Russian pairs dominate short program at Skate America

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two Russian pairs teams led the way Friday night at Skate America.

Evegenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov had the top score in the pairs short program with 80.36 points, followed by compatriots Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy at 75.43. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan were third at 72.63.

“The most important goal of the season is the Olympic Games,” Kozlovskiy said. “Step by step, we have to move forward. This is our first step on our way.”

The top three teams kicked off the first Grand Prix event of the Olympic figure skating season with clean skates, with the exception of the final element for both Russian pairs. Tarasova put her foot down on a throw triple loop while Boikova and Kozlovskiy’s “Swan Lake” performance had a shaky throw triple flip.

With reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov not assigned to Skate America, the Russians are quickly proving they are favored to have at least one team on the Olympic podium in Beijing in 3 1/2 months.

U.S. teams placed fourth, fifth and seventh on the first day of competition. Olympian Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who teamed up last year, were within four points of the podium. They won Skate America in 2020 when it was a mostly domestic competition due to the pandemic.