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Lipnitskaia overcomes injured ankle to win short

Wagner just 0.46 behind in second; Maturing Tuktamisheva takes third

Julia Lipnitskaia hopes to dance onto the podium for the second time in this year's Grand Prix Series.
Julia Lipnitskaia hopes to dance onto the podium for the second time in this year's Grand Prix Series. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/16/2012) - Julia Lipnitskaia won the short program at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris Friday night, thanks to a faultless and most difficult program.

Skating last in the field, Ashley Wagner delivered a beautiful performance that left the audience voiceless for the whole 2 minutes, 40 seconds. She beat her season's best and posted 63.09 points, just 0.46 behind Lipnitskaia. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva stands in third with 58.26, also her season's best.

Skating to an arrangement to Aram Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance," Lipnitskaia hit a triple Lutz-triple toe combination that gained her 9.60 points, a triple flip, a double Axel and two Level 4 spins. (Her final layback was rewarded with a Level 3 only; layback spins were graded quite severely tonight.)

The world junior champion scored 63.55 to beat her season's best.

"The injury did not bother me at all, actually. I thought I skated really well tonight, as I did everything I could," Lipnitskaia said, referring to the ankle injury that dogged her coming into the competition.

The diminutive skater's incredible flexibility was again an instant hit in the rink, as each of her spins was welcomed by "wows" and warm applause. Her positions drove the audience wild.

"You know, I spend only about 15-20 minutes several times a day to work on my flexibility," Lipnitskaia explained. "One time before training, one time in between my two training sessions, and one time after practice is over." She then reflected and added, with a grin: "To be precise, I do not work during off-days, though."

Wagner looked so relaxed and confident before her program started that everyone knew that she was ready to skate perfectly tonight.

"In fact," she said later, "I definitely was very nervous entering into this competition, after winning Skate America. But altogether I am quite happy with the way I skated.

"I am really pleased with the scores I got for the triple flip-double toe combination," continued Wagner, who holds her two hands above her head during the latter. "When I add the triple toe in, things will be even better."

"I love strong and more intense music, and this one has an eerie side to it," Wagner had said before the event. "I'm trying to draw the audience into it with a portrayal of the music."

Her rendition to John Corigliano's The Red Violin, choreographed by Phillip Mills, was very dramatic and drew the audience to complete silence, a rarely seen sign that a true event is taking place.

"I love to perform and captivate audiences," Wagner said. "Also, it happens to be one of Mr. Nicks' top priorities. I like to keep skating 'exciting;' I think it makes me a more rounded skater."

When she won Bompard last year, Tuktamisheva was basically skating from blue line to blue line.

"My program is set like that," she had explained with her childish voice afterward. She elected to switch back to her program from last year, devised to an Astor Piazzola tango, and it was easy to see that this time it was covering most of the ice. Although less precise than she was last year, she is now gaining a new maturity that will pay off in the future, if she manages to overcome her "transitional age" from childhood to teen age, as her coach Alexei Mishin called it.

"It's never routine!" France's Maé Bérénice Méité said when she arrived at the rink this morning.

Every day, Méité comes to train in the same Bercy arena.

"But each time it is so different. Today, I'll try to skate a good program, entertain myself and entertain you guys!" she added with a laugh.

Méité delivered a solid performance to the Michael Buble piece rightfully titled "Feeling Good." She landed a superb triple toe-triple toe combination to beat her season's best with 54.83 points.

Polina Korobeynikova skated an elegant program, although her triple loop was downgraded. She scored 54.50 to take fifth place.

Christina Gao arrived in Paris right after her mid-term exams at Harvard.

"They went all right," she said. "I am missing a lot of classes this week, but my teachers were very supportive, and I think I managed to find the right balance."

"Close Without Touching" was the whole story behind Gao's short program tonight, as she had to settle for a single triple loop instead of her planned triple-triple combination. But she managed to add a double toe after her superb triple loop to make up for the miss.

"The first toe was not too good, and I suppose I was too close to the board," Gao explained afterward.

She gave a big smile when landing it and finished her program with ease and poise. Her silent and deep edges emphasized her pure lines. She scored 52.55 points and is sitting in sixth place before the free program.

The free program will be very exciting to watch, as Wagner's maturity seems obviously a definitive asset. She recalled that her first Grand Prix ever was at the Bompard trophy.

"I was just a baby at the time," Wagner recalled. "I feel so much more confident in the way I perform now."