Moscow / Russia

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 2017 European bronze medalists Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres of France laid down a solid performance to best the Russian teams in the Pairs Short Program at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow on Wednesday. Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert and Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov are currently ranked second and third.

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James/Cipres’ performance to “Make It Rain” by Foy Vance featured a triple twist, side by side triple Salchow and a throw triple flip. The French team picked up a level four for their death spiral, step sequence, lift and pair combination spin to post a new season’s best of 75.52 points, just below their personal best score.

“We are very happy with the skate. We were a little bit nervous. We’ve been doing great practices and great programs, but last year was our first medal (at Europeans). We have the Olympics in three weeks and those things have us a little stressed out. The program was a little hesitant, not the most liberated, but it was a clean program and we’re very proud of it. It was the best possible start for the Europeans,” James commented.

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Skating to “Summer of 1942”, Zabiiako/Enbert completed a triple twist, triple toeloop, throw triple loop and earned a level four for five elements. The National bronze medalists earned a season’s best with 72.95 points. “We are pleased we did everything we planned. The program felt good and easy to skate. A big thank you to the audience they gave us a lot of energy and support and everything went well,” Enbert told the press.

Stolbova/Klimov opened their program with a triple twist and an excellent throw triple flip, but then she went down on the triple toeloop. The 2014 Olympic and World silver medalists recovered to produce a level-four spin, lift and step sequence to earn 72.05 points.

“We felt good in the program, in spite of my major mistake. It is a problem in my head. I need to think less and go out and just do it,” Stolbova noted. “It is always comfortable to skate at home. (In the Free Skating) We made a small change, we’re going to do a triple (toe)-triple (toe) combination instead of a triple-triple-double,” she added.

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Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) turned in a strong performance that included a triple Salchow and throw triple Lutz to finish fourth (71.89 points). Reigning European Champions Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) are currently standing in fifth place after she fell on the throw triple loop and wobbled on the triple toe (70.37 points). Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) round up the top six with 64.53 points. She doubled the side by side Salchow.