Bruno Massot

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Olympic pairs’ champs lead after worlds short program

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Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot backed up their Olympic pairs’ title by topping the world championships short program in Milan on Wednesday night.

Savchenko, seeking her sixth world title, and Massot, eyeing his first, tallied a personal-best 82.98 points with a clean program including side-by-side triple Salchows and a throw triple flip.

“We are Olympic champions, but the Olympics were yesterday,” Savchenko said, according to the International Skating Union. “We put our Olympic gold medals aside and focus on this competition.”

They lead Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov by 1.69 going into Thursday’s free skate.

Full results are here.

Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs’ list of world titles with Soviet Alexander Zaitsev, four shy of Irina Rodnina‘s record.

The field lacks the Olympic silver and bronze medalists. China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are not defending their world title due to Sui’s foot injury. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the 2015 and 2016 World champions, retired after PyeongChang.

That made Savchenko and Massot and Olympic fourth-place finishers Tarasova and Morozov the pre-worlds favorites. Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres are in third, seeking France’s second Olympic or world pairs’ medal in 86 years.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim are 11th with 69.55 points after placing 15th in PyeongChang. Scimeca’s elbow knocked Knierim’s eyebrow coming down from a lift Wednesday. The Knierims made the top 10 in their four previous world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh.

“We wish we could have broken 70 [points],” Scimeca said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “That was a goal of ours.”

The other U.S. pair, 2000 World junior singles silver medalist Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, were 17th, missing the cutoff for the free skate by one spot. Stellato, who retired from singles skating at 17 due to hip injuries, came back at age 32 in pairs in 2016 and took bronze with Bartholomay at nationals.

The last U.S. pairs’ medal came in 2002, making this the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Thursday ET)
Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 2:51 p.m.
Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 4:20 p.m.
Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 4:28 p.m.
Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 4:37 p.m.
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 4:46 p.m.

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PREVIEWS: MenWomen | Dance | Pairs | Nathan ChenMirai Nagasu | TV Schedule

Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

PREVIEWS: MenWomen | Dance | Pairs | Nathan ChenMirai Nagasu | TV Schedule

Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

Key Short Program Start Times (Wednesday ET)
Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) — 1:39 p.m.
Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 5:14 p.m.
Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 5:20 p.m.
Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 5:33 p.m.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

Russian 15-year-old wins Grand Prix Final; U.S. gets ice dance bronze

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Russian women went one-two in the Grand Prix Final, even without their superstar.

Alina Zagitova, the 15-year-old training partner of injured world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, won the biggest pre-Olympic competition this season in Nagoya, Japan, on Saturday.

Zagitova, the world junior champion undefeated in her first senior season, scored a personal-best 223.20 points to win the prestigious six-skater event.

Zagitova landed seven triple jumps with only minor errors, ranking only behind Medvedeva in top scores this season. Medvedeva withdrew before the Grand Prix Final, which she won the last two years, with a broken foot.

Zagitova prevailed by 6.92 points over countrywoman Maria Sotskova, all but assuring they will join Medvedeva on Russia’s three-woman Olympic team named later this winter. Assuming an IOC panel selects them.

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond was third. No U.S. women qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year.

Grand Prix Final: Full Scores | Full Season TV Schedule

In ice dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke the world record total score for a third straight time in beating Canadian training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the first time.

Papadakis and Cizeron, the 2015 and 2016 World champs, tallied 202.16 points and have broken 200 points three times. No other couple has done it once.

Virtue and Moir, who won gold and silver at the last two Olympics and were undefeated in their comeback season a year ago, matched their personal best with 199.86.

U.S. couples went third, fourth and fifth, led by national champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who took their second straight Grand Prix Final bronze medal.

They did so with their lowest score of the season, a distant 14.16 points behind the French.

“It was not the performance we wanted to have today, unfortunately,” Alex Shibutani said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “We felt pretty good this week overall, and there was a lot of stuff that we made progress on, but I just had issues with the twizzles this week. That’s very uncharacteristic of me.”

The Shibutani siblings and fourth- and fifth-place finishers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are massive favorites to make up the three-couple U.S. Olympic team named after nationals in January.

German pair Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot pulled off the only surprise of the Grand Prix Final, toppling the world champions from China with the highest free skate score under a 13-year-old points system.

Savchenko, born in Ukraine, and Massot, born in France, didn’t officially become eligible to represent Germany at the Olympics until Massot finalized his citizenship last month.

They totaled the third-highest score ever, 236.68 points. Only the 2014 Olympic champions — Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov of Russia — have been better.

China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were undefeated since returning from Sui’s ankle and foot surgeries in February, took silver, 5.79 points behind the Germans.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the 2015 and 2016 World champions, took bronze. No Americans were in the field.

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Grand Prix Final Results
Gold: Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 223.20
Silver: Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 216.28
Bronze: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 215.16
4. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 214.65
5. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 213.49
6. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 202.11

Ice Dance
Gold: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 202.16 WR

Silver: Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 199.86
Bronze: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 188
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 187.4
5. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 187.15
6. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 185.23

Gold: Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 236.68

Silver: Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 230.89
Bronze: Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 210.83
4. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 209.26
5. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 208.73
6. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 207.14

Men (from Friday)
Gold: Nathan Chen (USA) — 286.51
Silver: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 286.01

Bronze: Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 282.00
4. Sergei Voronov (RUS) — 266.59
5. Adam Rippon (USA) — 254.33
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 253.81