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Russians Lead Grand Prix Skating

March 5, 1999

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ Rising star Tatiana Malinina of Uzbekistan and world champion Alexei Yagodin dominated the women’s and men’s short programs Friday in the opening of the ISU Grand Prix finals.

China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao took the pairs short program, while Russia’s Anjelica Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov came out on top in both the compulsory and original ice dances.

Malinina took the women’s short program, upsetting favorite Maria Butyrskaya despite a difficult program. Malinina nailed a triple lutz-double toe, a triple flip and a strong high double axel.

``It’s the first time I’ve been in the final and I was hoping only to give a good performance,″ said Malinina, who is training in Virginia.

The Russians had been expected to dominate on their home ice in the Grand Prix, which lasts through Sunday and offers a preview of the sport’s best before the world championships in Helsinki, Finland, on March 22.

Yagodin of Russia executed a clean triple axel-triple toe and triple lutz, as did 16-year-old runner-up Evgeny Plushenko. But Yagodin’s artistic program was stronger.

Xue and Hongbo shined with a very high double twist and a throw on the triple loop. Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, Olympic silver medalists, had been expected to fare more strongly, but Berezhnaya made three mistakes, including a fall right in front of the judges.

Krylova and Ovsyannikov placed first in the compulsory and original dances Friday, with difficult, fast programs that they performed smoothly. French pair Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat came in second in both programs.

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