Ice Network

Kolyada vaults to top of men's standings in Beijing

Daleman heads logjam atop ladies field; Papadakis, Cizeron lead dance
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Mikhail Kolyada already has a win under his belt this season after winning gold at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in September, and by accruing a new personal-best tally of 103.13 points for his "Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major" short -- which included a quadruple lutz and a quadruple toe-triple toe combination -- the Russian is once again in prime position for a run at gold. -Getty Images

Canada's Gabrielle Daleman grabbed a slim advantage Friday at the opening day of the 2017 Cup of China in Beijing, while Russia's Mikhail Kolyada delivered a splendid skate to pace the men's field. In pairs skating, hometown favorites Wenjing Sui and Cong Han took the lead over teammates Xiaoyu Yu Hao Zhang, with France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron winning the short dance.

Ladies

Daleman took a narrow lead over Japan's Wakaba Higuchi and Russia's Elena Radionova, who sit second and third, respectively.

Daleman opened her Carmen short with a soaring triple toe-triple toe combination and followed that with a triple lutz and double axel. The Canadian earned 70.65 points, a season's best.

"I was very happy with how today went. It is another stepping stone to a long season, and I'm very happy I'm starting off my Grand Prix season with a new season's best," Daleman said. "There is still lots of room for improvement, and I can't wait (to keep) building to it."

Higuchi's performance to "Gypsy Dance" was highlighted by a big double axel, triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and two Level 4 spins. The Rostelecom bronze medalist scored 70.53 points.

"I felt I skated well in the short program, but some details I can do better, and this is something I will work hard for," the two-time world junior bronze medalist said. "We still have the free skate tomorrow, and my goal is to make the Grand Prix Final, so I will work hard for that."

In her routine to Porgy and Bess, Radionova produced a triple lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double axel as well as Level 4 spins and footwork on her way to collecting a season's best of 70.48.

"After Rostelecom Cup, I didn't have to travel anywhere, so I went right back to training because there was not so much time before the next Grand Prix," the two-time European silver medalist said. "I think I skated with more confidence and better, and the scores reflect that." 

The skaters ranked fourth through seventh all still have a chance to make the podium. World junior champion Alina Zagitova of Russia fell on the back end of her triple lutz-triple loop combination but landed a triple flip to come in fourth with 69.44 points. Former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva of Russia finished fifth with 67.10 points, while Japanese teammates Marin Honda and Mai Mihara are tied with 66.90 points apiece.

Men's

Skating to "Piano Concerto No. 23" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Kolyada reeled off a quad lutz, quad toe-triple toe, triple axel and two Level 4 spins, though he wobbled on his camel spin. The Russian champion recorded a fresh personal-best mark of 103.13, joining the exclusive '100-plus point club' for the first time in his career.

"I did not look so happy at the end of my program because this is only the short program and everything will be decided tomorrow," the European bronze medalist said. "So, I did not let my emotions out. Overall, I enjoyed my performance today. The only negative thing was the camel spin as I somehow lost my focus."

China's Boyang Jin, who finished second to Kolyada in the segment, touched down with his hand on his quad lutz in the combination jump and turned out of the quad toe loop in his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon short. The two-time and reigning world bronze medalist recovered to hit a solid triple axel and difficult spins, leading to a season's-best score of 93.89 points.

"It is a season's best, but it is not my personal best," the 20-year-old commented shortly after leaving the ice. "The performance was OK but the jumps did not work so well. I got Level 4's for my spins. That was good."

Spain's Javier Fernández, who won gold at this event in 2015, landed a quad salchow and Level 4 spins and footwork in his Charlie Chaplin routine. While the five-time European Champion would reduce his combination to a triple toe-double toe and step out of the landing of his triple axel, the performance was still strong enough to yield 90.57 points, placing the 26-year-old in third place.

"Sometimes I skate well, sometimes not so well. I have been training well during the competition, but I was not able to do a great short program," Fernández said. "The judges did not seem to like my program as I received low component scores."

Finishing behind Fernández in the standings were Japan's Keiji Tanaka (87.19 points) and Max Aaron, who ended the segment in fifth place after picking up 83.11 points.

Pairs

Sui and Han, who won silver at this event last season, sparkled in their romantic "Hallelujah" program, completing a stellar throw triple flip, a Level 4 triple twist and a side-by-side triple toe loop. Their side-by-side spin, lift and step sequence were rated Level 4 as well, enabling the Chinese pair to score 80.14 points, which proved more than enough for the top spot in the segment.

"It is our first Grand Prix of the season, so I was a bit nervous, but we kept everything under control. We performed our regular level like in training and we really felt the support of the audience," Han said.

Yu and Zhang delivered a solid performance to "Swan Lake," the highlights of which came via a huge triple twist and a throw triple loop. The duo, who finished second in the short program with 71.37 points, picked up a Level 4 for each one of their five elements, and recovered from Yu's shaky landing on their only side-by-side triple toe.

"We are satisfied with today's program," Yu said. "We are especially pleased with our component score. I think we did a good job there. The big throws went very well today, but I could have done the solo jump better."

Skating to "Magnificat," Italy's Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise completed a triple twist, throw triple loop and three Level 4 elements, but Guarise stepped out of the side-by-side triple salchow. Despite the minor flaw, the Italian champions were still able to garner 63.76 points, good for third place.

"The program was a bit difficult today," Guarise said. "We had to fight through some of the elements and we struggled with the (solo) jump, but overall, I think it was a good program and we had good energy throughout."

Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro ended the segment in fourth place with 62.52 points, while Italy's Valentina Marchei and Ondřej Hotárek finished fifth with 59.53 points.

Ice Dance

Papadakis and Cizeron's samba/rhumba to "Shape of You" and "Thinking Out Loud" featured smooth footwork and well-synchronized twizzles. The two-time world champions also received Level-four grading for their twizzles, rhumba pattern and the straight line lift, while the side-by-side step sequence merited a Level 3. When it was all said and done, the French team vaulted to the top of the standings with a personal-best segment score of 81.10

"It was a very good performance, especially for the beginning of the season," Papadakis said. "We made a lot of improvements on the technical score compared to the beginning of the season but also to last year."

"We worked with Christopher Dean on the short dance and he came up with the idea (to skate to Ed Sheeran), which we loved," Cizeron added. "The music has this Urban-Latin feeling. It is very popular and fun to dance to."

Performing to an arrangement of salsa and rumba music, reigning U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates produced Level 4 twizzles and a Level 4 lift, as well as two Level 3 elements to land 72.66 points.

"We're so happy to be back at the Grand Prix in China," Chock said. "This is our first event this season. We felt we skated really well today; it was a fun performance for us. There were a few low levels, so we have to go back to the drawing board and have a look at that, and make some improvements."

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev's lively short dance included Level 4 twizzles and a Level 4 rotational lift, but the side-by-side footwork was rated Level 2, the same grading Chock and Bates received for their footwork. The segment mark of 72.34 was four points below their season's best, but still good enough for third place.

"We have mixed feelings," admitted Soloviev. "We were very pleased with our performance, but we are a bit upset with some of the levels. It is still the beginning of the season and some mistakes can happen. But tomorrow is a new day. We love our free dance and hope it will be better."

Russia's Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro ended fourth in the short dance with 67.62 points, while 2016 world junior champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the United States finished fifth with 63.65 points.