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Radionova, Russians claim top three spots in short

Sakhanovich, Medvedeva place second, third; Glenn leads U.S. in fifth
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Elena Radionova seized a 2.15-point lead in the ladies short program. -Getty Images

Russia's budding superstar, Elena Radionova, is on the way to defending her world junior title after skating a clean short program at the 2014 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

The 15-year-old notched 66.90 points, some two points more than Russian teammates Serafima Sakhanovich and Evgenia Medvedeva. She opened with a solid triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by well-landed triple loop and double Axel. Her three spins gained Level 4, with her layback drawing five +3 grades of execution (GOEs) from the nine judges.

On the program components side, Radionova's interpretation of the soundtrack of Anna Karenina and "Two Steps from Hell" was convincing, and her scores averaged about 6.9.

The three Russian ladies chatted and laughed together easily during the post-event press conference, making it entertaining for journalists.

"Today, I had a good performance," Radionova said. "It was very confident and precise. Most of the time, I get +3 for my layback spin."

The student of Irina Goncharenko turned 15 in January and was too young to be considered for Russia's Olympic or world team. She placed fourth at the senior Grand Prix Final.

"I am very happy for my teammates at the Olympics, especially for Adelina Sotnikova," Radionova said. "We skate at the same rink in Moscow. We see each other every day, and we are on very good terms.

"I saw how Adelina prepared for the Olympic Games, and she is very hard-working," she continued. "There will be a lot of competition amongst the Russian girls."

Radionova shrugged off suggestions that her training leaves little time for school and fun.

"I do everything at home and only go to school for the exams," she said. "Each athlete has moments he wants to rest, but it only lasts for a few minutes and then you realize that you already have invested so much time.

"I am used to being at the ice rink. And when I am on vacation, I rest for one week, and by the second week, I want to go back on to the ice. It is boring without ice."

Sakhanovich gained a personal-best 64.75 points, partly because all of her jumps were done in the second half and she gained a bonus 10 percent for each jump. Her triple flip-triple toe combination was excellent, as was her triple loop, and her other elements all rated Level 4.

"I am very happy with my performance today; it was clean, and all my jumps were done well and got plus marks," Sakhanovich said. "I think I never skated better. I got a Level 4 for the first time for the footwork."

Like Radionova, she was asked to comment on the extraordinary group of young Russian ladies, which includes not only the three ladies in Sofia but Sotnikova, 2012 world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia, JGP Final winner Maria Sotskova, JGP bronze medalist Ana Pogorilaya and Alexandra Proklova, who was fifth at the JGP Final.

"A new and very strong generation is growing up in Russia, and I think this is the merit of our coaches," Sakhanovich said. "We all have very good coaches. We are pushing each other in each competition."

Medvedeva, who came to Sofia at the last second due to Sotskova's illness, sits third with 63.72 points. She had the same elements as Sakhanovich, but her step sequence gained just Level 3. Her double Axel is so high, one imagines she may learn triple Axel some day. 

"Today, I gave quite a clean and good performance, but I feel that is not my limit yet; there is still room for improvement," Medvedeva said. "I often get +3 on the spins, rarely for the jumps.

"Concerning the Olympics, I can say that Julia Lipnitskaia prepared very well for the Olympic Games. I've seen how hard she works."

Japan's Satoko Miyahara is in fourth position with 63.57 points. She, too, performed a clean program, which included a triple Lutz-triple toe and four Level 4 elements. 

The three U.S. ladies sit fifth, sixth and 10th. 

Texan Amber Glenn, who is coached by Ann Brumbaugh and Ben Shroats, led the Americans. She gained 56.58 points for an elegant program to George Gershwin's "Summertime," marred only by a hand down on the required triple loop. Her triple flip-triple toe combination was strong, and her spins gained Levels 4 and 3. 

"It was not the strongest program of my career, but overall I am quite happy," Glenn said. "The combo was okay, but the loop was a little fluky because normally it is one of my best jumps. 

"The big thing in my long program is to improve my levels and to get the crowd into the performance," she continued. "I feel that I have to improve my confidence." 

Karen Chen of Riverside, Calif., is just 0.49 behind Glenn after hitting a solid triple Lutz-double toe combination but overrotating her triple loop. Her spins were excellent, with five of the nine judges awarding her a +3 for her layback spin. 

"I felt pretty good about myself out there; I gave my best, and I would not regret anything," Chen said. "We had planned a triple-triple combination, but in practice it did not work, and therefore, my coach (Tammy Gambill) and I decided to do triple-double. I am happy with my levels and with my spins."

Another Gambill student, Tyler Pierce, sits 10th position with 51.84 points. After a good first triple toe loop, she fell on the second, underrotating the triple toe loop in the combination.

"I missed my combo because I got too excited, but I was happy to keep my concentration for the rest of the program," Pierce said. "I love performing, so I really tried to perform the rest of the program for the public and the judges. My main goal for the free program on Sunday is to keep concentrated throughout the program."

Bulgarian bits: When Steve Winkler departed Sofia due to his father's death, Rita Zonnekeyn of Belgium was appointed technical controller for the ladies event. However, she proved too busy holding an ISU seminar, so Canadian Sally Rehorick stepped in. ... The Philippines entered Alisson Krystle Perticheto, but she did not arrive in Sofia. 

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