It was tough to find a clean program out there today as World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took the lead in the short program at NHK Trophy. Whether it was falls or underrotations, almost every pair had one issue or another with their side-by-side triple toes. The end result was a tightly-bunched pack of five pairs at the top separated by four points.
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VIDEOS: Pairs’ short program gallery
As they had done at Skate America, Savchenko and Szolkowy once again attempted a throw triple axel in their short. It was fully rotated but Savchenko was unable to hold on to the landing and fell. Szolkowy doubled his solo triple toe, but they were able to squeeze out a lead with mistakes from other pairs. Their 59.23 is good enough for an advantage of just over one point going into the free skate.
Home team Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran also struggled with the triple toes, with Takahashi falling on an underrotated triple toe. But the rest of their short was well-executed, earning them a 57.89. In a surprise third were Italy’s Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek, who was the only pair who successfully completed their side-by-side triple toes, though Berton just eked hers out after slipping off the toepick on the takeoff.
Related: Play-by-play of the pairs’ short program
Going first, Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin skated a solid short program, but a doubled triple toe for Denney cost them a chance to challenge the Germans for the top spot. They are a fraction ahead of Cup of China gold medalists Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. Kavaguti took a fall on her underrotated triple toe and later stepped out of the throw triple loop.
The other American entry in the competition, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, are in seventh.
PAIRS (after the short program)
1. Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy GER – 59.23
2. Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran JPN – 57.89
3. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek ITA – 56.23
4. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin USA – 55.48
5. Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov RUS – 55.02
6. Lubov Iliushechkina/Nodari Maisuradze RUS – 53.12
7. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir USA – 49.93
8. Natasha Purich/Raymond Schultz CAN – 45.56
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