Wagner, Machida going for figure skating gold in Bordeaux

Bordeaux (AFP) - American Ashley Wagner will bid for a third straight women's title at the Trophee Eric Bompard and Japan's Tatsuki Machida his first men's as the race for the final spots in next month's ISU Grand Prix final heats up on the ice in Bordeaux starting Friday.

Wagner, 23, won the French title in 2012 and 2013 on the ice of Paris-Bercy, with the event taking place this year in the western city of Bordeaux because of renovations at the Paris venue.

The American would not only become the first woman to achieve the feat in 13 years, but it would also give her a spot in the Grand Prix final after her runners-up medal in Skate Canada.

For Machida, 24, it will his first time skating on the ice in France, and like Wagner he has the chance to book his spot in the Barcelona Grand Prix final after his gold at Skate America.

Olympic team bronze medallist Wagner's leading challengers in the fifth of the six-leg series should be Russian teenagers Elena Radionova, 15, and 16-year-old Julia Lipnitskaya.

Both are also in the running for the Grand Prix final with two-time world junior champion Radionova winning Skate America and Lipnitskaia taking silver at the Cup of China.

"I just couldn't understand what happened to me at the Cup of China," said Lipnitskaya. "I couldn't show anything there. It was my career's worst skating, but I'm completely confident I can do better."

Machida will be the favourite in the men's event after the world silver medallist's successful defence of his title at the season-opening Skate America.

Kazakhstan's Denis Ten will need to battle as he did for men's bronze at the Sochi Olympics after finishing just fourth in Skate America, with Russia's Maxim Kovtun, 19, a challenger after his first gold at the Cup of China.

"Though I won at Shanghai it was extremely hard to skate my free programme there," said the Russian.

"But it was my first routine in front of the public this season. I hope I've learnt from this and will perform better in the future."

America's Richard Dornbush, 23, could also qualify after finishing third in the Cup of China, while French hopes lie with Florent Amodio, sixth in Skate Canada.

In pairs, Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who won gold in the Sochi Olympics team event, will be looking for their second win in a week after the Cup of Russia.

Wang Xuehan and Wang Lei are coming off a third place at the Cup of China at home, while compatriots Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were silver medallists in Skate Canada.

In ice dance, France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron will be looking to continue their golden season after winning their first Grand Prix at the Cup of China.

Competition begins Friday and concludes on Saturday at the Meriadeck Ice Rink.

After Bordeaux, the Grand Prix series concludes next week with the NHK Trophy at Osaka, with the top six skaters in each of the four disciplines qualifying for the Grand Prix Final at Barcelona from December 11-14.

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