American sensation Alysa Liu leads the Challenger Series Lombardia Trophy after recording the highest score in the women's short program in Bergamo, Italy on Friday (10 September).
Liu, who is competing as a senior in figure skating for the first time this season, was a league above the rest as she racked up 74.31 points after her short program, 12.17 points clear of her closest rival.
Switzerland's Alexia Paganini finished second with 62.14 points with Poland's Ekaterina Kurakova in third on 61.51 points.
Azerbaijan's Vladimir Litventsev topped the men's short program with a score of 80.83 points, just a fraction ahead of France's Adam Siao Him Fa on 80.54 points.
Skaters from Russia were missing on the ice in Italy as they stayed home to compete in the Russia senior test skate event which also takes place this weekend. There were also no Japanese among the field of 32-skaters.
The Lombardia Trophy is the first of ten events of the 2021-22 Figure Skating Challenger Series. The series is considered the second tier of international senior events, ranked below the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating which gets underway in October.
Liu shines in Italy
It was a strong Challenger Series debut by Liu, who this season is skating in the seniors internationally for the first time.
The16 year old managed a clean skate in the short program, which she performed to Gypsy Dance from Don Quixote by Ludwig Minkus.
Working under her new coaches Jeremy Abbott, a four-time U.S. national champion, and Italian Olympian Massimo Scali, the teenager looked extremely pleased leaving the ice and the judges concurred, awarding her the highest score of the session.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the American, who is a two-time reigning national champion and the first female skater to land a triple Axel and a quadruple jump in the same program.
Liu will also be competing in the Nebelhorn Trophy in two weeks time for a chance to earn an Olympic qualification spot, and hopefully join compatriots Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell, who have already qualified for Beijing 2022.
Second-placed Paganini kept herself in contention for a maiden Challenger Series win with a strong performance.
The 19-year-old is a three-time Swiss national champion and finished second in last year's Nebelhorn Trophy. She would love nothing more than to kick start her fifth season as a senior skater with a win.
Similarly, Kurakova in third is close enough to capitalise should Liu slip up in the free skate on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, who was born in Moscow but now competes for Poland, has one Challenge Series title to her name - when she won the Warsaw Cup back in 2019.
Yasmine Kimiko Yamada from Switzerland remains in contention for a podium after finishing the short program in fourth with 58.89 points while Audrey Shin, who finished 7th overall at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games, was fifth in the short program 58.80.
Liu could clinch her first Challenger Series title if the American can manage another clean performance when the competition continues with the free skate on Saturday (11 September).
Lombardia Trophy women's short program top ten finishers
- Alysa LIU (USA) - 74.31
- Alexia PAGANINI (SUI) - 62.14
- Ekaterina KURAKOVA (POL) - 61.51
- Yasmine Kimiko YAMADA (SUI) - 58.89
- Audrey SHIN (USA) - 58.80
- Lindsay VAN ZUNDERT (NED) - 57.90
- Regina SCHERMANN (HUN) - 54.04
- Kristina SHKULETA-GROMOVA (EST) - 53.58
- Sophia SCHALLER (AUT) - 52.45
- Maia MAZZARA (FRA) - 52.39
A closer fight for the men's title
Despite a one point deduction, Vladimir Litvintsev topped the men’s short program with score of 80.83 points.
The 20-year-old who trains under Sergei Rozanov at the Angels of Plushenko Figure Skating Academy, set up by two-time Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko, will take a slim 0.29 points lead going into the free skate on Saturday (11 September).
Adam Siao Him Fa is in second place with a personal best score of 80.54. The French figure skater, whose previous best short program score was 78.28, set during the ISU World Team Trophy in April earlier this year.
The 20-year-old did not have a completely clean skate, which he performed to the Star Wars theme tune by John Williams, but is still in contention for the top step of the podium and his first senior international title.
Siao is a three-time runner-up in the national championships, and won bronze at Challenge Cup held earlier this year.
Fellow Frenchman Romain Ponsart is third with 78.23 points, and Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashivili is fourth with 76.52 points, while home favourite Daniel Grassl performed well and is currently fifth with 76.26 points.
Litventsev and Siao are likely to compete in the Nebelhorn Trophy in two weeks for an opportunity to secure an Olympic qualification spot.
It's still all to play for in the men's competition, which continues with the free skate on Sunday (12 September).
Lombardia Trophy men's short program top ten finishers
- Vladimir LITVINTSEV (AZE) - 80.83
- Adam SIAO HIM FA (FRA) - 80.54
- Romain PONSART (FRA) - 78.23
- Morisi KVITELASHVILI (GEO) - 76.52
- Daniel GRASSL (ITA) - 74.26
- Nikita STAROSTIN (GER) - 69.02
- Aleksandr SELEVKO (EST) - 68.78
- Davide LEWTON BRAIN (MON) - 67..36
- Tomoki HIWATASHI (USA) - 66.69
- Konstantin MILYUKOV (BLR) - 65.08