Olympics-Figure skating-Valieva shines as Russians enjoy commanding lead in team event
By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Julien Pretot
BEIJING (Reuters) -Kamila Valieva delivered a flawless short programme to put the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the driving seat in the figure skating team event at the Beijing Winter Games, as they finished day two with a three-point lead over the United States.
The 15-year-old, who won the European championships last month in a Russian podium sweep, scored 90.18 points on Sunday, 0.27 short of her own world record, before the event went into its final phase, with Mark Kondratiuk's solid free skate earning the ROC another nine points for a total of 45.
"Today I did everything possible for what was under my control. I'm very happy that I brought the team the maximum amount of points for the short programme," Valieva, who pleased the judges with tight spins, told reporters.
ROC had a two-point lead after the short programme phase, which saw Japan, China and Canada also advance, and European champion Kondratiuk's skating was enough to extend the advantage as he beat American Vincent Zhou for second.
With Japan's defending singles champion Yuzuru Hanyu not taking part, Yuma Kagiyama was in a league of his own, winning the men's free skating by smashing his personal best with a score of 208.94.
It put Japan on 39 points, three behind the United States.
"I wasn't nervous at all," the 18-year-old said. "In the past, I used to try to fool myself into not being nervous by telling myself I should have fun, but today, I was able to enjoy from the bottom of my heart."
Defending champions Canada, who had no real medal expectations, are fourth on 30 points with China fifth on 29.
China were the last team to progress from the initial phase, on tiebreak ahead of Georgia after Zhu Yi suffered a meltdown and finished last in the women's short programme.
"I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for the women's singles and I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do it but unfortunately I didn't," the 19-year-old said, wiping away tears.
In the final phase, which concludes on Monday, skaters in first place earn 10 points, those in second nine, down to six for fifth place.
(Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Peter Rutherford)
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