New-look Anna Shcherbakova leads Grand Prix France; Starr Andrews withdraws

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World champion Anna Shcherbakova is one program away from setting up a likely showdown with training partner Kamila Valiyeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, a battle between medal contenders two months before the Olympics.

Shcherbakova unveiled a new short program at Internationaux de France in Grenoble on Friday. She tallied 77.94 points, edging countrywoman Aliona Kostornaya by 1.5 points.

Shcherbakova, the three-time reigning Russian national champion, scored 6.21 points more than she did with her previous short program at a Grand Prix in Italy two weeks ago, when she struggled with her jumping combination.

Grand Prix France: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Valiyeva, a 15-year-old not competing in Grenoble, has the world’s top short program score of 84.19.

Both she and Shcherbakova won their first Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. Shcherbakova can clinch a spot in the six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish after Saturday’s free skate, while Valiyeva can clinch in her second event at Rostelecom Cup next week.

Americans Karen Chen and Mariah Bell were fifth and 10th. Another American, Starr Andrews, withdrew after the short program due to unspecified medical reasons, according to the International Skating Union.

Andrews stopped her short program after singling her last jump. She skated toward an official with her hands on her knees, made a brief motion to her chest while talking to the official and then skated over to exit the rink, holding a woman’s hand as she left the ice and went out of camera view.

Later Friday is the rhythm dance (with four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France), the men’s short (with American Jason Brown) and the pairs’ short (with U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier).

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New-look Anna Shcherbakova leads Grand Prix France; Starr Andrews withdraws originally appeared on NBCSports.com