Kamila Valiyeva, a 15-year-old Russian, again showed why she’s the Olympic favorite, topping the Rostelecom Cup short program with the highest score in history.
Valiyeva landed a triple Axel en route to 87.42 points in Sochi, Russia, distancing countrywoman Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva by 7.32 going into Saturday’s free skate.
She broke the short program record of 85.45 held by another Russian, Aliona Kostornaya.
“I almost did my maximum today. There is always a place for improvement, the [triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination] was not so great,” Valiyeva said, according to the ISU,
Valiyeva, who won her previous two competitions this fall with world record total scores, is all but certain to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final. She could be joined by up to five other Russian women in the six-skater field at that event.
Rostelecom Cup is the last of the six Grand Prix Series events leading up to the Final, which is in Osaka in two weeks. The Final is the top international event between now and the Olympics in February and the best indicator of medal favorites.
Earlier Friday, Kazuki Tomono was the surprise men’s short program leader in Sochi. Tomono, a 23-year-old whose best Japanese Nationals result was fourth, landed two quadruple jumps to put him in the mix for one of the nation’s Olympic spots.
Russian favorites Mikhail Kolyada and Yevgeny Semenenko were fourth and seventh, boosting American Jason Brown‘s chances of making the Grand Prix Final.
The men’s field this week lacks the Olympic medal favorites, including two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who was entered but withdrew earlier this month with an ankle injury.
In pairs, reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov took second in the short after a side-by-side jump error. They trail fellow Russians Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin by .27 going into the free skate.
Reigning world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia topped the rhythm dance with a score (86.81) beaten only this season by four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.
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