Helsinki, Finland

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Italy’s Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise grabbed a narrow lead in the Pairs Short Program ahead of Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert of Russia on the first day of competition in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Helsinki on Friday. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin, also from Russia, are currently ranked third.

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Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Della Monica/Guarise made a solid performance to “Never Tear Us Apart” that included a throw triple loop, a triple twist as well as a level-four lift and death spiral. However, Della Monica stepped out of the side by side triple Salchow. The Italian champions picked up 68.18 points, a new season’s best. 

“We were well prepared, we’ve trained a lot in the past weeks, but the legs were shaky,” Della Monica said. “It was not our best performance.” 

Guarise added: “We’ve trained very well, we’re in good shape and there is no excuse. We really wanted to show our new program and there was some pressure.” 

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Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Zabiiako/Enbert got off to a good start in their program to “Alexander Nevski” by Sergei Prokofiev with a high triple twist, but then Enbert fell on a triple toeloop attempt. The European bronze medalists recovered to land a throw triple loop and scored 67.59 points. “There was a huge mistake on the jump, but it happens,” Zabiiako said. “Now we’ll just prepare for tomorrow.” 

Explaining their program, in which they play two knights, Enbert said: “Our music is not typical for us or for figure skating and at first we had some doubts about it. But when we started working on it with choreographer Peter Tchernyshev, we realized it works.” 

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Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

World Junior Champions Pavliuchenko/Khodykin produced a side by side triple toeloop and a triple twist in their routine to “When Winter Comes”, but Khodykin stumbled in the step sequence. 

The Grand Prix debutants earned 63.80 points, which is a season’s best. “We were a little nervous. We try to do our work well and we want to skate flawless and clean,” Pavliuchenko said. “Our music is slow and beautiful and it’s about love.”

Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) are not far behind in fourth place on 62.69 points followed by  Four Continents bronze medalists Tae Ok Ryom/Ju Sik Kim (PRK) on 56.87 points. Ryom missed the triple toeloop.

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