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Figure skating: Gold leads superb Skate Canada women's field

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Gracie Gold's fist pump at the end of her short program spoke volumes about the near flawless performance she delivered Friday to seize the women's lead at Skate Canada.

The judges concurred, awarding the 18-year-old American 69.45 points and top spot in a superb women's field.

Gold, sixth at the 2013 world championships, opened with a picture-perfect triple lutz-triple toe jump combination and seemed to flow effortlessly from one demanding required element to the next.

Russian wunderkind Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, and Japanese veteran Akiko Suzuki, 28, also skated strongly to claim second and third on 66.89 and 65.76 points.

They, too, executed triple-triple combinations, although Suzuki's second jump was slightly short of full rotation.

Four weeks ago, Gold moved to from Chicago to California to train with Frank Carroll, the coach who had guided five-time world champion Michelle Kwan's stellar career.

With the 2014 Sochi Games just over 100 days off, she decided Carroll was the man she wanted in her corner.

"He's trying to take all the voices and all the doubt out of my head," said Gold, whose downfall in the past has been jittery competitive performances

Said Carroll: "I'm trying to get the philosophy in her head of being a warrior. I call her 'Gracie, Warrior Princess' because I want her to go out there and be a warrior, not scared. If you make the Olympic Games, you have to know that going for gold is a different philosophy than just staying on your feet."

Lipnitskaia, the 2012 world junior champion, is almost half Suzuki's age, a fact the media asked the Japanese to comment on.

"Unfortunately, I've got to the age where I get asked this question every time," the affable Suzuki said to sympathetic laughter.

"I'm 28 and I feel honoured I can still compete with these young skaters, that I've stayed healthy and injury-free," added Suzuki who has announced this will be her final competitive season.

In the pairs opener, couples from Canada, Italy and China skated to a virtual tie with just half a point separating first from third. World bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford scored 69.57, while Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek earned 69.38 and Sui Wenjing and Han Cong 69.02.

The women's and pairs medals will be decided on Saturday.

Skate Canada is the second of six stops on the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix circuit.

Athletes compete in two events and the six women, men, pairs and ice dancers scoring the best combined placings qualify for December's Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan. That event will serve as a preview of the Olympic contest that will unfold in Sochi in February.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131025/figure-skating-gold-leads-superb-skate-canada-womens-field