Ice Network

Russia's Paradise glides to lead in Stockholm

Hometown favorite Team Surprise lands second; Haydenettes in fourth
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Russia's Paradise arrived in Stockholm as the two-time reigning world champions, and after delivering a stellar rendition of their Muse short program, the Russian champions are in medal position once again after placing tops in the segment with 76.05 points. -Getty Images

The 2018 World Synchronized Skating Championships began Friday in Stockholm, Sweden, as 25 teams from 20 countries took to the ice inside the Ericsson Globe Arena.

On the strength of a clean program, and one that was technically strong, Russia's Paradise is poised to win their third world title in as many years after winning the segment by more than three points.

Skating to "Exogenesis: Symphony" by Muse, the two-time defending world champions earned 76.05 points for their short program, which was highlighted by a clean whip intersection, no hold element and traveling wheel. The only element the team did not receive full credit for was their pivoting block, but despite that element getting downgraded, the Russian squad was able to capture the highest technical element score of the evening at 38.05.

Sweden's hometown favorites, Team Surprise, find themselves in second place thanks to opening the competition with a strong skate of their own. Performing to ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All," the six-time world champions fed off the energy of the crowd throughout their program.

The team earned Level 4 grading on three of their five elements, and received Level 3 marks on their remaining two. With positive Grades of Execution across the board as well, Team Surprise stands in second place with a score of 72.62, a remarkable feat when you consider the fact that they were one skater short during the performance.

Finland's Marigold Ice Unity narrowly captured the world title last season, and after turning in a solid program of their own -- which they performed to the traditional Finnish song "Under the Northern Star" -- once again find themselves in medal contention with 72.61 points.

The reigning U.S. champion Haydenettes, who have earned bronze five times on the world stage, landed in fourth place with 71.22 points.

"It was very powerful," coach Saga Krantz said. "I think it was one of the strongest short programs that we have done in a few years, at worlds, which means a lot."

The team tied for the highest base value of the night, and earned mostly +2 and +3 Grades of Execution throughout their "Run Boy Run" program.

"It's not necessarily a bad position to be in," team member Sarah Checkosky said, referring to the team's fourth-place finish in the short program. "We like to be fighting in the long program, and we like to feel something to prove to everyone. We have a little bit to make up to be on the podium, but it's just going to fire us up even more. It's nice knowing we will have the crowd behind us tomorrow."

The second U.S. team in the field, the Skyliners, made their world championship debut by finishing ninth in the segment with 63.50 points. While they have reached much success at the international level, competing at worlds was a first for the squad from New York.

"I think for their first time out, at a world championship, they showed composure," coach Josh Babb said. "They handled themselves very well."

Despite following the powerful performance of Team Surprise, the Skyliners put forth a solid showing, earning the highest technical calls for their traveling wheel and pivoting block. With components ranging from 7.82 to 8.14, the team is excited to be competing at the top synchronized skating event.

"This team has been working so hard from the very beginning," Kelsey Bialo, a first-year senior member said. "Every competition, we have made a little bit more progress. For our first time on the world stage, at the world championships, for us to go out and put out a skate that demonstrates all the hard work and everything that we put in to earn this spot makes us and our coaches very proud."