MOSCOW - Russia's Elena Radionova took a strong lead Friday in the women's division of the Rostelecom Cup with a nearly flawless short program of grace and strength.
The world bronze medallist finished more than four points ahead of Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., and Russian compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva.
Radionova and Chartrand skated programs nearly identical in design, each opening with a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and delaying their other two jumps — a triple loop and a double Axel until the second half of the program. But Radionova prevailed on both technical and program component scores.
Medvedeva ended just 0.35 points behind the Canadian, with the unusual strategy of front-loading her program with spins and footwork and waiting until well into the second half for her first jump. However, when she finally did the jump, she fell.
Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova, making her return to top-tier competition after a long injury pause, was in fourth but still a podium contender. Her program began with precision and verve, but seemed to lose energy in the second half.
Ice dancing saw Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje ahead of Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte by 1.6 points after the short dance. Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were third.
"I think that we skated fairly well," said Weaver. "We've doubled the amount of training time for this program since Skate Canada. So that feels great to have a little bit more mileage. We definitely can perform it better and we're looking forward to growing on this program and make it the best it can be."
Weaver and Poje of Waterloo, Ont., produced a season best 69.49 points in their program skated to Johann Strauss waltzes. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy are second at 67.82 and Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia third at 63.63.
In the men's competition, Russian Adian Pitkeev led with a confident short skate that puts him in contention for his first Grand Prix medal in the Rostelecom Cup after a confident and strong short program on Friday.
Pitkeev, who finished sixth at his three previous Grand Prix events, opened with a clean quad-triple toe loop combination, but saved two other tough jumps — a triple Axel and triple Lutz — for the second half of the program.
He nosed out world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain by about 0.5 points. Fernandez got higher program component scores, but didn't do a quad, and he had balance trouble on the first half of his triple Lutz-triple toe combination.
American Ross Miner was third, more than 2 points behind Pitkeev.
Nam Nguyen of Toronto landed a quad jump and triple Axel but fell in the second part of his triple Lutz combo to stand seventh.
In pairs, Olympic silver medallist Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were in the lead, well ahead of fellow Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. Aside from the spot-on technique, the leaders ended with a humorous twist as Stolbova flicked her hand at Klimov in a go-away gesture.
Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao of China unleashed the biggest throw of the pairs, but ended in third when she caught her toe pick and fell on a nominally easy straight-line segment.
Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., were seventh and Haileigh Bell of Rudi Swiegers of Regina eighth.
Also, Russia's figure skating federation announced that Olympic champion pairs skaters Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov would not compete in next week's NHK Trophy, the last of the Grand Prix preliminaries, because she has a heel injury.
— With files from The Canadian Press