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Gedevanishvili leads after strong short program

Americans Wagner and Hacker sit second and fifth, respectively

Elene Gedevanishvili leads in Sofia.
Elene Gedevanishvili leads in Sofia. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/27/2009) - Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, who trains in Hackensack, N.J., has long been known as a huge talent. Yet too often, the 19-year-old has been plagued by inconsistency and nerves, often faltering on key jumps.

At the European Championships in Helsinki this January, she missed three elements in her short program and did not qualify for the final. Today in Sofia, she shined in a powerful and entertaining routine to music from Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, including a clean triple Lutz and safe triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination. She leads the competition with 60.32 points.

"I was prepared, everything went fine and I am focused," Gedevanishvili said. "In the last weeks I worked mostly with Robin Wagner, and Elaine Zayak also helped me a lot [Zayak stood at the boards with the skater today].

"I do not want to look back to the past, but only forward. Therefore I wanted to do another competition after Europeans. In junior competitions there is a bit less pressure, but it is never easy."

Ashley Wagner, who trains in Wilmington, Del., under Priscilla Hill, is second with 57.50 points after a stylish performance to music from Somewhere in Time.

The 17-year-old's program featured a clean triple flip and double toe loop combination, a triple Lutz with incorrect inside-edge take-off and two Level 4 spins.

"I am very satisfied with my short program today," Wagner, who placed fourth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, said. "Mentally it was a bit hard after my not-so-good short program at nationals. I have not skated in junior competitions for a long time, and I miss the cameras and sparkle a bit. But this will be my last junior competition and I am happy that I do not have to do a flying camel spin any more, because this is not my favorite element.

"I came here because I did not qualify for worlds, and I want to collect some world ranking list points here in order to get two senior Grand Prix next season."

Russia's Alena Leonova is third with 55.50 points after a dynamic short which included a safe combination of triple flip and double toe loop and a shaky triple Lutz.

"I am surprised that I am third, but this was my best short program of the season," Leonova said. "It is a lot of fun to compete in juniors, and I like to travel around the world. This competition is a kind of practice for worlds in Los Angeles for me."

Katrina Hacker, who trains under Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson at the Skating Club of Boston, is fifth after a clean performance with a relatively easy combination of triple toe loop-double toe loop and a double Lutz. Although her jumps lacked difficulty, her steps and spins, as well as her presentation, were convincing. She enters the free skate with 51.06 points.

U.S. bronze medalist Caroline Zhang is tenth after a disappointing program. The California teen fell on a triple flip and failed to complete a second jump in her intended combination. In addition, both her flip and triple Lutz were downgraded. As usual, though, she gained points with her fine spins and steps.