by George Rossano
(Scheduled for Day 2)
|1||Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE||USA||69.86||1|
|2||Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI||USA||60.84||2|
|3||Elena ILINYKH / Nikita KATSALAPOV||RUS||59.96||3|
|4||Nicole ORFORD / Thomas WILLIAMS||CAN||49.76||4|
|5||Cathy REED / Chris REED||JPN||48.33||5|
|6||Penny COOMES / Nicholas BUCKLAND||GBR||46.72||6|
|7||Xintong HUANG / Xun ZHENG||CHN||45.99||7|
|8||Xiaoyang YU / Chen WANG||CHN||40.92||8|
(24 November 2012) NHK Trophy is the sixth and last event in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and, thus, provides the last opportunity for skaters to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. The competition opened Friday in Miyagi, Japan with the Short Dance, Ladies Short Program and Men's Short Programs. The Pairs Short Program will be held the second day of the competition. Miyagi prefecture is the region devastated by the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Mao Asada, JPN, took the lead in the Ladies event, winning the Ladies Short Program with a new season's best performance. Skating to Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm,“ Asada completed a double Axel, a triple flip-double loop combination, a triple loop as well as three level-four spins and level-four footwork. Her technical score was an improvement over Cup of China where she placed second in the Short Program before going on to win at that competition.
Her double Axel and jump combination were both stronger here. At Cup of China her triple flip in the combination was called under rotated. "I am very happy with my short program," she said. "Similar to my performance in China, it went very well. I think it will pave the way for another good performance tomorrow, but I want to go into the free skating with a new feeling.“ Asada's component scores also improved over Cup of China, ticking up 1.19 in PCS.
Mirai Nagasu, USA, also had a season's best performance, landing a slightly shaky triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop and double Axel in her routine to "Downhill Special“ by Benny Goodman. Two spins garnered a level 4, the third level 3 and the step sequence level 2. This was significant improvement over the start of the season at Finlandia Trophy where the second triple toe loop was downgraded. "I am very proud of myself for landing my triple toe-triple toe today. It's the first time that I've landed a triple-triple since I was 14. To 19 it is a big gap, and so is a big accomplishment for me today. This year I've been improving competition by competition and so I'd like to take this as a stepping stone for my next competition,“ she told the press after the event.
Nagasu placed over four points ahead of the other U.S. skater here, Agnes Zawadski, If her lead over Zawadski holds up it will be an important psychological boost in Nagasu's quest to make the podium at U.S. Nationals in January, and make the U.S. World Team.
Zijun Li, CHN placed third in the Short Pram with here season's best score. Her program to "Dark Eyes“ was highlighted by a solid triple toe-triple toe combination, a double Axel and two level-four spins, as well as a level-three spin and level-two footwork. "I am very happy that I was able to skate a clean short program with all my jumps and that I landed the triple-triple combination," she told the press. "Hopefully I'll be able to skate my best again in the free skating tomorrow,“ she commented.
Akiko Suzuki, JPN, who won the Free Skate at Skate Canada, had a costly error when she popped her Lutz to single, costing her nearly six point, enough to have put her in second place had she landed the triple.
Agnes Zawadzki, USA, got off to a rough start, with a slightly off triple Lutz, and then failing to complete her planned triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination, getting credit for only the first jump. She pulled herself together, however, and completed three level-four spins and a lever-three step sequence. Her components, averaging 6.82, were competitive with the rest of the field, except for Asada's.
Japanese men continue to kick butt in the Grand Prix men's division. Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN, won the Short Program, earning a personal best in the process, while his teammate Daisuke Takahashi placed second, followed by Javier Fernandez, ESP. After these three there was everybody else competing in their dust.
Performing to "Parisian Walkways,“ Hanyu landed a strong opening quad toeloop, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe loop. All three spins were called level 4 while the step sequence was level 3. He was the only man to execute two jump elements in the second half of the program. "Today I was so happy with all my jumps. I was able to perform very well in two competitions in a row and show my best,“ the 17-year-old World bronze medalist said. "I'm not used to it (setting record scores), I saw the number 95 and it still felt surreal,“ he added.
Takahashi also opened his Short Program with a quad toe, but stumbled out of it. He then recovered to land a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple Axel and level-four footwork and spins. The Japanese Champion posted a new seasons best despite a few -1 GoEs scattered throughout the program. "Technically there were some mistakes in my jumps and spins and I need to work on that more," he admitted. "But compared to the performance I showed in China, I have come back and I'm able to enjoy skating this program as well. I think it's been a confidence booster," he said. His PCS slightly surpassed Hanyu, and was the highest of the event.
Third place was taken by Fernandez who performed to "The Mask of Zorro.“ He landed quadruple toe loop, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe loop as well as two level-four spins. The third spin and the step sequence were both called level 3. His performance scored a new seasons best. "I am really happy with this performance. It was a good start and a good ending, and I fought for absolutely everything in the program. I am happy, because the work we've done in Toronto is working“, he said. Fernandez had the second highest TES of the group, but lagged in PCS which pulled him down to third.
Ross Miner, USA, placed fourth with 72.40 points. He doubled his opening Salchow, but then went on to skate a clean program. All four spins and his step sequence achieved level 4. The second U.S. man, here, Richard Dornbush, placed sixth with 70.05 points, and the third U.S. man, Adam Rippon, placed eighth with 67.89 points. Dornbush fell on his quad toe loop, and was scored with -3s on his jump combination which was a triple-single which does not meet requirements. He achieved all level-four spins and a level-three step sequence. Rippon singled his opening triple Axel and then had a slightly shaky triple filp - triple toe loop jump cobination. After that he skated cleanly achieving two level-four spins, with a level-three spin and level three step seqeuence.
Daisuke Murakami, JPN, dislocated his right shoulder in a fall and withdrew due to injury.
Thus far this event is proving the be the three-tier competition anticipated, with Meryl Davis & Charlie White, USA, set apart, then Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, USA, and Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, RUS, battling for second place, followed by the rest of the field skating somewhere in the distance.
Davis & White skated their "Giselle“ routine strongly and cleanly, but came up a little short on levels here. The couple earned a level four for their rotational lift and the twizzles, and a level three for the side by side circular footwork and the first Polka pattern. The second Polka pattern was called level two.
"We went out on the ice, talking about how we really like to use this program to make the audience feel good and it makes us feel good. It's a really enjoyable program to skate, obviously the music and choreography go so well together. It's a lot of fun. We wanted to show that and experience it ourselves. I think we really accomplished that today,“ White said. "Technically, [it's] not as strong as we like. Obviously we always want to get perfect levels across the board. So we're going to get home and work on that,“ he added.
The Shibutanis skated to a March, Waltz and Polka to South American music in their second place performance. They achieved level-four twizzles and a level-four rotational lift while the Polka sequences were called level 3 and 2, and their step sequence level 2. The 2011 World bronze medalists scored a new seasons best with 60.84 points. "We are happy with our performance at this point of the season. It felt really great out there. The crowd was so supportive. Considering that we had only one week since Cup of Russia, we've made a lot of great changes and improvements. We feel like the performance was a lot better,“ Maia told the press.
Ilinykh & Katsalapov's Uzbek "Andijan“ Polka was well skated with a level three circular step sequence, where most other couples do a straight line sequence, and a level-four rotational lift. Their twizzles were called level three, and though he wobbled a bit, they were still scored with +1 and 0 GoEs. The first pattern of the Polka was called level 3, but the second level 1. "We skated well today. I did a mistakes on the twizzles, but it doesn't matter. We had fun, we smiled during the whole program,“ Katsalapov commented. The couple was scored second in PCS and had two deductions (time and extended lift). which cost them a place. It would appear the Shibutanis will have to fight hard in the Free Dance to hold second place.