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Chinese, Russians win preliminaries at worlds

Sui, Han finish first despite fall; Ilinykh, Katsalapov look sharp

Ice dancers Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russian posted the highest score in the preliminary round by almost 13 points.
Ice dancers Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russian posted the highest score in the preliminary round by almost 13 points. (Getty Images)

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By International Skating Union
(03/26/2012) - The 2012 World Figure Skating Championships opened in Nice, France, Monday with the preliminary rounds for pairs and ice dancing.

Sui, Han capture pairs preliminary round

China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han captured the pairs preliminary round followed by Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France and Germany's Mari Vartmann and Aaron van Cleave. Eleven couples competed in the preliminary round and eight qualified for the pairs short program taking place on Wednesday.

Sui and Han put out a solid performance to a Flamenco medley, landing a quadruple twist, a throw triple Salchow and throw triple flip, but she fell on an under-rotated side-by-side triple toe. The reigning Four Continents champions scored 116.57 points.

"We were a little nervous because we are competing in our first world championships. This is a big senior event. Maybe nerves played a role there," Sui said, referring to the fall.

"It was a little hard, as we had one training yesterday and competition today -- it is only our second day here," Han said.

Skating to "Nostalgia" by Yanni, James and Cipres produced a double twist, throw triple loop and side-by-side double Axel. However, James put down her hand on the side-by-side triple toe. The French earned 96.48 points.

"I'm happy about this performance, and now I'd like to progress and improve [in the next round], fix what I didn't do [in this preliminary round]. If we skate clean programs, we have a chance to be top 10, and that is our goal here," James told the press.

Vartmann and van Cleave's routine to The Holiday soundtrack included a double twist and throw triple Salchow, but she fell on the throw triple loop. The couple picked up 90.68 points.

"After Europeans, we were concentrating on our technique. Here, we want to skate as well as we did at Europeans, simply show what we can do in training. Unfortunately, we didn't do that today," Vartmann said.

Ilinykh, Katsalapov win ice dancing preliminary round

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia won the ice dancing preliminary round. China's Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng came in second and Irina Shtork and Taavi Rand of Estonia finished third. Twenty-three dance couples competed in the preliminary round, and 10 qualified for the short dance taking place on Wednesday.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov delivered a solid performance of their "Ave Maria" free dance. The reigning European bronze medalists picked up a Level 4 for the three lifts and twizzles while the circular footwork and the combination spin were graded a Level 3. The Muscovites earned 92.40 points.

"We skated quite well, but it was just the qualifying round. It was more like a practice run-through for us. We put the accent on the elements. We found out after Europeans that we have to do the qualifying round, but I think it is useful for us," Katsalapov said.

Dancing to a Tango medley, Huang and Zheng picked up a Level 4 for four out of the seven elements. However, Huang wobbled on the twizzles. The Chinese scored 79.69 points.

"I made a mistake on the twizzles at the beginning of the program, but the rest of the performance went well, and we are satisfied with it," Huang said.

"Competing in the preliminaries is a little tiring, but on the other hand it helps us for the next parts of the competition," Zheng added.

Shtork and Rand's dance to The Story of Mikhail Strogoff featured four Level 4 lifts and a Level 4 spin. The Estonian champions collected 79.17 points.

"We skated well, completed all the elements. Plus, we improved our personal best, so we are really satisfied," Shtork said.

"It was a really hard season for us. I have counted that we've had eight competitions. It's really difficult to compete both at the junior and senior level, especially now, when the programs are so different. Yes, the season was hard, but we have to keep it up and do our best till the end," Rand noted.

Anna Nagornyuk and Viktor Kovalenko of Uzbekistan arrived straight from the airport just 10 minutes before they had to compete in the ice dancing preliminary round and finished in ninth place.

Kovalenko said, "Anna received her French visa on the 19th, but I for some reason got it only this morning. We flew out of Moscow at 1:30, but we missed our connection in Munich."