Meanwhile, all three American pairs had falls in the pairs short program Friday at Everett's Angel of the Winds Arena.
EVERETT – Standing 6 feet 3 with biceps bulging beneath a black T-shirt, Vladimir Morozov would look just as imposing in a Seahawks jersey and a helmet on a football field as he does on the ice.
The big redheaded Russian effortless lifted and flung 5-3 partner Evgenia Tarasova who matched his power with a fluid grace as they dazzled through a pairs short program that highlighted the first night of the three-day Skate America at the Angel of the Winds Arena.
The Russians are the favorites this weekend in Everett, and they didn’t disappoint while delivering a sensational routine that puts them in first place heading into Saturday’s pairs free skate.
“We made small mistakes and it was difficult today, but we feel good,” Morozov said. “We like our program. We just need to keep clean.”
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On a night when most competitors stumbled or suffered major gaffes, Tarasova and Morozov were mostly flawless as James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’ blared over the loudspeakers during a routine that earned 71.24 points.
They were nearly nine points better than Russian teammates Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin, who totaled 62.38 points.
Germany’s Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nolan Segert were third with 60.04 – their career-best short pairs score.
Tarasova and Morozov have rebounded from an error-ridden performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics that resulted in a disappointing fourth-place finish.
This season, they won the European Championships and finished second at the World Championships.
And two weeks ago, the Russian couple won the ISU Challenger Series Finlandia Trophy.
“We had a minibreak in the summer after the Olympics, but now we’re in a good routine,” Morozov said.
Meanwhile, all three American pairs had falls Friday that resulted in major deductions.
Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc immediately got the crowd engaged and clapping as they performed to ‘Belle Belle’ by the Electric Swing Circus.
However, Leduc tumbled early on a triple-loop landing, which marred a routine that scored 60.4 points.
Two-time pairs U.S. champions and 2018 Olympic bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim were considered a threat to the Russians until a pair of falls netted them 57.31 points and fifth place.
And U.S. couple Nica Digerness and Danny Nuedecker began the night with a routine that scored 51.56 points and seventh place.
Skate America is the first event in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series that moves to Canada, Finland, Japan, Russia and France before the top six performers in each discipline qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, B.C. in December.
— American Nathan Chen, the only Olympic or world medalist in the field, topped the men’s short program on Friday with 90.58 points. Heading into Saturday’s men’s free skate, he’s followed by Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina (82.09) and Malaysia’s Julian Zhi Jie Yee (81.52). Americans Vincent Zhou (76.38) is sixth and Jimmy Ma (71.53) seventh.
— NBCSN will air live the men’s free skate 3-5 p.m. Saturday and the ladies free skate 1-3 p.m. Sunday. Also on Sunday, NBC will broadcast the men’s free skate with other event highlights from 9:30-10:30 a.m. The ladies free skate and event highlights will be aired on NBC on Oct. 27 from 12-3 p.m.
Correction: (Updated 5 p.m., Oct. 22) Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir compete in ice dancing, not short pairs, as was stated in a previous version of this story.