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Russians run 1-2 over Wagner in Bompard short

Radionova edges teammate Lipnitskaia by 0.49 points to take lead
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Skate America champion Elena Radionova of Russia picked up right where she left off, sneaking by teammate Julia Lipnitskaia to finish first with 67.28 points. -Getty Images

Elena Radionova, the reigning world junior champion from Russia, won the short program at Trophée Éric Bompard on Friday afternoon. She amassed 67.28 points, standing more than a point ahead of Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia (66.79 points) and Team USA's Ashley Wagner (61.35 points).

Maria Artemieva, the third Russian lady in the competition, sits in fourth place with 58.38 points, ahead of Maé Bérénice Méité, from France (57.61 points), as well as Courtney Hicks and Samantha Cesario, both from the USA (55.70 and 55.19 points, respectively).

Radionova skated with her usual poise, delivering each one of her elements like a specific statement. She landed her triple Lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel without any hesitation. Radionova skated her program to music by Pepe Romero and Jennifer Lopez' "Ain't It Funny."

"I wanted to show the emotion of flamenco music to the audience," Radionova explained.

Radionoa was an instant hit with the audience. Her final layback spin was superb, and each of her three spins were rated at level 4.

"I was really happy to be selected for these two Grand Prix," Radionova said. "I had time to come back home after Skate America and work to prepare for this event."

If Radionova's jumps were perfect and nailed with the precision of a mechanical device, her body posture lacked the level that is usually expected at such a level. That was particularly visible in her step sequence, although it still got a Level 3. Her legs still need to be straightened, her toes pointed and her maintenance worked out. That was somewhat detrimental to the character of flamenco she wanted to express. She, nonetheless, was awarded high components, averaging 7.5.

"This year is even more difficult than last year," said Eteri Tutberidze, who coached Lipnitskaia to a surprise 2014 European championship and world silver medal. "We had three years to reach the level we reached last year. But this season, we only have a few months. We'll do our best, but I don't think we'll be ready for it."

Skating to "Megapolis" by Bel Suono, dressed in a red light skirt and white-and-red striped upper part, Lipnitskaia skated a perfect program. She chose to go for a triple toe-triple toe that brought her 9.6 points. Just like Radionova, she collected Level 4 on each of her three spins.

Wagner delivered a perfectly packaged short program. The technical panel downgraded the triple toe of her triple flip-triple toe combination, as well as her triple loop.

The way Wagner has been skating at Trophée Bompard these last three years remains truely unique. Her program, which her training mate Adam Rippon carved with and for her to Aram Khachaturian's Spartacus ballet music, was a gift made for the audience. Her change foot combination spin was just superb to watch, with an amplitude that allowed for incredible space and time. (It was rated Level 3, however.)

"I must say that I am really happy with this performance, although the levels definitely got me at the end," Wagner said. "I have really been focusing on the technical elements these last weeks, and I could land the triple flip-triple toe without two-footing the toe, as I tend to do when I am under pressure.

"I'll make sure that I get my levels tomorrow," she added, with a rather disappointed smile.

Wagner had the best score on components, however, although she scored only one point ahead of Lipnitskaia's and two points ahead of Radionova's.

"You'll see!" Méité had said Thursday night at a pre-event press conference when she was asked what new tricks she had in store. She skated a perfect program, with a triple toe-triple toe combo and triple Lutz. Méité has learned how to breathe during a program, and her versatility has expanded.

"I have managed to live my program this time," Méité said. "This is kind of a revenge for me, after the poor showing I had at Skate America."

Hicks, who ranked fourth in the U.S. in 2013 and sixth in 2014, skated an extra-dynamic routine to The Piano Guys' "Code Name: Vivaldi," channeled from the Bourne Identity.

"I have worked a lot on performance," she explained, "And I think that helps."

Her nearly three-minute routine was both athletic and smooth from start to end.

"I have always skated at a high pace," she said. "That helps me with my jumps."

Cesario has improved her skating tremendously since last year.

"I have really been working on turns and speed this year, trying to get the fourth level in my elements and higher components," Cesario said.

Cesario's short program to Dr. Samy Farag's "Danza Mora," which Inese Bucevica choreographed, had the Latin flavor Cesario enjoys most. (She skates her free to Carmen.)

"It's Arabian ballet dancing, even though a lot of people think it is intermixed with Spanish tunes," she explained with a broad smile. "I just thought it was different. I wanted something ethnic and fun. I like to portray a character, something I can relate to. Ethnicity gives me just that."

Last year, Cesario had landed a splendid triple loop-triple loop in Paris. This year, she planned to go for an even more difficult triple flip-triple loop. She only had room for a double loop, however.

"I'm not too happy about that skate," she said. "I think the missed combo took its toll. I was not crispy enough."

The battle between the mechanical style and the packaged style is not over yet. It will continue in the ladies free program. These ladies are fighters!