Chen and Medvedeva shine at Cup of Russia

Moscow (AFP) –


Teenagers Nathan Chen and Evgenia Medvedeva led the men's and women's short program at the Cup of Russia, the first stage of ISU Grand Prix series, on Friday.

Russia's two-time world champion Medvedeva, 17, who won last year's Grand Prix final at Marseille, underlined her status as favourite with a flawless presentation of Frederic Chopin's Nocturne for a total of 80.75pts, her season's best mark.

Italian veteran Carolina Kostner, 30, who received a standing ovation at Moscow's 12,000-seat Megasport Arena for her heartfelt presentation of Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas" short routine was second, six points back.

Japan's Wakaba Higuchi is third on 69.60 points.

The 18-year-old American Chen, US nationals winner and GP final runner-up, led the men's event also with a season's best mark of 100.54pts for his presentation of "Nemesis" by Benjamin Clementine.

"I am happy with the scores that I got and happy that I did a fairly clean program so early in the season," Chen told the press.

"I definitely have a lot of work going into the Olympic Games, but I am happy with what I did and I just need to keep my mind straight and keep working hard."

Japan's two-time world champion and four-time ISU Grand Prix finals winner Yuzuru Hanyu, 22, considered the red-hot favourite, made some serious mistakes and finished second, 5.69 points adrift.

"Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn't feel bad. I hope I will skate better tomorrow," the Olympic champion Hanyu said.

Local favourite Dmitri Aliev sits third on his personal best mark of 88.77 points for his "Masquerade Waltz" presentation.

In ice dance the American three-time world medalists sister and brother Maia and Alex Shibutani grabbed the lead following their short dance -- the Latina medley -- with a 77.30pts mark.

"We're so excited to be here and to begin our Grand Prix season, our Olympic season, here in Moscow," Alex said. "Our practices have been going great and we really enjoyed our performance today."

"We really love this program, the music is so dynamic and fun. The Latin rhythms I think will be really entertaining for the audience, and we really changed ourselves with our choreography this year," his sister added.

The American siblings are closely chased by Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Olympic team champions, who are just 0.97 behind.

Another Russian duo Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are currently third on 71.32 points.

In pairs, Russia's European champions and last year's Grand Prix final winners Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took the lead with a solid presentation of Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto Number Two to earn a 76.88pt mark.

They are 5.5 points ahead of compatriots Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, while Italian pair Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek are third.