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Dornbush, Messing first and second after short

Russians dominate dance and ladies; Japanese lead pairs

Richard Dornbush leads the junior men after the short program in Beijing.
Richard Dornbush leads the junior men after the short program in Beijing. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(12/09/2010) - The juniors kicked off the first day of competition at the 2010 Grand Prix Final.

Men
Armed with strong triple Axels, Richard Dornbush and Keegan Messing took the tow top spots in the junior men's short in Beijing.

Skating a speedy Flamenco, Dornbush took the lead with 70.75 points, including a triple Axel; a shaky triple Lutz, triple toe loop combination; and triple loop. All three of his gained Level 4's from the technical panel, with his flying camel receiving a rare +3 GOE from one judge.

"I am very happy with my performance," Dornbush, who trains in California under Tammy Gambill, said. "I went out there and had fun and did what I came to do. I have been training hard and think that my program is ready. Last year I was injured, but I did a lot of off-ice training which really helped me keep in shape . . . I stayed healthy and it paid off today."

Messing, who trains in Anchorage under Ralph Burghardt, also performed to Flamenco music, with the same jump elements as his teammate. The dynamic Alaskan earned 68.52 points.

"I am really happy with my performance today," Messing said. "I let my blades fly, came out clean and enjoyed every second of it, too. When you have to do [the triple Axel] and you actually do it there is nothing like it."

Han Yan of China is third with 67.29 points after a clean program.

Two other Americans, Joshua Farris and Max Aaron -- who both train in Colorado Springs under Tom Zakrajsek -- stepped out of their triple loops, losing valuable points. They stand fourth and fifth, respectively.

"I was nervous, but Tom did a great job reminding me that even the top skaters like Jeremy [Abbott], Brian [Joubert] and Patrick [Chan] get nervous," Farris said.

His training mate Aaron said of his flawed triple loop, "I took my pattern really wide, which made the jump come around really tight. I was just off and couldn't recover."

All junior men except Yan landed solid triple Axels.

Ice Dance
Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin took a surprising lead after the short dance. They performed by far the best short dance of their career to a Spanish Waltz and gained 55.58 points. Their two compulsory sections were given Level 4 and 3.

Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin skated to the famous Waltz "Padam, Padam," by French singer Edith Piaf, but had only Level 1 on the second compulsory part. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are third with 53.59 points.

Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely ended up fifth, skating to the Italian Waltz "That's Amore" and the Foxtrot "An Evening in Rome" in a flawless and entertaining manner. But they got only a Level 2 for the key points of their compulsory sections and overall scored 50.74 points.

"The program really felt solid," said Copely. "We've been working on our speed in the waltz, and we accomplished that this time. We are definitely pushing a lot faster than the last time we competed. So we are taking steps forward and making always progress."

He also commented the fact that they are the only U.S. junior dance couple here: "It feels good to represent our country. We all made it to the final, which is a huge accomplishment. It's also cool to be here with our training mates Meryl [Davis] and Charlie [White]. They've been really supportive."

Ladies
The three Russians dominated the ladies competition to take the first three places after the short program. Adelina Sotnikova is first with 57.27 points after an elegant program to Strauss waltzes which contained a triple Lutz, triple toe loop combination.

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva is second, and Polina Shelepen, third.

Japan's Risa Shoji heads into the free skate in fourth.

The three Americans are sixth, seventh and eighth. Kristiene Gong showed a good combination of a triple Lutz and double toe loop. Gong stepped out of the double Axel, earning 47.24 points.

"I made a silly mistake, but otherwise it felt good," said Gong. "I was a little late on the music, I kind of rushed it. Beijing is one of my favorite places." She has lived here for five years."

The second U.S. skater Christina Gao started strong but the landing of the second jump was shaky. Her triple loop and her spins were very good, but she fell on the double Axel. She sits in seventh position with 43.98 points.

"I'm not particularly happy with my short but you have ups and downs and this is a down," Gao said. "It wasn't a good short but hopefully my long program will be better."

Yasmin Siraj of Boston singled the Lutz which was planned as the first part of her combination, and fell on the triple loop. The other five elements in her program were clean, however, but she got only 38.08 points and is currently last.

"It wasn't my best skate," said Siraj. "I feel I can do a lot better. I let the Lutz get away from me and did a single one. The loop didn't feel off when I was going into it. It was just really off on the landing."

Pairs
Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran from Japan performed a beautiful and elegant program to Michael Buble's "Feeling Good," but she fell on the double Axel. Nevertheless, they earned 53.94 points and won easily.

Texans Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan both over-rotated their side-by-side double Axels, and Ashley's landing of the throw triple toe loop was a bit shaky, but the other elements were clean. They are fifth with 43.92.

"We started off really great," said Cain. "We did our throw triple toe, which we've been having some trouble with since the last competition."

Reagan added: "Obviously, it could have been a little better -- I got a little shaky going into the double Axel but, other than that, I was really happy with the program. We feel great here. This is only our second year together, so the fact that we've qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final is pretty good feeling."