Osaka / Japan

World champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia took a 5.42-point lead over five-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy in the Ladies Short Program at the NHK Trophy on Friday. Russian newcomer Polina Tsurskaya came third in the first segment of the competition.

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Medvedeva, who skated last out of the 12 ladies, hit a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple loop, double Axel as well as level-four spins and footwork in her confident performance to ‘Nocturne’ by Chopin. She scored 79.99 points, just below her season’s best.

“After today’s performance I don’t have too many emotions because I still have to do the free skating tomorrow,” the two-time European champion said. “It was an OK performance, I could do some things better, the double Axel for example. In the free program I want to show elegance and I want to give joy to the people who are watching.”

Kostner’s emotional performance to ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ featured a triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop, double Axel, and she also collected a level four for her three spins and the footwork. The 2012 world champion picked up 74.57 points for her efforts.

“After I got off the ice, I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied or not,” she said. “Now, that some time has passed, I am very happy about how I skated. Today was more of a fight. You have days when it is not so easy and you need to get into that fighting mode. Today I was able to do that and I’m happy that I did it.

She dedicated her performance to two young Italian skaters who recently died in a car accident on their way home from a competition.

Tsurskaya shone in her debut performance at international senior level. Her routine to the ‘Game of Thrones’ soundtrack included a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple loop, double Axel, as well three level-four spins. The 2016 Youth Olympic Games champion posted a new personal best with 70.04 points.

“I am pleased with today’s short program, it went quite well,” the 16-year-old said. “The jumps were good but there is room for improvement in the spins and the footwork, and we’ll work on that but won’t forget the jumps. In the free skating I just want to show what we’ve worked on in the off-season and I just want to show clean and good skating.”

Rika Hongo (JPN) placed fourth with 65.83 points, followed by Mirai Nagasu (USA), who landed a triple Axel, but under-rotated two other jumps to finish on 65.17 points. The 2015 world silver medallist Satoko Miyahara (JPN), who returned to competition after missing the World Championships in March due to injury, ranked sixth on 65.05 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.