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Team USA maximizes medal haul at Cup of Nice

Messing, Aaron finish 1-2 in men's; Scimeca, Knierim hang on for pairs gold

Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim won gold in their international debut.
Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim won gold in their international debut. (Kitty DeLio LaForte)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(10/29/2012) - Each of Team USA's three representatives took home medals from the 2012 Cup of Nice in France. Keegan Messing repeated as men's champion, while pairs team Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim won gold in their competitive debut. Max Aaron also tallied his second medal of the season, a silver.

Ladies

Polina Korobeynikova of Russia earned her first career international gold medal. The reigning JGP Final bronze medalist moved up from 11th place after the short program to win the title. She edged silver medalist Isabelle Olsson of Sweden by just over half a point with 149.82 total points. Kristina Zaseeva, also representing Russia, was third.

Men's

The men's event belonged to Messing, who took a comfortable lead into the Saturday's free skate. His "Sing, Sing, Sing" short program opened with a strong triple Axel and continued with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a Level 4 step sequence. His score of 80.11 points represents a personal best.

Messing was also strong in the free skate, earning 144.33 of his 224.44 total points in the segment. The native of Girdwood, Alaska, fell on his attempted quad toe but earned high marks on his triple Axel and triple Lutz combination. Messing has medaled at each of his three senior international competitions.

Aaron, the 2011 U.S. junior champion, earned 75.95 points for his Tron: Legacy short program. His skate was delayed due to a power outage caused by weather in Nice. One of only two skaters to attempt a quad in the short program, Aaron fell on his Salchow attempt but rebounded to execute a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a triple Axel, which occurred in the second half of his program.

Aaron was outscored by his teammate by just a half point in the free skate, earning 143.67 points. He started the West Side Story skate by doubling an intended quad Salchow but saw a huge score of 12.70 points for a triple Lutz-single loop-triple Salchow jumping pass later in the program. Aaron, the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic champion, earned 219.62 points.

The gap between silver and bronze was more than 15 points, with bronze medalist Peter Liebers of Germany earning 204.09 points.

Pairs

Scimeca and Knierim, who announced their partnership in April, won gold with a total score of 156.00 points. Thanks to an eight-point short program lead, they were able to maintain their first-place standing after conceding the free skate to silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. The reigning European bronze medalists from Russia totaled 155.04 points. Bronze belonged to Italy's Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise, with 134.47 points.

Performing their short program to "Moonlight Sonata," Scimeca and Knierim skated to 59.01 points and executed a throw triple flip and side-by-side triple Salchows. Their free skate, set to music from The Last of the Mohicans, featured a Level 4 pairs spin, two Level 4 lifts and two throw triples.

Stolbova and Klimov, the reigning European bronze medalists, were the only team to break the 100-point barrier for the free skate, earning 106.72 points. Performing to music from The Addams Family, they executed triple toe-double toe-double toes and three Level 4 lifts.

Ice Dancing

The top two spots of the ice dancing podium went to Russia, with Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin winning their first senior-level medal. The 2011 world junior champions finished with 140.62 points, about three ahead of silver medalists and teammates Valeria Starygina and Ivan Volobuev. Bronze went to Estonia's Irina Shtork and Taavi Rand.