Machida trails in Russia

AP, Kyodo

Maxim Kovtun’s two confident quads gave him a big lead after Friday’s short program in the Cup of Russia, the last of six Grand Prix events before the final.

As the only competitor to try two quads, much less complete them, Kovtun ended the day nearly nine points ahead of Tatsuki Machida, who opened with a clean quad but then stepped out of the triple toe loop that was the second jump in his combination.

Fourth place or better will secure Machida a place at the Grand Prix Final being held in Fukuoka in December.

“I didn’t skate the way I had planned but I did the bare minimum for a good performance,” said Machida. “My quad jump was shaky but I was able to maintain somehow.”

Javier Fernandez of Spain was in third despite falling on his quad.

In the women’s short program, Kanako Murakami languished in last place, while 15-year-old Satoko Miyahara was sixth. Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia led with a score of 72.24.

Kovtun is gunning for the sole Russian men’s slot in Sochi, which Turin Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko also wants. Plushenko was to have been part of the field, but withdrew from what would have been his first top-tier competition since back surgery this spring.