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Medvedeva begins Grand Prix Final defense with world record

Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia competes in the Ladies Short Program during ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Marseille, southern France, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
By Jerome Pugmire Associated Press

MARSEILLE, France – Defending champion Evgenia Medvedeva began the defense of her Grand Prix Final title in emphatic style, thrilling the crowd with a world record score in the short program on Friday.

The 17-year-old world champion landed all of her jumps cleanly and was given a deserved ovation at the Palais Omnisport de Marseille as she recorded 79.21 points, beating three-time world champion and four-time Grand Prix Final winner Mao Asada’s 78.66 at the 2014 worlds.

“I’m happy with the world record, but the world record isn’t my goal,” Medvedeva said. “I came close to beating it in Paris (with 78.52 at the Trophee de France last month). It’s one step further and it gives me confidence.”

Although Medvedeva skated with pure elegance to “River Flows in You” by Lorenzo de Luca, she was still picky about her performance.

“I can do better in the interpretation of my programs and my spins. I’d like to spin faster,” she said. “Everything has plusses and minuses and I always strive for perfection. I cannot stop because when you stop doing that you stop improving.”

The Russian leads Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada (75.54) and Satoko Miyahara of Japan (74.64).

“It’s really rewarding to get a season’s best and a personal best for me,” Osmond said. “I feel like I connect with the confident character I’m projecting in my program.”

Earlier, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov earned their season-best score in the free skate to win the pairs event for the first time.

The Russians scored 135.25 to win with a total of 213.85.

Tarasova and Morozov had placed second at the Trophee de France last month and third at Skate America in October, when they also led after the short program.

This time they held firm, nailing all of their jumps on both days.

“We have a lot of emotion inside of us,” Morozov said. “We’re just having fun, dancing and swing with music and we really like it. Music was my first love.”

The positions stayed the same from Thursday’s short program, with Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao of China second, and former champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada third.

Duhamel again made a couple of errors, having also done so on Thursday. She put her hand down on the throw quad salchow and had to check her balance to stop from falling after another difficult landing.

“We’re disappointed with our performance. We wanted to come here with two great programs, unfortunately we couldn’t do one,” Duhamel said. “We can’t continue like this. We have to do a U-turn.”

The Canadians won in Barcelona two years ago and finished runner-up there last year. Duhamel’s frustration was compounded by the fact she was confident before the event.

“We were very comfortable coming here,” she said. “We liked the ice and we were well rested.”

Former Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada lead in the ice dance with a commanding 80.50 in the short.

“Personally this title would mean a lot as we have never won it before,” Virtue said. “We want to accomplish so much in our comeback and there is still so much room to grow technically and artistically.”

World silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani, who are brother and sister, are in second spot with 77.97, and French duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron narrowly behind in third on 77.86.

“It was definitely our strongest performance of the season,” Alex Shibutani said. “We’re excited about this program because the ceiling is so high for it. There is a lot more we can do.” The Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free and the conclusion of ice dance.