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Savchenko and Szolkowy play it safe, win short

Germans abandon throw Axel for clean skate; Cain, Reagan debut in fifth

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took control in the short program.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took control in the short program. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/25/2011) - Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy put their pursuit of a throw triple Axel aside and skated their first clean short program of the season, taking a 3.55-point lead over longtime Russian rivals Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov at the 2011 Rostelecom Cup.

The three-time world champions opened their Angels and Demons routine with their reliable throw triple flip, saving themselves the disruption Savchenko's crashes on the throw Axel caused them at Skate America and the NHK Trophy. Their other elements -- including a triple twist and side-by-side triple toe loops -- were more than solid, although their press lift gained just Level 3. Their linking steps and transition moves had all of their trademark complexity, and the Germans earned 68.72 points, a season's best.

"We are very happy with our performance," Szolkowy said. "In the last two competitions, we made some mistakes, but of course today we took out the throw triple Axel and went back to the throw triple flip. This made our preparations a little bit easier."

European and Russian silver medalists Kavaguti and Smirnov were also right on their game. After opening with a triple twist that had a slight collision on the landing, the rest of their short to Joe Satriani's "All Alone" -- including side-by-side toes and a throw triple loop -- was smooth sailing, with excellent unison throughout.

The improved Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek hit superb side-by-side triple toes and a triple twist to place a surprisingly strong third with 60.13 points.

"We had a great skate today, and we enjoyed the ice rink and the crowd," Hotarek said. "Today we skated better than at our previous Grand Prix."

U.S. junior champions Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan had a solid performance to Henry Mancini's "Moon River," including clean triple Salchows. Their only major mistake was Cain's two-foot landing on a throw triple flip. They sit fifth with 49.03 points entering Saturday's free skate.

Information from the ISU press release was used in this article.