

Two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva opened the 2017 Rostelecom Cup on Friday in Moscow, Russia, with a bang, while American Nathan Chen held off Japanese favorite Yuzuru Hanyu to win the men's short program. In pairs skating, Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov treated the home crowd to a winning short program, with Team USA's Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani claiming the top spot in ice dance.

Medvedeva off and running in Moscow

Medvedeva was once again dazzling, performing her "Nocturne" short with incredible grace. The 17-year-old nailed her triple flip-triple toe loop, as well as her triple loop, spins and footwork, all while making it look easy. The two-time European champion registered 80.75 points, a mark that proved to be just 0.10 points below her own record score.

"Overall I am pleased, but there were some small things in my performance that I didn't like," Medvedeva said. "I can't say anything about the result now, because today is only a small part of what has to be done. The main job has to be done tomorrow."

Landing behind the Russian was Italy's Carolina Kostner, who gave a stunningly beautiful performance to "Ne me quitte pas," the highlights of which came via her triple toe-triple toe, triple loop and double axel. The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist tallied 74.62 points, a score more than good enough for second in the segment. At 30 years of age, the Italian is the oldest competitor in the field, but doesn't appear to have missed a beat despite not competing on the Grand Prix circuit for three seasons.

"I am glad to be here in Moscow, because I enjoyed many amazing moments in my career here," she said. "I won my first world (championship) medal in Moscow many years ago and everything started here."

Not to be outdone by her Russian and Italian competitors, Wakaba Higuchi turned in a dynamic performance of her "Gypsy Dance," hitting a big double axel, triple lutz-triple toe combination and a triple flip. She earned 69.60 points to slide into third place.

"Today in the short program, I skated like I do in practice and my body felt good," said the two-time world junior bronze medalist. "I am a little disappointed with my score, but it is obvious what the mistake was and it is easy to fix for tomorrow."

Higuchi's teammate, Kaori Sakamoto, ended the segment fourth with 68.88 points, while 2015 world bronze medalist Elena Radionova of Russia stands fifth with 68.75 points.

American skaters Mariah Bell (63.85 points) and Mirai Nagasu (56.15) sit seventh and ninth, respectively.

Chen outdoes Japanese superstar Hanyu

Performing Benjamin Clementine's "Nemesis," Chen nailed his quadruple lutz-triple toe combination, following the element with a quad flip and a somewhat shaky triple axel. In addition to receiving Level 4 grading for two spins, the 18-year-old also picked up Level 4 marks for his footwork, resulting in a segment-winning score of 100.54 points.

"I am happy with the scores that I received and I'm pleased that I performed a fairly clean program this early in the season," Chen said. "I definitely have a lot of work going into the (Olympic Winter) Games, but I am happy with what I did and I just need to keep my mind straight and keep working hard."

Finishing second to Chen was Hanyu, who seems to draw a dynamic fan base regardless of where he performs. Though the reigning Olympic champion stepped out of his opening quad loop -- which was deemed under-rotated -- Hanyu recovered to hit a brilliant triple axel. His performance, which also included a fall on the back end of his quad toe-triple toe combination, was strong enough to earn a score of 94.85 points.

"I competed in Moscow six or seven years ago and it was here that I won my first Grand Prix event, so I have good memories," the two-time world champion said. "Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall, it didn't feel bad. I hope to skate better tomorrow."

Reigning world junior silver medalist Dmitri Aliev turned in a clean performance of his "Masquerade Waltz," one that included a triple lutz-triple toe, quad toe and triple axel. After registering a personal-best mark of 88.77, the Russian finds himself in third heading into the free skate.

"The only thing that didn't work today was the lutz, which was planned as a quad," he said. "I think I rushed it and was a little nervous. Still, I have to get used to this atmosphere and do my job."

Russian champion Mikhail Kolyada fell out of his quad toe and currently sits in fourth place with 85.79 points, while Uzbekistan's Misha Ge rounds out the top five with 85.02 points. American Grant Hochstein struggled at times during his short program, and he sits 11th with 67.56 points.

Tarasova, Morozov dazzle crowd throughout winning short

Performing to Sergei Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 2," Tarasova and Morozov produced a huge triple twist and a throw triple loop, while also delivering Level 4 spins, lifts and footwork to the delight of the hometown crowd. Despite both skaters wobbling on their triple toe loop, the defending Grand Prix Final champions were still able to secure 76.88 points in the segment, which placed the Russians atop the standings.

"It was not a bad performance," Tarasova said shortly after leaving the ice. "There was a minor error, but all elements except for the jump (triple toe) were done well."

Fellow Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov catapulted into second place by delivering a strong performance of their "Tange de Besame" short. By including a solid triple twist and a throw triple flip -- despite a minor hiccup from Stolbova -- the 2014 world silver medalists collected a season's best 71.39 points.

"Our performance wasn't bad," Klimov said. "There was only one mistake, which I would say happened by chance."

Skating to "Tu Vuò Fa' L'Americano," Italy's Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotárek positioned themselves third heading into the free skate by picking up 68.48 points. Russia's Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov stand fourth after Day 1 with 67.14 points, while Julianne Séguinand Charlie Bilodeau of Canada are fifth with 67.06 points.

Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran finished the short program in seventh place with 54.37 points.

Shibutanis strut their way into the lead

Putting forth another strong short program to open their Grand Prix season, the Shibutanis brought a real Latin feel to the Megasport Arena on Friday with a dynamic performance of their Perez Prado routine.

The brother-sister duo picked up Level 4 grading for four of their five elements, with their excellent synchronized twizzles drawing added applause from the crowd. The 2017 world bronze medalists scored 77.30 points, a mark just below their personal best score of 77.97 points.

"We're so excited to be here and to begin our Grand Prix season, our Olympic season, in Moscow," Alex said. "Our practices have been going great and we really enjoyed our performance today."

"We really love this program, the music is so dynamic and fun," added Maia. "The Latin rhythms, I think, will be really entertaining for the audience, and we really changed ourselves with our choreography this year."

Dancing to a lively rhumba/samba mix, Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev ignited the crowd throughout their time on the ice. The six-time Russian champions earned Level 4's for their twizzles and side-by-side footwork to record a personal-best 76.33 points.

"I think we were able to do a good job since our last event in preparation for the Grand Prix, although it's only been two weeks," Soloviev commented. "But we fixed some technical things and in the choreography as well. Our score reflected that."

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin positioned themselves third by showcasing an upbeat dance to rhumba and samba rhythms, highlighted by their curve lift and well-executed twizzles. Their performance earned them a season's-best mark of 71.32 points.

Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier remain within reach of the podium with 69.67 points, while Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy sit fifth with 68.99 points.

World junior champions Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons completed their debut on the Grand Prix circuit in seventh place with a score of 59.41.