Richard Dornbush

Russia’s Kovtun records monster short program in Plushenko’s absence

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For some 15 years, Yevgeny Plushenko has been the king of Russian skating. But Friday, with no king in sight, a prince reigned over the ice in Moscow, Maksim Kovtun formally announcing his challenge to Plushenko’s throne.

Kovtun has been the up-and-coming boy of a nation steeped in figure skating tradition for the last two years and delivered a monster short program at the Rostelecom Cup, the final Grand Prix of the season, in which Plushenko withdrew from a week ago with a knee injury.

Skating in front of a home crowd, the 18-year-old Kovtun produced a 92.53, the fourth-highest score of the season and better than Plushenko’s best-ever short program (91.30), securing himself a safe lead over second-place Tatsuki Machida of Japan (84.90) and re-igniting the discussion of who will get Russia’s coveted lone Olympic spot for Sochi.

Kovtun was a disappointing 17th at the World Championships earlier this year, meaning the Russians got just one place for a men’s singles skater at the upcoming Olympic Games. But after a second-place finish at the Cup of Russia earlier this month and a dazzling performance that included a quadruple Salchow-triple toe opening combination and a quadruple toe to follow, Kovtun continues to push the envelope.

Reigning world bronze medalist Javier Fernandez fell on his opening quadruple Salchow, relegating him to third behind Kovtun and Machida.

Lipnitskaya, Savchenko/Szolkowy take leads in Moscow

It was a poor showing for American men, as Richard Dornbush came up short on two of his jumps and fell on his lone Axel, a triple, finishing seventh out of eight skaters. His teammate, Josh Farris, withdrew after spraining his ankle Thursday in practice.

Dornbush is the 2011 U.S. Championships siilver medalist while Farris, 18, is competing in his first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. He was fifth at Skate Canada last month.

In the ice dancing that followed, reigning and three-time Russian national champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dimitry Soloviyev skated to a first-place finish in the short program with a 68.42. The team earned a bronze medal at the World Championships earlier this year.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second with a 61.50, though they were visibly disappointed after seeing their scores. Weaver had pumped her fist following their short dance, but then stared blankly at the screen and simply said, “OK,” when their scores came up.

Ekaterina Riyazanova and Iliya Tkachenko of Russia were third while Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the lone Americans in ice dance, were fourth, less than a point back from medal contention.

For much of the second group of ice dancers Friday night the rink took on a Broadway theme, music from “Chicago,” “42nd Street,” “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Moulin Rouge” playing in consecutive programs.

Kovtun will look for another show-stopping performance Saturday in the men’s free skate. Many around skating believe the Olympic spot will go to Plushenko if he is healthy regardless of how Kovtun performs, though a win in Moscow from the youngster would put more pressure on the veteran.

The last Russian man not named Plushenko to win a Grand Prix gold medal? Iliya Klimkin at the NHK Trohpy in 2002.

Carolina Kostner, Denis Ten struggle early at Cup of China

Adelina Sotnikova
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Mild surprises marked the short programs at the Cup of China on Friday.

Russian Adelina Sotnikova led the women’s standings over 2012 World champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, while China’s Yan Han posted a score two points higher than Olympic favorite Patrick Chan had at Skate Canada last week.

In pairs, Chinese veterans Pang Qing and Tong Jian scored 70.38 points to lead reigning World silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who tallied 69.07.

Ice dance went more according to plan. Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev edged France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in a battle of two teams thought to be in the Olympic medal hunt.

The Cup of China, the third of six Grand Prix events before the Grand Prix Final (Dec. 5-6), concludes Saturday with the free skates for all four disciplines.

Key information for Cup of China

A Russian woman took command for the second straight Grand Prix. Sotnikova, 17, scored 66.03 points to lead the favored Kostner going into the free skate.

Kostner fell on her opening combination jump but is still within striking distance, 3.28 points behind Sotnikova. The Russian also topped Kostner in the short program at the European Championships in January, but the standings reversed after the free skate.

The American entry, Agnes Zawadzki, fell on her opening combination and landed in seventh place at 53.73.

Zawadzki is in the running for one of three U.S. Olympic Team spots but will need to be much better. Ashley WagnerGracie Gold and Christina Gao all scored at least nine points better in their short programs at Skate America or Skate Canada.

China’s Han, 17 and the 2012 World junior champion, topped a men’s field that included reigning World silver medalist Denis Ten.

Yan, wearing an earring, landed a quadruple toe loop, triple Axel and a triple-triple combination to take a strong 8.2-point lead over Russian Maksim Kovtun.

Kovtun landed two quads and a triple Axel but fell on a footwork sequence. He is considered the top threat to three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko for Russia’s single men’s Olympic spot.

Ten made an underwhelming Grand Prix debut after he pulled out of Skate America due to a back injury two weeks ago. The Kazakh is in fourth with 77.05 points.

He put his hand down on a quad toe and didn’t perform a jump combination, popping a triple Lutz.

Ten, who trains in California, had been battling a jaw infection that also left black spots on his ankles.

“Well that’s not as bad as maybe it could have been,” Ten’s coach, Frank Carroll, told his skater in the kiss-and-cry area.

2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush put his hand down on a triple Axel, tripled a planned quad and placed sixth with 72.58 points.

In pairs, 2013 U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim scored 57.99 points, good for fourth place. U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were last with 50.33. The top U.S. pairs at Skate America — Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and Marissa Castelli and Simon Schnapir — were 62-plus.

The ice dance standings saw the last two World Championships bronze medalists leading two U.S. couples after the short program.

U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates scored 56.77 to land in third behind the Russians and French. Their short dance score was four points behind what Alex and Maia Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue scored at previous Grand Prix events.

Behind Chock and Bates were U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton in fourth with 52.92.

Three U.S. ice dance couples will make the Olympics, likely led by World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0LPi5J2jow

Men
1. Yan Han (CHN) 90.14
2. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) 81.84
3. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 81.62
4. Denis Ten (KAZ) 77.05
5. Florent Amodio (FRA) 76.75
6. Richard Dornbush (USA) 72.58
7. Peter Liebers (GER) 69.34
8. Nan Song (CHN) 68.68
9. Yi Wang (CHN) 63.27

Women
1. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 66.03
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 62.75
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 60.24
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 57.33
5. Haruka Imai (JPN) 54.79
6. Nikol Gosviani (RUS) 53.76
7. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) 53.73
8. Zijun Li (CHN) 53.58
9. Zhang Kexin (CHN) 53.32
10. Guo Xiaowen (CHN) 45.32

Pairs
1. Pang/Tong (CHN) 70.38
2. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 69.07
3. Peng/Zhang (CHN) 64.24
4. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 57.99
5. Wang/Wang (CHN) 57.16
6. Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS) 53.02
7. Popova/Massot (FRA) 51.82
8. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 50.33

Ice Dance
1. Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 65.70
2. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 62.60
3. Chock/Bates (USA) 56.77
4. Aldridge/Eaton (USA) 52.92
5. Carron/Jones (FRA) 50.20
6. Zhang/Wu (CHN) 41.79
7. Yu/Wang (CHN) 41.24

Video: Davis/White on ‘SportsDash’