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New-look Anna Shcherbakova leads Grand Prix France; Starr Andrews withdraws

Anna Shcherbakova

Anna Shcherbakova of Russia performs for the Women short Program during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Gran Primo d’Italia, at the Torino Palavela in Turin, on November 5, 2021. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

World champion Anna Shcherbakova is one program away from setting up a likely showdown with training partner Kamila Valiyeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, a battle between medal contenders two months before the Olympics.

Shcherbakova unveiled a new short program at Internationaux de France in Grenoble on Friday. She tallied 77.94 points, edging countrywoman Aliona Kostornaya by 1.5 points.

Shcherbakova, the three-time reigning Russian national champion, scored 6.21 points more than she did with her previous short program at a Grand Prix in Italy two weeks ago, when she struggled with her jumping combination.

“My coaches decided to change the program,” the 17-year-old said, according to the International Skating Union. “Today I was nervous [performing it for the first time].”

Grand Prix France: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Valiyeva, a 15-year-old not competing in Grenoble, has the world’s top short program score of 84.19.

Both she and Shcherbakova won their first Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. Shcherbakova can clinch a spot in the six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish after Saturday’s free skate, while Valiyeva can clinch in her second event at Rostelecom Cup next week.

Americans Karen Chen and Mariah Bell were fifth and 10th. Another American, Starr Andrews, withdrew after the short program due to unspecified medical reasons, according to the International Skating Union.

Andrews stopped her short program after singling her last jump. She skated toward an official with her hands on her knees, made a brief motion to her chest while talking to the official and then skated over to exit the rink, holding a woman’s hand as she left the ice and went out of camera view.

Andrews later shared on Instagram that she was “doing ok.”

Later Friday. world silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan easily won the men’s short by 10.88 points with 100.64, landing two quadruple jumps. Kagiyama, 18, became the third man to break 100 points in a short this season after Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno.

American Jason Brown was third without a quad on Friday, keeping him in the running to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Brown was second in his previous Grand Prix.

Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France topped the rhythm dance with 89.08 points, improving on their world-leading score this season. They distanced world bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada by 7.73.

Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy, the world bronze medalists, led the pairs’ short with 77.17 points. U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were fourth.

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