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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier on brink of a first for U.S. pairs’ figure skating

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier

Montpellier, France - March 23: Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier from United States of America during Pair’s Short Programme, World Figure Skating Championship at Sud de France Arena on March 23, 2022 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by Thor Wegner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

DeFodi Images via Getty Images

World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the short program at Grand Prix England, moving one step closer to becoming the first U.S. pairs’ figure skating team to win multiple Grand Prix events in one season.

Knierim and Frazier, who won Skate America three weeks ago, tallied 75.88 points in a clean short on Friday in Sheffield. They lead by 7.19 over Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii going into Saturday’s free skate, live on Peacock.

GRAND PRIX ENGLAND: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Last season, Knierim and Frazier placed sixth at the Olympics, the best result for a U.S. pair in 20 years. The next month, they became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, competing against a field that lacked the top five teams from the Olympics.

Those top five pairs from Russia and China are not competing in this fall’s Grand Prix Series, either. Russians are banned due to the invasion of Ukraine, and China has no pairs entered in any of the six competitions that are qualifiers for December’s Grand Prix Final.

Last month, Knierim and Frazier became the first U.S. pair to win a fully international Skate America since 2006 and the third U.S. pair to win any full-fledged Grand Prix event since the series started in 1995.

Now they’re poised to become the first U.S. pair to qualify for the six-pair Grand Prix Final since 2015. Pairs are ranked by their two results on the six-event Grand Prix Series. For Knierim and Frazier, a third-place finish or better this week should be enough to get them in.

Canadian Roman Sadovsky was the surprise leader after the men’s short program with 89.49 points, edging Italian Daniel Grassl by 2.64. Headliner Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia, who was fourth at March’s worlds, was 12th in the 12-man field in Friday’s short program.

The women’s and ice dance competitions start Saturday, marking the first event in 18 months for two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell.

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