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Skoptcova, Aleshin take command at junior worlds

Twizzle error proves costly for Carreira, Ponomarenko; Russians lead pairs
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Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin rocketed through their high-energy short dance, and the Russian junior champions are perched atop the leaderboard with 66.44 points. -Getty Images

Russia's Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin took a commanding four-point lead over the ice dance field while countrymates Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin grabbed the pairs edge Wednesday at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Short dance

Skoptcova and Aleshin picked up a Level 4 for their twizzles, curve lift and second cha cha pattern, and a Level 3 for their step sequence and first cha cha pattern. The Junior Grand Prix Final champions claimed a personal-best 66.44 points.

"We are very pleased with our performance," Skoptcova said. "It was one of the best of the season, if not the best."

Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha were awarded a Level 4 for their stationary lift, twizzles and one of their cha cha patterns. The two-time Canadian junior champions scored 62.39 points, good for a second-place finish.

"It was a bit unexpected to be second after the short," Lagha said. "We just have to not let this placement affect us and stay focused on the free dance."

Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov earned a Level 4 for their lift and twizzles on their way to setting a personal best with 61.29 points. The Russian junior bronze medalists sit in third place.

"It is sad to say goodbye to [our Latin short dance], but we (always) like to learn something new, and we're looking forward to moving on," Ushakova said.

Russian junior silver medalists Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko are close behind in fourth with 60.95 points, while Caroline Green and Gordon Green, the junior runners-up in the United States, are fifth with 60.86 points. The Greens' score increased thier personal best in the segment by more than five points.

After making a major mistake on their twizzles, 2017 world junior bronze medalists Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko find themselves in sixth with 60.85 points.

The teams ranked third through sixth are separated by just 0.44 points.

Pairs short

Pavliuchenko and Khodykin's Cloud Atlas program featured a triple twist and throw triple loop, as well as a Level 4 lift, pairs combination spin and step sequence. The Russian tandem collected a personal-best 63.12 points in the segment to take the lead entering the free skate.

"We skated well today, but this is not yet the end of the competition," Pavliuchenko said. "We have to continue the same way tomorrow."

Skating to "Malagueña," Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitrii Ialin became the second Russian team to crack the top two in the segment. The duo landed a triple twist and throw triple loop, and picked up a Level 4 for three elements to register a personal-best 61.77 points. As a bonus, the pair was more than pleased to receive the ISU small silver medal for the short program, especially since Kostiukovich celebrated her 15th birthday Wednesday.

"Tomorrow we have the free skating and we'll have to pull ourselves together and continue in the same spirit," Kostiukovich said.

Reigning world bronze medalists Yumeng Gao and Zhong Xie produced a triple twist and impressive throw triple loop in their Chicago routine, but their double lutz received an edge call which cost the Chinese pair a one-point deduction for a time violation. They earned 59.55 points to place third in the segment.

"Today we skated up to our level and hopefully we'll be able to perform our best in the free skating tomorrow," Xie said after the performance.

Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galiamov of Russia placed fourth with 56.95 points, while Canadians Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud settled for fifth after earning 55.31 points.

Team USA's Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov completed the top six by accruing 54.38 points.