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Oct 25, 2014 2:26 PM

Kavaguti, Smirnov take Skate America pairs short

The Associated Press

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) Yuka Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia topped the Skate America pairs short program on Saturday.

It was a strong start for the pair, who took fourth at the 2010 Olympics but were non-qualifiers for Sochi this year with Smirnov recovering from knee surgery.

They took the lead with 69.16 points, with China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang second (62.38) and Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.08) third.

The women's short program followed, with 2014 Olympian and U.S. champion Gracie Gold and two-time junior champion Elena Radionova of Russia highlighting the field. The pairs and women's free skates are scheduled for Sunday.

Japan's Tatsuki Machida took a commanding lead into Saturday night's men's free skate after a dominating the short program on Friday, with American Jeremy Abbott second and Chicago-area product Jason Brown third. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates held the top spot going into the free dance.

Kavaguti and Smirnov are glad to be back competing again after Smirnov was sidelined. He was injured in a fall at a competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, a year ago, but he's back after having surgery in Germany and going through more than six months of recovery.

"It was a very big surgery," he said.

Recently, there was another big event in his life a happier event. His wife gave birth to a boy less than two weeks ago, and while he and Kavaguti awaited their score, the camera caught Smirnov cradling his arms as if he was holding a baby.


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