Abbott leads men's and Kavaguti-Smirnov lead pairs
PARIS -- American Jeremy Abbott coped with a bad back to take the lead in the men's short program in his first appearance at the Trophee Bompard on Friday.
Russian teenager Julia Lipnitskaia continued her good form to post the best score in the women's event.
Abbott, who won his third U.S. national title earlier this year, skated cleanly to finish ahead of Japan's Takahito Mura and Frenchman Brian Joubert.
Lipnitskaia, second at the Cup of China two weeks ago, goes into Saturday's free skate program ahead of U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia.
"I felt I was able to do what I wanted well," Lipnitskaia said through a translator.
Abbott nailed all of his jumps in a restricted program to take a score of 81.18 points into Saturday's free skate.
"After Skate America I'm very happy to be in this position. It's been a bit of a struggle with my back," Abbott said. "I'm not at 100 percent, but I was very happy with my performance. We had to scale back a bit."
Abbott was fifth at Skate America in October after falling twice, and said the back problem affects the nerve endings in his leg, making it even more grueling to compete in Saturday's longer program.
"Tomorrow, if I make it through the long I'll be very happy," Abbott said.
Mura's only blemish was on his opening quad toe loop-triple toe loop jump and he earned a score of 76.65, while Joubert was at 75.46.
"I'm surprised to be sitting in second place, I did what I could," Mura said. "I put my hands down on the quad and didn't have enough speed on the step sequence."
The 14-year-old Lipnitskaia, last season's world junior champion, remains in contention for the season-ending Grand Prix finals on home ice in Sochi next month.
Wagner entered the event with a gold medal from Skate America and is also looking to compete in Sochi. Skating to "Red Violin" by John Corigliano, she landed tentatively on her opening jump -- a triple flip-double toe loop -- but the rest of her jumps were cleanly executed.
"I definitely felt pressure coming into the event, I felt nervous coming onto the ice," said Wagner after her score of 63.09. "I really like to captivate an audience. It really makes me feel like a more well-rounded skater."
The 15-year-old Tuktamysheva, who won both Skate Canada and in Paris last year, but failed to defend her Skate Canada trophy after finishing fourth, was happy with her 58.26.
"Just one month ago I was in bad shape," Tuktamysheva said through a translator. "But here in France I came to fight for the podium and I think I did very well today."
Earlier, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia finished first in the pairs short with 66.78 points, taking advantage of a wobbly performance from Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who scored 62.28.
Duhamel and Radford were silver medalists at Skate Canada in October and are hoping to qualify for Sochi. Duhamel fell on a landing after poorly executing a triple lutz.
"Eric and I are very disappointed with how we skated; we're never happy to fall. Tomorrow I assure you we will be perfect," Duhamel said. "This jump has been going so well in the last few months that maybe I was too relaxed. It's not really a technical thing."
The Russians are well placed and only need to finish on the podium to qualify for Sochi.
In ice dance, European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, who won gold at the Cup of China, remain on course for a second straight victory after leading the short dance with 68.48.
Italian duo Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, along with Russians Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko -- the two pairs who took silver and bronze at Skate Canada are again in second and third places, with scores of 66.18 and 58.23 respectively.
The Trophee Bompard is the fifth of six events.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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