Makar Ignatov leads the men's singles event at the 2020 Russian National Figure Skating Championships after winning the short program in Krasnoyarsk, with the top four all separated by only around one and a half points.
The 19-year-old St Petersburg skater missed most of last season with a foot injury, but managed to clinch a bronze medal at the Rostelecom Cup Grand Prix in Moscow earlier this season, and improved on that to lay down a strong skate in the central Russian city.
It has been a superb comeback season for Ignatov, who also won the Nebelhorn Trophy Challenger Series and finished third at the Zagreb Golden Spin Challenger Series.
The two men who finished ahead of him at Rostelecom, Grand Prix Finalists Alexander Samarin and Dmitri Aliev, both had errors in their skates and could only finish eighth and fourth respectively.
Skating to In This Shirt by British band The Irrepressibles, Ignatov landed a quadruple Salchow, triple toeloop combination to open, hanging on on the landing to his toeloop.
He had to step out of his next quadruple toeloop, but closed his jumps with a clean triple Axel.
The performance was good for 88.88 points, just ahead of 16-year-old Junior Grand Prix Finals silver medallist Andrei Mozalev (88.34) making his senior nationals debut, and 17-year-old Petr Gumennik (88.06).
Aliev close, but misses out
Dmitri Aliev finished on 87.35 points in fourth, but it could have been so different for the 2018 Olympian.
The 20-year-old, skating last and knowing Ignatov's score he had to beat, opened with a triple Lutz, triple toeloop combination. However, he had been down for a quadruple Lutz in that combination, with the one fewer rotation costing him around five points in base value.
Aliev then just about hung on to his landing for a quadruple toeloop, before putting his hand down on his triple Axel on which he struggled with the takeoff as his left skate nearly slid out from under him.
Current European silver medallist Alexander Samarin has probably had better days on the ice.
The Rostelecom Cup winner from earlier this season missed his combination jump, and all three of his jumps – a quad Lutz, quad flip, and triple Axel – resulted in step outs on landing.
His last three nationals have resulted in podium finishes, but just 80.68 points for his short program means the 21-year-old will need to make up nearly eight points in the free skate to keep that run going.