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Medvedeva sets ladies pace on Day One at NHK

Voronov leads after Hanyu's withdrawal; Sui, Han take charge in pairs
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Once again, and in stellar fashion, Evgenia Medvedeva vaulted to the top of the standings. Performing to Frédéric Chopin's "Nocturne," the two-time reigning world champion scooped up 79.99 points, a score that placed her more than five points ahead of her closest chaser, Italy's Carolina Kostner. -Getty Images

Evgenia Medvedeva delivered another sterling performance on her way to winning the short program at the 2017 NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan. In other action, Sergei Voronov grabbed the lead over the men's field, which did not include Yuzuru Hanyu, as the reigning world champion was forced to withdraw after injuring his ankle in practice Thursday, and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han took charge of the pairs competition.


Medvedeva, who has already won Grand Prix gold this season at the Rostelecom Cup, hit a triple flip-triple toe combination, a triple loop and a double axel, while also achieving Level 4 spins and footwork during her confident performance to Chopin's "Nocturne." With a segment score of 79.99 points, the Russian vaulted to the top of the standings once again.

"It was an OK performance. I could do some things better, the double axel for example," the two-time European champion said. "In the free program, I want to show elegance and I want to give joy to the people who are watching."

Italy's Carolina Kostner delivered an emotional performance of her "Ne me quitte pas" short -- which featured a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop, double axel and Level 4 grading for her three spins and footwork -- and the 2012 world champion finds herself in second place with 74.57 points.

"I am very happy about how I skated," said Kostner, who dedicated her performance to the memory of two young Italian skaters who recently perished in a car accident while returning home from competition. "Today was more of a fight. You have days when it is not so easy and you need to get into that fighting mode. Today, I was able to do that, and I'm happy that I did it."

Making her Grand Prix debut, Polina Tsurskaya of Russia shined throughout her Game of Thrones short, which included a triple lutz-triple toe combination, a triple loop, double axel and three Level 4 spins. The 2015 Junior Grand Prix Final champion posted a new personal-best mark of 70.04, landing her third in the segment.

"I am pleased with today's short program; it went quite well," the 16-year-old said. "The jumps were good, but there is room for improvement in the spins and the footwork, and we'll work on that but won't forget the jumps."

Rika Hongo of Japan placed fourth with 65.83 points, while American Mirai Nagasu, who landed a triple axel, sits fifth with 65.17 points.

The other American in the competition, Mariah Bell, enters the free skate in ninth after accruing 57.25 points.


Voronov grabbed the lead in the short, but the news of the day was Hanyu's withdrawal from the event, which occured shortly before the start of the pairs short program. The Olympic champion injured his right foot when he fell in practice Thursday afternoon.

"I am very sorry to have everyone worried about me," Hanyu said in a statement released by the Japanese Skating Federation. "The doctors have worked hard on treating me since last night. Unfortunately, they have made their final decision that I should not take part (in the NHK Trophy). I will focus on my treatment and work hard towards the nationals."

Performing to "Adiós Nonino" by Astor Piazzolla, Voronov pulled off a quad toe-triple toe, triple lutz and triple axel to score a season's best 90.06 points, just below his personal best of 90.33.

"I am happy with my performance because not only the jumps but the whole program came out at a high level," the two-time European medalist said.

Israel's Alexei Bychenko sits in second place, followed by Americans Jason Brown and Adam Rippon.

Bychenko's program to "Hava Nagila" featured a quad toe, triple axel and triple lutz-triple toe, helping the 2016 European silver medallist to a season's best 85.52 points.

"Today's performance was nice," Bychenko said. "The technical side was really good but still a bit shaky. We know what we are supposed to work on to fix it. I think that result today is because of the focus (I had) on the competition."

Brown completed a triple lutz and excellent spins in his upbeat program to "The Room Where It Happens" from the musical Hamilton. However, the Skate Canada silver medalist stepped out of the landing of his triple axel and reduced his combination to a triple flip-double toe. He finished with 85.36 points.

"I had the best time performing out there, except I had a few hiccups that I am not super proud of," Brown said. "I know I can do better. On the other hand, it is another opportunity early in the season to learn and to grow from, so I'm excited to take what I learned from the short program and apply it to the free skate tomorrow and try to be a lot cleaner."

Rippon remains within striking distance of the podium after managing a season's best 84.95 points.


Sui and Han's performance of their "Hallelujah" short was highlighted by a huge throw triple flip, side-by-side triple toes and a sound triple twist. The twist, footwork, death spiral and lift all merited Level 4 grading, marks that enabled the reigning world champions to earn a segment score of 79.43.

"We had some problems with the levels (of the pair combination spin) today, so this is something to improve for next time," Han said. "The back-to-back competition (the team is coming off a win at the Rostelecom Cup) is not a problem for us. We don't feel tired; there is not a big time difference between Japan and Beijing. In training, we do back-to-back programs, so we are used to that."

Skating to "Tango de Besame," Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov produced a throw triple flip and a side-by-side triple toes to go along with a Level 4 lift and death spiral. The Russian champions posted a new season's best mark of 75.05, which was more than enough to secure second place in the segment.

"We are pleased with the performance overall, but we lost some levels, which is unexpected. As for the free skating, we want to skate without any surprises," Klimov said, referring to the team's free skate at the Finlandia Trophy earlier this season, when his laces came undone during a lift and he unexpectedly fell.

Stolbova and Klimov's teammates, Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, completed side-by-side triple salchows, a throw triple flip and a triple twist on their way to scoring a personal-best 70.47 points, which placed the Rostelecom Cup bronze medalists in third.

"This is the third competition for us with a clean short program, and the scores are rising accordingly," Rogonov said. "Tomorrow in the free skating, we'll put the focus on the elements, but we also want to perform our program (to La La Land) the best way possible."

Team USA's Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim placed fourth in the segment with 65.86 points, while Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau sit in fifth with 63.98 points.