February 29, 2012

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China are on the verge of their third straight pairs title at the junior world figure skating championships, while Russians swept the short dance.

Sui and Han, who won their first senior title earlier this month at Four Continents, have a commanding lead after scoring 59.29 points for their country music program, putting them almost five points ahead of teammates Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang going into Thursday's free skate. Yu and Jin, gold medalists at the Youth Olympic Games, scored a season's best 54.72 points for their program to "The Nutcracker."

Ekaterina Petaikina and Maxim Kurdyukov of Russia were third, edging U.S. junior champs Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier by less than .40 points.

"This is our third year at junior worlds, and each year all the teams are skating very well. Each time we learn and improve," Han said.

In the ice dance competition, junior Grand Prix final champions Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin opened a lead on their fellow Russians. With a score of 63.78 points, they are more than a point ahead of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin and almost four points in front of Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov. U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton are fifth, a little more than a point behind Yanovskaya and Mozgov.

"It's our first junior Worlds and I felt nervous, but I tried not to think about this," Sinitsina said.

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