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Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia in action during the Pairs Short Program. Reuters Photo

TOKYO: Russian pair Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead after the short programme at the World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama on Wednesday after a fall left French favourites Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres in seventh.

James and Cipres, undefeated this season and the first French pair to win the European Championship in over 80 years, went down when James botched the landing on their throw triple flip and fell to the ice.

James later said a collision with Italy’s Matteo Guarise during the warm-up prior to their performance had rattled her.

“I didn’t see Matteo, Matteo didn’t see me so we crashed and I fell,” she told the International Skating Union (ISU). “It took me off a little and I was not very comfortable after. I felt a little dizzy, so I tried to stay focused.

“It was a bad skate for us today, and with the fall it was very tiring after.”

Tarasova and Morozov, who placed fourth at the 2018 Winter Olympics and second at last year’s worlds, renewed their season’s best score with 81.21 points in a dramatic, dynamic routine that had the audience clapping along at the Saitama Super Arena, just north of Tokyo.

“During the European Championships we had the same mistake both in short and free programmes. Therefore, now we had to train harder not to allow this to happen anymore,” Tarasova said. “We decided to make everything at our maximum.”

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres perform during the pairs short program at the world figure skating championships in Saitama on March 20, 2019. AFP Photo

James and Cipres were on 68.67 points after their routine, in which Cipres also made an uncharacteristic error when he doubled a toeloop.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “The season was long, we were not good on the ice today. It was not our moment, not our day.”

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, who have had an injury-plagued season, were second on 79.24 after delivering a graceful routine, with compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang in third with 75.51.

“While we had several mistakes at the beginning of the programme, otherwise the score would be above 80 points, we still performed our best, and we would like to skate well in the free programme as well,” Sui said.

The pairs winner will be decided on Thursday with the free programme. The championship competitions last until March 23. -- Reuters

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