Abbott, Lipnitskaia lead figure skatin in Paris
PARIS (AFP) –
Rising Russian star Julia Lipnitskaia is looking to upset American hopes of a Paris double after leading the women’s short programme Friday ahead of Ashley Wagner at the Trophee Bompard, the fifth in the six-leg ISU Grand Prix figure skating series.
The United States are bidding for a first title on the ice in Paris-Bercy since Johnny Weir won gold in 2004.
And US champion Jeremy Abbott led the men’s short programme before 14-year-old Lipnitskaia outshone Skate America winner Wagner by just 0.46 to hold a marginal lead going into Saturday’s women’s free skating final.
In her first senior season, world junior champion Lipnitskaia gave a confident performance to “Sabre Dance” opening with a triple lutz-triple toeloop. She also landed a triple flip and double Axel to score 63.55 points.
Despite having royal support in the crowd with Princess Caroline of Monaco’s daughter Alexandra holding up a drawing “Ashley is Amazing”, the US champion’s “Red Violin” routine fell just short.
The 21-year-old opened with a triple flip-double toeloop combination, and also included a double axel and triple loop to score 63.09 as defending champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia placed third with 58.26.
“I felt I skated very well today and did everything I could,” said Lipnitskaia, who had also led the short programme in the Cup of China before taking silver.
Wagner said: “I definitely felt the pressure coming in here after Skate America, but felt really improved. I’m excited though this has been a good day for me.”
Tuktamysheva, 15, admitted that it was hard to defend a title after losing her Skate Canada crown.
“Just one month ago I was in a very bad place. I went to Skate Canada with expectations not high but here in France I came to fight for a spot on the podium,” she said.
Skate America runner-up Christina Gao of the United States placed just seventh.
Earlier Abbott put the back problems which saw him struggle to fifth in Skate America behind him as his “Spy” routine gave him a comfortable 4.53-point lead on Japan’s Takahito Mura.
Home hope Brian Joubert is third going into Saturday’s free skating final.
“After Skate America I’m very happy to be in this position,” said 22-year-old Abbott, who opened with a triple flip-triple toeloop combination and also included a triple lutz and triple axel to score 81.18.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle because of my back. We decided to scale it back and not try the quad to just put out a clean performance.
“It’s my first time in Paris and I want to show the Parisian audience a great performance,” added Abbott.
Mura set himself up for his first Grand Prix medal.
The 21-year-old scored 76.65 for his routine “Malaguena” as 2007 world champion Joubert, 28, who pulled out sick from the Cup of China, held on despite a stumble on his opening quadruple jump to score 75.46.
“I’m surprised to be sitting in second place,” admitted Mura.
“I landed the quad and triple axel so I think I’ve learned a lot from Skate Canada,” added the Japanese skater, who finished just eighth in Canada.
China’s Song Nan, last year’s silver medallist, dropped to sixth after a fall as did former European champions Florent Amodio of France and Tomas Verner who placed seventh and ninth respectively.
Earlier Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov moved closer to a spot in the ISU Grand Prix final, after leading the pairs short programme (66.78).
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are second (62.28) after she fell on a triple lutz with new Chinese pairing of Peng Cheng and 2006 Olympic silver medallist Zhang Hao sitting third (59.92).
In ice dancing, France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (68.48) are leading ahead of Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (66.18).
All the free skating finals take place on Saturday.
The final leg in the series will be the NHK Trophy in Japan from November 23-25 with the Grand Prix Final in 2014 Olympic host city Sochi from December 6-9.