Atlantic City, "Las Vegas East", for the most part consists of a few isolated bright spots surrounded by shabby decaying neighborhoods; and that is a pretty good analogy for the level of competition here. A few bright spots in a sea of mediocrity. The site of the competition is Boardwalk Hall, which overlooks the ocean and was once the site of the Miss America Pageant. Built in 1929, the facility was renovated in 1978, when the current seating and ice surface were installed.
The Ladies event here is the weakest of the four, with no one from the top six (in the world) competing here. In the Men's event we have here the number four and five man, and in Pairs the number three and six pairs. Dance is the strongest event, with Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto (USA) going against Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder (FRA).
In the Men's Short Program, Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) was the surprise leader despite a fall on triple Axel. He was helped by strong Program Component marks, and level 1 elements skated by Kevin van der Perren and Evan Lysacek. In Pairs, Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (CHN) opened up a substantial 4.9 point lead over Marcy Hinzmann & Aaron Parchem (USA). Julia Oberta & Sergei Slavnov (RUS) began the season with a mediocre performance skated to a screeching soprano. It was hard to decide which was the more painful, watching the program or listening to it.
Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto and Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder ended the Compulsory Dance essentially tied, with 0.3 points between them. The next closest team was 4 points back.
In the Original Dance Belbin & Agosto opened up a small lead over Delobel & Schoenfelder. The rest of the pack is well back with Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin (RUS) looking secure for the bronze medal. Elena Sokalova (RUS) was radiant as she won the Ladies Short Program, with a clean program with all level 3 and 4 elements. Alissa Czisny (USA) scored best of the Americans and is currently in third place.
In the Men's Free Skating, Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) overwhelmed his competition with a decisive victory. He scored 22 points ahead of Brian Joubert (FRA), and won the event with a 25 point margin of victory. He was the only man here who looked ready for the new season.
The Dance, Ladies and Pairs events ended today with the skating of the long programs. Belbin & Agosto increased their margin of victory over Delobel & Schoenfelder in a strong Free Skating performance. In the Ladies event Alissa Czisny (USA) blew away her competition to win the Free Skate, but Elena Sokalova skated well enough to hold on for the overall victory.
In the pairs event, Zhang & Zhang gave another strong performance, setting themselves apart from all the other teams, and showing they will be in the thick of things for Olympic medals this season. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin (USA) move up a place to win the silver, while Marcy Hinzmann & Aaron Parchem (USA) faded in the long to end up fifth overall.
Today is the best day of the competition; first we have the exhibition this afternoon, and then we get to leave. The competition itself was generally well run and came off smoothly, but after three days of running the gauntlet of tacky tourist shops, nudie bars, tattoo parlors and other unseemly sources of sin and crime around the arena -- not to mention the theft of equipment in the arena -- it will be a joy to beat feet out of town. Atlantic City earns the number two spot on the list of locales one would better have not visited, where it not for the skating! Viva, Las Vegas!
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