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Vincent Zhou stumbles at U.S. International Classic

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Canada’s Nam Nguyen sits in first place after the short program at the U.S. International Classic competition in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, marking the first true weekend of figure skating competition for the 2018-19 season. Nguyen totaled 80.28 points under the newly-implemented scoring system, which uses a Grade of Execution scale of -5 to +5. The previous scale, such as the one used in PyeongChang, was -3 to +3.

He leads Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic who scored 79.57 points and Ukraine’s Yaroslav Paniot with 74.97 points.

Jimmy Ma leads the American men, sitting fourth with 73.21 points. Vincent Zhou, who finished sixth at the PyeongChang Olympics, is sixth after scoring 61.72 points. Zhou invalidated two jumps in his program – a popped Salchow and a popped Axel – which received zero credit, and under-rotated the quad Lutz in his combination.

“The jumps weren’t really there today but I think the performance was good and I gave it my best efforts as I always do. I’m just starting my season so hopefully tomorrow goes better,” Zhou said, though his program featured three spins which all achieved Level 4s.

Earlier Thursday, Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc took the lead in the pairs’ short program with 59.10 points. Cain called her fall on the throw triple Lutz a “weird mistake.”

LeDuc didn’t hold back on the team’s goals for the season.

“We’ve worked really hard this offseason to be ready to do everything that we want to do. We want to be U.S. champions, we want to get the two spots back for Team USA at Worlds,” he said, in reference to the single allotted spot for a Team USA pair at the 2019 World Championships.

Friday’s action from Salt Lake includes 2018 Worlds silver medalist ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the rhythm dance (formerly short dance), plus the ladies’ short program and pairs’ and men’s free skates. All of the action is streaming live on NBC Sports’ Gold Figure Skating Pass (more on that here).

Also this weekend in the figure skating world, competition was underway at the Lombardia Trophy in Italy. After Thursday’s short programs, Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan leads the men’s field with 104.15 points and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia leads the ladies with 65.69 points. Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert are currently first in the pairs’ field with 72.50 points. Competition in Bergamo continues Friday and Saturday.

Javier Fernandez trails after Rostelecom Cup short program

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World champion Javier Fernandez was bettered in the Rostelecom Cup short program and heads into Saturday’s free skate in second place.

Fernandez, who became the first Spanish World champion last season, landed all of his jumps in the short program in Moscow on Friday but, uncharacteristically, performed no quadruple jumps.

Russian Adian Pitkeev, 17 and the 2014 World junior silver medalist, landed a quadruple toe loop and totaled 87.54 points, while Fernandez tallied 86.99. American Ross Miner placed third.

Full results are here.

“I was very nervous before the short program,” Pitkeev said, according to the International Skating Union. “I used to come here as a spectator only and now I’m skating here myself and I wanted to do well. I am obviously very surprised to be in first place.”

Fernandez, who won Cup of China two weeks ago, will clinch a berth in December’s Grand Prix Final in Barcelona if he finishes in the top three after Saturday’s free skate. He could still make the six-skater Grand Prix Final if he finishes lower than third.

The men expected to be Fernandez’s top challengers in Moscow — U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon and Canadian champion Nam Nguyen — are sixth and seventh, both counting falls in their short programs.

Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance free skates Saturday. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.

Women’s short program — Friday, 12:30 p.m. ET (start order here)
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 7:35 a.m. ET
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 11:35 a.m. ET

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Olympic pairs champions pull out of Grand Prix series