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Figure skating-Russian Voronov takes top spot in Japan

TOKYO- Russia’s Sergei Voronov eased to victory in Japan’s grand prix on Saturday with an elegant, melancholy short programme and his compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva won the women’s event.

In the absence of favourites Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, the 30-year-old Voronov topped a podium filled with experienced skaters in a sport that seems increasingly focused on quad jumps and youthful energy.

Adam Rippon of the United States celebrated his 28th birthday by taking second while 29-year-old Andrei Bychenko of Israel, who will soon turn 30, was third.

“With 30 years, you just start to flourish in life,” Voronov said on Friday.

“The most important thing is that you love what you are doing. If we didn’t love it, we couldn’t do it.”

Voronov’s winning routine to the “Sarabande Suite” which opened with a flawless quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination, won a standing ovation and screams of delight from the crowd in the western city of Osaka to gain a personal best 181.06 for the short programme and 271.12 overall.

“I‘m very happy to take gold for the first time in the senior grand prix in Osaka,” a smiling Voronov said.

Asked if this was good preparation for February’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, he said: “I actually just think step by step, concentrating on the competition in front of me.”

Rippon, who in January broke his foot and could not defend his U.S. championship, snapped out a clean sequence of jumps including a triple axel-double toe loop-double loop combination to take second with 261.99 points.

Medvedeva claimed her second grand prix gold of the season despite a rare fall on a triple flip, her speciality, but clinched a place in next month’s grand prix final in Japan with 144.40 in the free skate for a total of 224.39.

“Unfortunately, I made some mistakes, but thanks to the warm support of the audience I was able to skate to the end,” Medvedeva said.

Carolina Kostner of Italy took second with 212.24 and Russian Polina Tsurskaya was third.

World pairs champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China surged to gold with 155.10 points, a record for the free skate, for a total of 234.53. Russian Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were second and compatriots Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov third.

In ice dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada took the lead in the short programme with 80.92 points, followed by Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States and Italians Anna Cappelling and Luca Lanotte.

(Elaine Lies)