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Kavaguti, Smirnov finally win on home ice

Evora, Ladwig win first Grand Prix medal

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov ran away with the pairs title at the Rostelecom Cup.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov ran away with the pairs title at the Rostelecom Cup. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/20/2010) - Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia skated a strong free to easily win their home country's Grand Prix event for the first time, after two silver and two bronze medals in previous seasons.

Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran -- who have already qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final next month -- continued their success on the senior circuit with a silver-medal finish. U.S. silver medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig took second place in the free and won their first-ever Grand Prix medal, a bronze.

The Russians, who placed fourth at the 2010 Olympics and won bronze at the 2010 worlds, opted not to try their throw quadruple Salchow, instead opening their free to Debussy's "Clair de Lune" with a solid throw triple, followed by side-by-side triple toes. Their choreography, by Tatiana Druchinina, was more elegant and subdued here than it has been in the past. Despite gaining no credit on their final lift, they won the title with 182.70 points, more than 17 points ahead of the field.

"This was the first time we did our long program, which was choreographed by [Peter] Tchernyshev," Smirnov said. "We [did] all of our hard elements well. There is a lot to [work on], but we are really glad to skate well in Russia."

"I wanted to make a present for myself and for the audience and we skated well, so I'm very happy," Kavaguti, who turned 29 today, said.

This is the first title of the season for the team, who withdrew from their earlier Grand Prix event due to injury. Due to this, they did not qualify for the Grand Prix Final next month.

Takahashi and Tran, who won bronze at NHK Trophy, overcame Takahashi's fall on their opening triple Salchows as well as a few sloppy landings on other elements to place third in the free and take silver with 165.47. The young Japanese scored well on their lifts, and gained Level 4s on both their pair and side-by-side combination spins.

"Today it wasn't great," Takahashi said. "Still we got our second [senior] medal, so we are happy."

While Evora and Ladwig also had jumps problems -- she fell on their opening side-by-side triple toes, which were downgraded by the technical panel -- they had the highest scoring lifts of the event, and also landed a strong throw triple loop. They earned a season best 110.27 for their free and ended with 162.85.

"I have to say it's definitely a dream come true," Evora said. "We've been on the Grand Prix for quite a while and [a medal] is always what you aim for. It's an improvement from the last year. It's also our first [Grand Prix] press conference."

U.S. junior silver medalists Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller had trouble with their jumps and throws, but showed fine lifts in their free to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." They placed seventh with 145.78.