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Russian ladies lead after short program

Gao sits third; Zawadzki and Hicks are fifth and tenth

Adelina Sotnikova leads after the ladies short program at world juniors.
Adelina Sotnikova leads after the ladies short program at world juniors. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(03/04/2011) - Pre-event favorite Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who won the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, has a .91 point-edge over teammate Elizaveta Tuktamisheva after Friday's ladies short program.

Christina Gao, fifth at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, is third. Agnes Zawadzki, who won world silver last season, is fifth, and U.S. junior champion Courtney Hicks is tenth.

Performing to two Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Sotnikova opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination that was judged under rotated by the technical panel. All of her other elements, including three Level 4 spins, got many plus points from the judges, and she earned 59.51 points.

"My skating was today was good, but at the same time it was not very good," Sotnikova said. "Hopefully I can do everything tomorrow and everything 100 percent. All girls at junior worlds are strong and many are trying triple-triple combinations. This is good because is makes it more competitive."

Tuktamisheva, who is coached by Alexei Mishin, earned 58.60 points for a program with seven clean elements, including a very good combination of triple Lutz-triple toe loop, but earned lower levels for her spins and step sequence than Sotnikova.

"I am very pleased with my performance today," Sotnikova said. "I tried not to think that this is the (junior) world championships, but just an ordinary competition, and as a result, I skated well.

"I do the triple Axel in practice, but it is not consistent enough yet to include it in an international competition. I will approach this step by step. First I'll do it in competition practices, then in the six-minute warm-up and then hopefully I can do it in the program."

Gao earned 56.80 points and is 2.71 points off the lead. She has an elegant style reminiscent of Olympic Champion Yu-Na Kim, which is no wonder because she trains with Kim's long time coach Brian Orser in Toronto.

She started with a huge combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, followed by a solid triple loop. The rest of the program, to music of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto was skated with good flow, but the landing of the double Axel was a bit shaky.

"I am very happy with how I skated today, especially because last year at junior worlds my short program was not my best," Gao said. "I am happy that I could come here and do what I prepared. I'm excited for tomorrow as well.

"I think it is very exciting that junior competition has so many triple-triples. When we move up to senior we'll have triple-triples and hopefully even more exciting elements, like triple Axels and quads like the men."

Zawadzki planned to open her program with a triple toe-triple toe combination, but reduced it to a triple-double. Her triple loop was a bit shaky, but the other elements were clean. The highlight was the camel combination spin at the end for which she got a +2's from eight of the nine judges, and she earned 53.17 points.

"It was not too bad for the short time I am practicing this junior version of a short program," Zawadzki said. "I am certainly a bit disappointed about the combination. I do not know why I did only triple-double. It was just a click in my head. The placement is okay, I am close to the top." Hicks had to skate first of the 30 ladies and is on tenth position with 49.98 points. The student of John Nicks started her combination with a huge triple flip, but her triple toe loop was downgraded. Her other elements were excellent, including three Level 4 spins. Her interpretation of the Russian folk music "Dark Eyes" was very convincing, and her program component scores were a bit low, likely because she skated first.

"I am very happy with how I skated today," Hicks said. "My goal for the free program is to skate clean."

"It is a very good experience for her to skate here," Nicks said. "But next year she will be really good."