Russians top NHK Trophy short program (video)

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Yevgenia Medvedeva is once again ahead at a Grand Prix event, but she’s not the only Russian leader.

Medvedeva and Sergey Voronov topped Friday’s short programs at NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, the fourth of six Grand Prix events this fall.

Medvedeva, the two-time world champion undefeated for two years, had her typical clean program will all of her jumps in the second half for a 10 percent bonus.

She tallied 79.99 points. Medvedeva is the only female skater to break 80 under the 13-year-old scoring system.

The overwhelming PyeongChang favorite goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 5.42-point lead over Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.

NHK: Broadcast Schedule | Scores

Kostner, 30, is in great position to become the oldest singles skater to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, breaking American Todd Eldredge‘s record from 2001.

Americans Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell are fifth and ninth, respectively, in what could be their final competition before the U.S. Championships in January.

Nagasu landed a fully rotated triple Axel but was given a negative grade-of-execution score. She under-rotated two other jumps.

Bell, the top-scoring U.S. woman on the Grand Prix series so far this fall, had trouble with her opening triple-triple combination and also doubled a planned triple flip.

Nagasu and Bell are among the top contenders to make the three-woman Olympic team, along with 2017 U.S. gold and silver medalists Karen Chen and Ashley Wagner.

In the men’s event, Voronov took the lead in the absence of Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, who withdrew last week and Friday morning, respectively.

Hanyu suffered an ankle injury in a Thursday practice fall (video here).

Voronov landed a quadruple toe loop in a clean short program to tally 90.06 points. The 30-year-old has been competing on the Grand Prix since 2006 but has zero wins (six podium finishes, though).

He leads Israel’s Alexei Bychenko by 4.54 going into Saturday’s free skate.

Jason Brown and Adam Rippon, the 2015 and 2016 U.S. champions, are third and fourth.

Brown lost points by performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple. Rippon, like Brown, did not attempt a quadruple jump.

Both Americans could qualify for their first Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual event after worlds. The Final takes the top six skaters from the Grand Prix season based on combined results in each skater’s two Grand Prix starts.

Brown already has a runner-up finish from last month. A podium finish Saturday will likely be enough to make the Final in Nagoya in December.

Rippon, sixth at last year’s Grand Prix Final before breaking his foot, has his second Grand Prix at Skate America in two weeks.

Also Friday, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong topped the pairs short by 4.38 points over Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Sui and Han, the reigning world champions, are seeking their second Grand Prix win in as many weeks.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the favorites to grab the one U.S. Olympic pairs spot, are fourth after tallying the best short program score by Americans this season by 2.6 points.

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NHK Trophy Short Programs
Men

1. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 90.06
2. Alexei Bychenko (ISR) — 85.52
3. Jason Brown (USA) — 85.36
4. Adam Rippon (USA) — 84.95

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 79.99
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.57
3. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) — 70.04
5. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 65.17
9. Mariah Bell (USA) — 57.25

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 79.43
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 75.05
3. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov (RUS) — 70.47
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 65.86