Lipnitskaia, pairs move Russia closer to gold

Emmeline Moore
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Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia performs in the Women's Figure Skating Team Short Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 8, 2014

Teenager Julia Lipnitskaia held her nerve under huge pressure to keep Olympic hosts Russia on track for gold in the new figure skating team event at the Winter Games on Saturday.

The 15-year-old produced a flawless short programme which lit up the Iceberg Skating Palace with Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov later extending Russia's lead in the pairs free skating final.

"I've never seen anything like the atmosphere out there today," said Lipnitskaia.

"There wasn't any silence for a single second. I could hear all the shouts of 'Julia and 'Russia' and they really helped me."

Veteran star Yevgeny Plushenko, 31, will bid to seal his second Olympic gold after 2006 when he skates in the men's free skating final, with the women's and ice dancing finals also scheduled for Sunday.

Lipnitskaia landed a triple lutz-triple toeloop combination, a double axel and triple flip to score a season's best 72.90 for her skate to "You Don't Give up on Love" by Mark Minkov.

She led Italy's Carolina Kostner (70.84) and Japan's Mao Asada (64.07), with American Ashley Wagner justifying her controversial selection with a solid skate (63.10).

Stolbova and Klimov later brought the ecstatic crowd to their feet when they led the pairs with 135.09, ahead of Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, 129.72.

Russia now have 47 points, six points ahead of Canada (41) with the United States third with 34. Italy have 31 and Japan 30.

France, China, Germany, Ukraine and Britain were eliminated after the short programmes in the ten-team event.

Despite falling on her opening triple axel jump Asada pulled Japan up from sixth after brother-and-sister Cathy and Chris Reed placed just eighth in the ice dance short dance.

The 23-year-old is the only woman who tries to land the high-scoring but difficult triple axel -- a 3.5 revolution jump -- in competition.

The Olympic silver-medallist also included a triple flip and a triple loop-double loop combination in her routine to Chopin's "Nocturne in E flat major".

"I told my teammates, 'I'm so sorry' (for the fall). But I am glad we went through," said Asada.

"I was unbelievably nervous. I felt more pressure than I expected. It just wasn't my performance. I've got to settle my nerves.

"I couldn't get the job done but I hope my teammates pick up the slack and do better."

Earlier ice dancers Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev led the short dance.

To chants of 'Russia, Russia' the world bronze medallists held the lead built up on Thursday by Plushenko in the men's short programme and world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov in the pairs.

Bobrova, 23, and Soloviev, 24, placed third in the short dance to a quickstep and foxtrot which was led by Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

World champions Davis and White scored highest with 75.98 with Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir second with 72.98.

Bobrova and Soloviev scored third highest with 70.27.

"It was so loud but we looked down and we knew it was our ice and our Games," said Bobrova.

Moir said: "Tonight was a bit disappointing because we really wanted to lead our team. There's an Olympic medal on the line."