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Lambiel finishes Day 1 in Moscow with slim lead

Other events not as close at the Cup of Russia

Yu-Na Kim won the ladies short program.
Yu-Na Kim won the ladies short program. (Getty Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(11/23/2007) - On the first day of the Cup of Russia, two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland finished just ahead of American Johnny Weir in the short program.

Lambiel edged the three-time U.S. Champion by just .34 points to take the lead. After struggling in the warm-up, the Swiss didn't risk the triple Axel, but he hit a quad-double toe loop combination in his program to "Carne Cruda." Lambiel was relieved to have performed better than he did in Chian. There, he had missed the quad and earned the bronze medal, well behind Weir and Evan Lysacek.

Skating to "Yunona and Avos," Weir turned in a strong performance with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, a triple Axel and a triple flip. He earned 80.15 points, posting a new personal best score. His previous personal best, 80.00 points, dates back to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

"I skated better at the Cup of China, but I am very happy with my performance today. And to perform well in Moscow with the Russian music was exciting for me today, but the step sequences and spins were a little bit weak," Weir said in a press conference.

Of course, he was again asked about including a quad in his program. "I think quads are important, because it's the natural way of sport to get more and more difficult. But at the same time, it's so difficult that when you include it, it's like a huge hole in the program. It's not figure skating anymore; it's jumping on ice. I think it's important, yes, but if you can execute all triple jumps and good steps and spins and have the character and an overall idea and something to say, for me is more important than one jump that rotates four times,", Weir answered.

Andrei Griazev of Russia was a dark horse in the field this week, and he surprised quite a few people with his strong outing. The reigning Russian national champion delivered a clean program with a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe combination, and a triple flip to earn 70.95 points, good enough for third place. He missed two competitions earlier this season due to an ankle injury but said that he is fully recovered now.

Frenchman Yannick Ponsero nailed his jumps -- including a quad-double toe -- but crashed during the footwork. He is in fourth place.

Jeffrey Buttle, one of the pre-event favorites here in Moscow, was again far from his best. He made errors on all three jumps and is ranked sixth.

Ladies

Yu-Na Kim grabbed the lead in the ladies short program despite singling her Axel. But she did pulled off a triple flip-triple toe loop combination. Yukari Nakano of Japan came in second with a solid short that featured a triple flip-double toe loop combination, a triple Lutz and strong spins.

Kiira Korpi of Finland proved that she has recovered from the bad flu that kept her out of Skate America at the end of October. The European bronze medalist produced a solid performance with a triple Lutz-double toe, a triple loop and a double Axel.

Bebe Liang was seventh. She fell on her triple Lutz and then tried to save a few points by switching her combination to a flip. Unfortunately, she singled the toe after the flip.

Pairs

In spite of battling a tooth ache, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang won the pairs short program with a strong performance. The Chinese once again showed off their technical strength with big throws and jumps, like their side-by-side triple Salchow and their triple twist.

"We performed quite well, although our spins and spirals were better in France last week [at the Trophee Bompard]. However, we had to overcome some problems. I am suffering from tooth ache, and I don't feel so well", Hao Zhang said.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's hopes to win on the first day shattered one minute into their program, when Savchenko missed the triple toe. Although their other elements -- except of the side-by-side spins -- were strong, they now are trailing the Chinese by a little over three points.

"This was the worst short program", Savchenko said. "But we can't change it now; we just have to do better tomorrow."

The two top Russian couples are ranked third and fourth, with only .16 points in between them. Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov just edged out Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov. Both couples made a minor error -- Smirnov's triple toe was wobbly, while Mukhortova did a three turn on the landing of their throw triple Salchow.

There is no U.S. pair in the competition since Julia Vlassov and Drew Meekins withdrew from the event after announcing that they have ended their partnership.

Ice Dancing

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia clearly won the compulsory dance, well ahead of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France. The Russian world junior champions, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, are in third.

Domnina and Shabalin gave an excellent performance of the Polka and achieved a new personal best of 40.05 points. Pechalat and Bourzat and Bobrova and Soloviev also skated very well.

Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Guiletti-Smith of the United States came in tenth in what was their debut at the senior Grand Prix. The second U.S. couple, Melissa Gregroy and Denis Petukhov, had to withdraw a few days prior to the Cup of Russia. Gregory is not yet fully recovered from her fall at Skate Canada earlier this month.