Mao Asada leads Skate America; Russian pair breaks world record

Mao Asada
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Japan’s Mao Asada sat in first place over U.S. champion Ashley Wagner after the women’s short program at Skate America in Detroit on Saturday.

Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, landed the most difficult jump being performed by the top women today, a triple axel, to open her program.

She also hit a triple flip and a triple loop-double loop combination en route to a score of 73.18 points. Wagner, who skated just before Asada at Joe Louis Arena, posted 69.26 points (full results below). The free skate is Sunday afternoon.

In the pairs short program, the favorites for Olympic gold broke the world record score for the second time on the young season.

Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov posted 83.05 points, taking an 11.54-point lead over Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch going into Sunday’s free skate.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have live Skate America coverage from 4-6 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

The two-time world champion Asada heads a field missing reigning Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim, who is sidelined by a foot injury, and Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who has won a medal at the last three World Championships.

In an excellent season debut, Wagner opened with a clean triple flip-triple toe loop combination and added a triple loop and double axel while skating to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on you Crazy Diamond.”

Her score was a personal best by nearly three points.

Wagner, who just missed the Olympic team in 2010, is a favorite for one of three 2014 U.S. Olympic team spots chosen after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January.

The other top contenders, Gracie GoldChristina Gao and Agnes Zawadzki, are not competing at Skate America.

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In the pairs, Volosozhar and Trankov were lacking their biggest competition for Sochi gold — Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy — but were far superior to a field led by the fourth-place finishers from March’s World Championships.

A Russian/Unified Team/Soviet pair won gold at every Olympics from 1964 through 2006, but none won a medal in 2010.

The top U.S. pairs were 2013 national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (fifth place, 62.56 points) and 2012 national champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (sixth place, 62.06 points).

Those two pairs figure to vie for two Olympic spots with Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the top U.S. finishers at worlds in ninth place. Scimeca and Knierim are not competing at Skate America.

The U.S. has not won an Olympic pairs figure skating medal since 1988.

Women’s Short Program
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 73.18
2. Ashley Wagner (USA) 69.26
3. Elena Radionova (RUS) 67.01
4. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 59.25
5. Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) 58.80
6. Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) 56.68
7. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 55.84
8. Samantha Cesario (USA) 53.51
9. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) 53.20
10. Caroline Zhang (USA) 45.76

Pairs Short Program
1. Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (RUS) 83.05
2. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) 71.51
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) 64.80
4. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) 63.85
5. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir (USA) 62.56
6. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin (USA) 62.06
7. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) 55.83
8. Margaret Purdy/Michael Marinaro (CAN) 50.26

U.S. men’s Olympic figure skating picture clouded