Hanyu far ahead in Helsinki Grand Prix
HELSINKI (AP) — Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia returned to gold medal-winning form in the Helsinki stage of the figure skating Grand Prix series on Saturday.
Zagitova was a surprising fifth place at the world championships, but she appeared entirely assured except for awkwardly landing the second half of a triple lutz-triple toe loop.
Fellow Russian Stanislava Konstantinova won her first Grand Prix medal with silver, and Japan's Kaori Sakamoto powered to a bronze after starting the day in seventh place.
"I'm not happy with my short program in this competition. The free skating was better but still not ideal," Zagitova said.
Sakomoto was pleased that she surged so strongly in the free program. "I gave it everything I had - that was the only chance I had to get to the podium," she said.
Yuzuru Hanyu led comfortably after the men's short program. The Olympic champion from Japan was nearly flawless aside from a wobble coming out of his quad toe-triple toe combination.
Hanyu will go into Sunday's free skate with a 16-point edge over second-place Michal Brezina.
The Czech also made no significant errors but was slightly less ambitious than Hanyu, putting his quad salchow-triple toe combination at the start, rather than later like Hanyu.
China's Jin Boyang was a distant third.
Despite dominating the field, Hanyu said, "I need to train more."
Brezina, who is bouncing back from a couple of disappointing seasons, said he's been feeling more relaxed as he gets older.
"I'm not really thinking about skating as the main thing, that stresses me out," he said.
Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert won their first Grand Prix pairs title, vaulting ahead of Italy's Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise, who led after the short program. The Russians neatly executed their opening triple twist lift and their triple-double-sequence was precise, but Enbert fell on a triple salchow.
"It was a very pleasant day for us, which is kind of unusual for us because usually we skate the short program much better," Enbert said.
The Italians were out of synchronization on their jumps.
Those errors didn't seem to weigh on the pair's mood.
"We had some fun, we enjoyed skating," Guarise said. "It's our goal — to be happy and make other people happy."
Another Russian pair, Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, won their first Grand Prix medal by taking bronze.
Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the ice dancing gold. Silver went to Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, and Americans Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter took bronze.