Russian win rhythm dance to extend command at skating worlds

STOCKHOLM — Russia extended its dominance of the World Figure Skating Championships on Friday when Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov took the rhythm dance.

Already, the Russians have won pairs — they almost always do — and have the lead in the women’s event. Sinitsina and Katsalapov were in front of U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue by 2.10 points, with fellow Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates exactly three points behind the leaders.

All three duos were in top form.

The Russians flowed melodically through their “Singin’ in the Rain” routine. They had upset four-time world winners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France at last season’s European Championships, an event not held this year. Sinitsina and Katsalapov validated that result with their rhythm dance with 88.15 points

Hubbell and Donohue, fourth at the 2018 Olympics and winners of two world medals, came in with a personal best 86.05 to a mix of Christina Aguilera songs. He pumped his fist vigorously at the end of a strong program.

Chock and Bates, two-time U.S. champions and Olympians and owners of two world medals, sizzled to Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot.” Their heat transferred to their marks, and their 85.15 points were good for third place heading into Saturday’s free dance.

Only in the rhythm portion of ice dance, with the same required patterns for every couple, could the music range from Broadway to Bee Gees to Blues Brothers, from “Grease” to “The Greatest Showman.” Yet it somehow worked, whether it was the Russians or Americans, Canadians or Brits.

Veterans Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada put on one of their best international performances to take fourth place. Another of the favorites, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia, struggled with some footwork and turns, finishing fifth.

Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker were 11th.

Later Friday is the women’s free skate, with Anna Shcherbakova of Russia in the lead.