Osaka / Japan

World pairs champions Wenjing Sui/Cong Han of China skated to the lead as the competition at the NHK Trophy kicked off on Friday with the Pairs Short Program. Russia’s Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov came second followed by teammates Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov.

#GPFigure                                 #FigureSkating

GettyImages 872355290

Sui/Han’s performance to 'Hallelujah' was highlighted by a huge throw triple flip, a side by side triple toeloop and triple twist. The twist, footwork, death spiral and lift merited a level four and the reigning world champions earned 79.43 points. “We had some problems with the levels (of the pair combination spin) today, so this is something to improve for next time. The back-to-back competition is not a problem for us - we don’t feel tired, there is not a big time difference between Japan and Beijing. In training we do back to back programs, so we are used to that,” Han said.

Skating to 'Tango de Besame', Stolbova/Klimov produced a throw triple flip, side by side triple toeloop as well as a level-four list and death spiral. The Russian champions posted a new season’s best with 75.05 points. “We are pleased with the performance overall, but we lost some levels, which is unexpected. As for the free skating, we want to skate without any surprises,” Klimov told the post-event press conference. At the Finlandia Trophy earlier this season, the laces of his skating boot had become undone, which led to a fall and aborted lifts.

Astakhova/Rogonov completed a side by side triple Salchow, throw triple flip and triple twist to score a personal best of 70.47 points. “This is the third competition for us with a clean short program and the scores are rising accordingly,” Rogonov said. “Tomorrow in the free skating again we’ll put the focus on the elements, but we also want to perform our program (to 'La La Land') the best way possible.”

Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA) placed fourth on 65.86 points and Julianne Séguin/ Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) fifth on 63.98 points.

The NHK Trophy is the fourth of six events of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series 2017/18 that culminates in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Nagoya, Japan, in December. The top six skaters/couples in each discipline qualify for the final. The global prize money for the Grand Prix is US $ 272,000.

Full entry lists and results of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2017/18 are available here. Follow the discussion on social media by using #GPFigure #FigureSkating.