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Lipnitskaia puts freakish flexibility on display

Russians sit one-two after short program; American Lam close behind in third

Polina Shelepen of Russia is well back of training mate Julie Lipnitskaia.
Polina Shelepen of Russia is well back of training mate Julie Lipnitskaia. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/08/2011) - Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia came a step closer to making a clean sweep of all of this season's Junior Grand Prix events, taking a 4.99-point lead in Friday's short program.

"It wasn't my best skate today, but it wasn't bad," the 13-year-old said of her "Dark Eyes" program.

Another Russian, Polina Shelepen, is second, while Californian Vanessa Lam sits third.

Lipnitskaia made use of her greatest gift -- her Gumby-like flexibility -- at every opportunity, sprinkling her routine with spiral and illusion moves into, and often out of, every element possible, including a double Axel, triple toe-triple toe combination and triple Lutz. She ended the routine with incredibly fast back-to-back spins, including fully extended split and Biellmann positions. Her 59.98 points is about four points off her season's best.

"My next start is the Russian Championships, and I hope to make the junior worlds," the youngster said. "I also want to work on adding more difficult elements to my programs."

Shelepen, a training partner of Lipnitskaia's, did a triple Salchow-triple toe combination, but the second jump was judged under-rotated by the technical panel. She, too, hit a solid triple Lutz and closed her short with strong combination spin. Her 54.99 points is a new season high.

"In the beginning, during my [double Axel and triple-triple], I was worrying a little, but it still felt good," Shelepen said. "There are still things I need to work on, but overall it was a very easy skate."

About Lipnitskaia, with whom she shares a coach, Eteri Tuberidze, Shelepen said, "We are rivals only on the ice. Off the ice, we are best friends."

Unlike the Russians, Lam did not attempt a triple-triple combination but landed a solid triple flip-double loop and triple Lutz in her short to Satori's "Con Te Partiro."

"It felt really good out there today," Lam said. "I tried to focus on my program components and transitions ... My goal is to improve on my transitions and skating skills."

Lam earned 54.34 points, surpassing her previous season's best of 53.05 set at the Junior Grand Prix in the Czech Republic.