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Zagitova leads Russian charge at Grand Prix Final

Savchenko, Massot down Sui, Han; Papadakis, Cizeron top Canadians
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Alina Zagitova extended Russia's reign at the Grand Prix Final, becoming the fourth consecutive ladies champion to hail from that country. Performing her free skate to 'Don Quixote,' the reigning JGP Final champion completed seven triples -- five of which were clean and all of which were in the second half of her program -- en route to a segment mark of 147.03, and with a two-day total of 223.30, she moved up from second after the short to capture the title. -Getty Images

Russian ladies Alina Zagitova and Maria Sotskova went one-two, Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot turned away Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China in pairs, and French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron defeated Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the first time on the last day of competition at the 2017 Grand Prix Final.

Ladies free

Skating to Don Quixote, Zagitova nailed seven triples, including her trademark triple lutz-triple loop combination, but she wobbled on the second part of her double axel-triple toe and also stepped out of a triple lutz. Earning Level 4's for her spins and step sequence, the 15-year-old garnered 147.03 points in the free skate and moved up from second after the short to win the competition with 223.30 points.

"I am pleased with my performance. There were a few glitches, but they were minor," Zagitova said. "I am glad I was able to deal with my nerves. To be honest, it was hard to skate today. I really wanted to do well, and my legs were a bit shaky, but toward the end I pulled myself together and everything went well."

Sotskova's routine to "Clair de Lune" was highlighted by seven clean triple jumps and two Level 4 spins. The 2016 world junior silver medalist achieved a new personal best for the free skate with 142.28 points, and she accumulated 216.28 points overall.

"Last year I was in fifth place (at the Grand Prix Final), so this year going up to second place and being able to go on the podium was a great experience for me," the 17-year-old Russian said. "It was a good performance, but you always have something to work on and something to achieve. We did a great job with my team, and now we have (a good) result."

Overnight leader Kaetlyn Osmond produced five triples as well as difficult spins and steps in her Black Swan routine, but she fell on an under-rotated triple salchow and doubled her loop. Those errors proved costly, as she came in just fifth in the free skate with 138.12 points, causing her to slip from first to third overall with a total score of 215.16.

"I made a lot of changes between France (Internationaux de France) and this competition, and I think I did really well with those changes. I focused a lot on my choreography and improving the package in the story line of the program," Osmond said. "There are things I am really proud of, some silly mistakes for me, but overall I am happy with the performance. It is getting better each time, so hopefully I will peak at the right time."

Italy's Carolina Kostner, who was making her first appearance in the Grand Prix Final in six years, moved up from sixth after the short to fourth overall with 214.65 points. Satoko Miyahara of Japan under-rotated three jumps in her Madame Butterfly free skate to drop from third to fifth (213.49 points), while her country mate, Wakaba Higuchi, rounded out the field in sixth (202.11). 

Pairs free

Skating to "La terre vue du ciel," Savchenko and Massot put out a spectacular performance, reeling off a huge triple twist, side-by-side triple salchow-double toe-double toes, side-by-side triple toes, a throw triple lutz and sky-high lifts. Their only mistake, and it was a small one, was a shaky landing on their throw triple salchow. The European silver medalists scored a world-record 157.25 points in the free skate, giving them a total of 236.68.

"I saw the score of the Chinese team (Sui and Han), and I knew the level was very high and the program would be difficult. But we wanted to give our best, and everything went well except for that tiny little mistake," Massot said. "We felt it was a big practice for the Olympic Games. The top six pairs were here, and the level was so high."

Sui and Han were brilliant as well during their Turandot routine. The 2017 Four Continents champions opened with a quadruple twist and followed that with side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toes, and a big throw triple flip and and throw triple salchow. Like the Germans, they earned a Level 4 for their lifts, spins and death spiral. The world champions earned a segment mark of 155.07, just 0.03 points below their personal best, and accumulated 230.89 points overall.

"Throughout the Grand Prix and the Final, we've learned a lot and found room for improvement. I feel we need to improve the execution of the jumps and performance once we go back home," Han said. "After the short program, I was disappointed, but I know where to make changes, so I prepared myself to get ready for the free program today."

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford produced a triple twist, side-by-side triple lutzes, a throw triple lutz and two Level 4 lifts, but she fell on the team's throw quad salchow. The Canadian champions picked up 138.65 points on the day, which added up to 210.83 overall, and they departed the Grand Prix Final with the bronze medal for the second year in a row. 

"Our free skate was OK today," Duhamel said. "Everything has been going well for us in practice, and the short program really shook our confidence. The throw quad is always a risk, but we fought through the long program. When we finished, we felt proud of ourselves because we didn't give up."

Both Russian teams in the field narrowly missed the podium. Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov remained in fourth place with 209.26 points, while European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov dropped from second to fifth after an error-filled free skate.

Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang of China placed sixth (207.14 points). 

Free dance

Papadakis and Cizeron's romantic dance to "Moonlight Sonata" featured beautiful lifts and effortless-looking footwork. The two-time world champions collected a Level 4 for their twizzles, lifts and combination spin, and a Level 3 for their two step sequences. The judges awarded them mostly +3 Grades of Execution (GOEs) and 24 perfect 10's, and they tallied 120.09 points for the free dance and 202.16 in total.

"We are happy to have won this competition. It was a good practice for the Olympic Games that are coming up in few months," Papadakis said. "It was a very good performance, and there was a lot of pressure here, with the top six teams competing. We're very happy that we were able to deal with this pressure."

Virtue and Moir delivered a passionate performance to "El Tango de Roxanne" and "Come What May" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, executing Level 4 lifts and twizzles as well as a Level 4 spin. Their step sequence garnered a Level 3, and the 2010 Olympic champions picked up 15 perfect 10's in the components area. The 2016 Grand Pprix Final champions posted a personal best in the free dance with 118.33 points, giving them a total of 199.86.

"To be honest, it was a funny program for us," Moir noted. "We had a great feeling between the two of us, but we made a couple little uncharacteristic glitches that we don't even make in training that often. I guess that's why we train."

Dancing to "Paradise" by Coldplay, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani produced excellent lifts and a Level 4 spin, but their diagonal step sequence merited only a Level 2 and Alex was a bit shaky on his twizzles. The world bronze medalists ranked just sixth in the free dance with 109.91 points, but they held on to their third-place position and the bronze medal with a score of 188.00.

"Today was not the performance that we wanted to have, unfortunately," Alex said. "We feel pretty good this week overall, and there was a lot of stuff we made progress on, but I just had issues on the twizzles this week, which is uncharacteristic. We know what we need to work on. I'm not too worried about it."

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue finished fourth with 187.40 points. Their teammates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, were third in the free dance but remained in fifth place overall (187.15 points). Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy came in sixth (185.23).