Having fallen short of expectations the last two seasons, Julia Lipnitskaia is looking to get her season off on the right foot at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial. -Getty Images
Lipnitskaia takes ladies lead; Tarasova, Morozov set pairs pace
Russia reigned supreme on Day One at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial, going 1-2-3 in pairs and owning three of the four top spots in ladies.
Julia Lipnitskaia leads the ladies event with 63.16 points. Her strong components mark, combined with a solid technical outing, gave the 2014 world silver medalist the edge. Lipnitskaia made small errors on her triple lutz-triple toe combination and her triple flip (both were marked under-rotated, with the flip also getting an edge call), but she had an otherwise clean performance and was the only athlete to break the 30-point mark for program components.
Maria Sotskova, the reigning world junior silver medalist, turned in a 61.58-point short program and trails her teammate by less than two points. The next closest skater to Sotskova is Korea’s Ji Hyun Byun, who finds herself almost four points out of second after posting a segment mark of 57.76.
Russia’s Alena Leonova (56.84) and Team USA’s Mariah Bell (56.8) are in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The pairs competition is a tight one, with Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov holding a small lead over Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, and Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert.
Tarasova and Morozov, the two-time European bronze medalists, turned in a solid performance of their swing-themed short program, highlighted by a Level 4 triple twist and a step sequence that earned a 1.40 Grade of Execution. The team’s score of 69.06 sees them half a point up on Kavaguti and Smirnov.
Racking up 68.56 points, Kavaguti and Smirnov virtually tied the leaders in program components, scoring 31.80 in that category to Tarasova and Morozov’s 31.92. The two-time world bronze medalists landed their side-by-side triple toes and throw triple loop cleanly.
Just a point and a half out of second are Zabijako and Enbert. The second-year team skated the cleanest program of the event, earning 67.04 points for their performance.
Competing for the first time since the 2015 World Championships, Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier earned 59.66 points, good for fourth place. They landed their throw triple loop but suffered a fall on their side-by-side triple salchows.