Russian pair leads in ice dance event

Russian pair leads in ice dance event

SAPPORO, Japan - Agence France-Presse
Russian pair leads in ice dance event

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov perform during the short ice dance event. AFP photo

Russia’s 2010 world junior champions Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov topped the ice dance short program at the NHK Trophy Friday as they chased their first senior Grand Prix title.

Dancing to a mix of samba and rhumba music, they earned a maximum level four each for their synchronised twizzle and rotational lift and scored 61.83 points on the opening day in the fourth stop of the six-round Grand Prix series.

The Canadian duo of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who finished second at Skate Canada two weeks ago, trailed the young Russians in second spot at 60.07. American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, who earned the silver medals at the Cup of China last week, were third at 59.02 with the title-deciding free skate left to be contested on Saturday.

It was the season’s first Grand Prix outing for 17-year-old Ilinykh and Katsalapov, 20, who finished third at last year’s Cup of Russia. Each competitor can take part in two GP events and the top six in each category will fight it out in the Grand Prix final.

Big name ice dancers - including Canada’s Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as well as world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S.- have already started their season with a victory at home.