NAGANO – Olympic silver medalist Irina Slutskaya of Russia delivered a textbook routine Friday to take the lead in the women’s skating event after the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.
Japan’s Fumie Suguri, meanwhile, is a surprise second and defending world champion Michelle Kwan of the United States is stuck in third heading into Saturday’s free skating finale after stepping out of a lutz in the short program.
Slutskaya, a four-time European champion who narrowly missed the gold medal at last month’s Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, hit her jumps cleanly at the M-Wave ice arena and spiced up her program to earn her first perfect marks at the world championships.
Suguri, fifth in Salt Lake City, nailed a triple flip at the edge of the rink and then executed some clean spins to Schubert’s “Ave Maria” for a pair of 5.8s for presentation.
Suguri is aiming for Japan’s first medal in the women’s event since Yuka Sato captured the gold medal in 1994 in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture.
Meanwhile, Kwan showed the value of experience as the four-time world champion recovered to complete all eight elements after flubbing her three-revolution lutz early in the program.
Kwan, who topped her group in the qualifying competition Wednesday, however, only received scores from 5.2 to 5.4 for the technical requirements.
Japan’s other entry in the women’s event Yoshie Onda missed the beat to the music when she tried to close her routine with a final pose but still managed to stay in contention for a medal by securing fourth place.
Former gymnast and up-and-coming U.S. skater Sasha Cohen struggled to regain her balance on the double axel attempt for her only fault and took fifth.
Three-time European champion Maria Butyrskaya of Russia, sixth at Salt Lake City, withdrew prior to the program citing physical and emotional fatigue.
The women’s event concludes Saturday with the free skating competition, which is worth 50 percent of the skaters’ final scores.
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