Russia wins two golds, five medals in Nice
Messing takes men's title; Berton, Hotarek top pairs podium
|Keegan Messing broke the 200-point barrier for the first time in international competition. (Paul Harvath)|
Polina Agafonova of Russia won both the short program and the free skate to win gold by nearly 17 points. In a tight race for the rest of the podium, Natalia Popova of Ukraine earned silver, and Anna Ovcharova of Russia won bronze.
Agafonova had only a one-point lead after the short program but threw down an impressive free skate to pull away and win by a sizeable margin. Skating to music from the movie The Matrix, Agafonova earned 99.67 points for her free skate, eight more than any competitor. The former Russian junior champion's skate included a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, which earned nine points and was the highest scoring element of the competition.
Popova finished seventh in the short program, but her second-place free skate vaulted her up the standings and into silver medal position. Skating to "Sur les Ailes du Temps," the former Ukrainian junior champion earned Level 4s on two of her spins, which helped her best Ovcharova by one point.
Ovcharova finished second in the short program, only one point behind her teammate Agafonova and five points ahead of the third-place finisher, but a fifth-place performance in the free skate left her clinging to the third spot on the podium.
In his senior international debut, American Keegan Messing earned gold as he jumped out to a huge lead after the short program and held on after finishing fourth in the free skate.
Messing, who finished fourth at the 2011 world junior championships, laid down an impressive short program, which included a number of high-scoring elements. Skating to music from Robin Hood, Messing began his program with a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple flip combination, which, combined, earned him more than 20 points. His program also included a Level 4 straightline step sequence. He finished with 203.42 points overall.
Chafik Besseghier of France improved on his sixth-place performance at the 2010 Cup of Nice as he earned the silver. Besseghier was third after the short program but finished first in the free skate. In his free skate, Besseghier earned 133.75 points, aided by six triple jumps and a quad toe loop.
Konstantin Menshov, the reigning Russian champion, earned bronze after he finished second in both the short program and the free skate. Menshov finished with 198.69 points overall, just 0.66 points behind Besseghier. His free skate included a quad toe loop and a triple Axel, which earned 10.10 points.
Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek of Italy earned gold with 167.84 points, just 0.02 more than Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert of Russia, who earned the silver. Americans Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker won bronze.
Berton and Hotarek finished first in the short program and second in the free skate, while Gerboldt and Enbert finished second in the short program and first in the free skate.
After a fourth-place performance in the short program, Marley and Brubaker finished third in the free skate to land on the podium. Their free skate featured three Level 4 elements, including a Level 4 Axel lasso lift, which accounted for 8.13 of their 107.04-point free skate total. The 2011 U.S. junior champions, Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan, finished fourth in their senior international debut.
Valeria Starygina and Ivan Volobuev of Russia danced to a 4.49-point victory, while Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones of France won silver, and Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz of Spain took bronze.
Starygina and Volobuev improved on their seventh-place performance at the 2010 Cup of Nice as they earned 75.94 points in their free dance, more than seven points ahead of second place, after finishing second in the short dance. Skating to "Walking in the Air", the Russians earned Level 4 on five of their elements.
Carron and Jones finished first in the short dance but fell to second after a second-place performance in the free dance.