2007 Skate America
By Lynn Rutherford
The familiar strains of "Swan Lake" filled Reading’s Sovereign Arena, but Daisuke Takahashi’s movements owed more to TV’s "So You Think You Can Dance" than the Kirov.
The 21 year-old Japanese champion traveled from his U.S. training base in Hackensack to nearby Manhattan this summer for two months’ worth of lessons in the art of "hip hop," the frenetic dance style very popular in his native country.
"(The lessons) were very, very hard, and I got very tired," he said. "But the crowd was happy with (the program) and I am happy too."
Takahashi, the final skater of the men’s short program event, roused spectators at the end of what had been a mediocre evening of skating. He opened with his three jumping elements: a strong triple flip-triple toe loop combination; a triple Axel landed slightly forward; and a solid triple Lutz.
But the jumps were secondary. This program is all about blazing footwork sequences, replete with angular, fast-changing upper body movements to complement the required brackets, counters and turns. (His circular steps rated Level 3; his straight-line sequence only Level 1.) Takahashi’s spins were done in low positions, with his arms and hands unusually cranked. The skater maintained his speed throughout, although his flying sit spin was a bit low and slow.
"The music was made especially for him," Nikolai Morozov, Takahashi’s coach and choreographer, said. "I wanted to do something a bit more exciting than usual."
"The (performance) was good, but my jumps and spins were bad, so I know I can do better," the modest Takahashi added. He earned 80.04 points, far outdistancing the field.
Wearing his trademark black (including gloves), U.S. champ Evan Lysacek performed a dramatic short choreographed by Lori Nichol to music from the "Zorro" soundtracks.
The 22 year-old, who trains in El Segunda, California under Frank Carroll, fell on his opening quad toe loop combination. Making matters worse, his toe was downgraded to a triple; in all, Lysacek lost about 12 points by trying, and failing, the element.
His remaining jumps, a triple Axel and triple Lutz, were clean, and he used his superb musicality to good advantage in the step sequences, which each featured a fast set of twizzles.
"What can I say? Quads are hard," Lysacek said. "I’m proud I went for it. I’m trying to improve the quality and technical difficulty of my skating. I thought the rest of the elements were solid, and I was happy with the performance (quality)."
"If you don’t want to try the tough stuff, then you should get out of the business," added Carroll. "Evan can do beautiful triple flip, triple toe loop combinations in his sleep, yet he’s fallen on them as well. He does the quad-triple very well. If you’re going to make a mistake you might as well make it on the hardest element."
Canadian Patrick Chan continued his newfound mastery of the triple Axel in his short to a medley from Asian composer Tan Dun, but faltered on his usually reliable triple flip-triple toe combo, putting his hands down on the flip and reducing the toe to a double.
"The only thing I can think of is that I was so anxious to land the Axel, I took my eye off the ball a little and relaxed too much," said the 16 year-old, who splits his training time between Don Laws in Florida and Ellen Burka at Toronto’s Granite Club.
Chan showed off a more mature style in his creative step sequences, and his spins were fast and well-centered, although his jump into the death drop was a bit weak. He took third place with 67.47 points (TES 36.12 + PCS 31.35).
"It’s exciting to be in medal position, but it’s only the short program," he said. "I can’t get ahead of myself. I was in first place (after the short) at junior Worlds this year, and l ended up second."
Alban Preaubert of France won over the crowd with his humorous, yet sophisticated, take on music from "The Addams Family," choreographed by the ubiquitous Morozov.
Preaubert opened with a solid triple flip, triple toe combination that earned a GOE of +.6. He followed with a triple Axel, and then turned right up into a flying sit spin. He had an awkward landing on his triple Lutz, resulting in a -.2 GOE from the judges, but his back-to-back footwork sequences were excellent and carried the flavor of the music. His energy flagged in his final move, a messy combination spin that gained only Level 2.
The Frenchman, who trains in Paris with Annick Dumont, earned 67.05 points (TES 34.80 + PCS 32.25) for fourth place.
Skating to music from "The Truman Show," Andrei Lutai showed off sinuous movements and emphatic arm gestures reminiscent of 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko, no surprise since Lutai coached by Plushenko’s long-time mentor Alexei Mishin and Mishin’s wife Tatiana.
The Russian silver medalist opened with an impressive triple Axel (+.80 GOE). He landed his quad toe very low, but was able to hang on and add a double toe, earning 9.90 points (-.4 GOE). His circular steps were ragged and incomplete, but his spins – especially a Level 4 combination spin – were well-executed and attractive.
Lutai earned 66.91 points (TES 37.16 + 29.75 PCS) for fifth place; his components score appeared a bit conservative.
2007 World junior champion Stephen Carriere made his senior Grand Prix debut skating to an atmospheric guitar version of Led Zeppelin’s classic "Stairway to Heaven" that began softly, but built in excitement.
The skater, who trains under Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson at the Skating Club of Boston, opened with attractive circular steps that gained only Level 1. His triple Axel was a bit shaky (-1 GOE), and he reduced an intended triple-triple combo to a triple flip, double toe.
The program picked up steam from that point, with a fine Level 4 change sitspin combination, a solid triple Lutz, and a high, powerful flying sit spin. His closing combination spin gained speed throughout its positions and earned extra applause from the crowd.
Carriere is sixth with 66.85 points (TES 34.30 + 32.55).
Canadian Kevin Reynolds, who placed fifth at the 2007 World juniors, opened his tango short with a two-footed quad Salchow, triple toe combination, earning 12.10 points, but fell on triple Axel. (Reynolds is one of the few skaters who can do both quad toe and quad Salchow, a feat he accomplished at this summer’s Golden West competition in California.)
The 17 year-old from Vancouver, who trains under Joanne McLeod, showed fine tango character in his footwork sequences, although they both gained only Level 1 from the callers. His triple Lutz was clean but rather small and low (GOE -.8).
"I worked with (ice dancers) Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe to help with the steps, and to try to find the tango (carriage)," Reynolds, who earned 59.25 points for seventh place, said.
A slimmed-down Ryan Bradley turned his usual charisma down a few notches with a somber take on music from "The Godfather," opening with a disappointing triple toe, triple toe combination (he had intended a quad) followed by a double Axel. The lackluster effort earned 58.69 points for eighth place.
Skating to Beethoven’s "Moonlight Sonata," Japanese bronze medalist Yasuharu Nanri began with a lovely triple Axel, but his next jump element – an intended triple flip, triple toe combo -- was downgraded to a triple, double. His Level 3 combination spin was fast and well-centered, but his change sit spin combination was off center and reduced to a Level 1.
Like Takahashi, Nanri’s step sequences were fast and exciting, although they were not as difficult as his countryman’s. Nanri is ninth with 57.84 points.
Takahiko Kozuka, who placed sixth at Japanese Nationals last season, had a shaky start to his "Caravan" short, faltering slightly on the landing of a triple Lutz before turning and tacking on a double toe. He recovered with a fine triple Axel, but fell on his next jump, a triple flip. On the plus side, he skated with good speed, and his closing combination spin drew cheers for its’ blurred scratch. He took tenth place with 56.25 points.
Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden, who wowed the crowd with a fine free skate at the ’07 Worlds in Tokyo, had technical problems with his charming short to a medley of music from "Amelie" and "The Triplets of Belleville," choreographed by Gothenberg-based dancer Zerjon Abebe.
Impersonating a puppet clad in red suspenders and cravat, with a black glove on one hand (the puppeteer), Berntsson remained in character throughout the program but botched his triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo (the Lutz was downgraded, and he had a GOE of -3) and fell on his triple flip. Nevertheless, the program shows good promise and should progress as the season goes along. Berntsson, who is recovering from a hip flexor injury, sits in 11th place with 54.15 points.
Long blonde locks flying, Italy’s Karel Zelenka interpreted E. Louis’ often-used "Blues for Klook" well but fell short with his jumping elements, perhaps due to a nagging ankle injury that kept him off the ice for most of September. He is 12th with 46.14 points.
For the second consecutive Skate America, Evan Lysacek won a battle but lost a title.
Last season, the 22 year-old U.S. champion defeated Nobunari Oda in the free skate, but fell just short of the title. This time around, it was Daisuke Takahashi who built a 12.34-point lead in the short program to relegate Lysacek to silver, his third consecutive second-place finish at this event.
"I was coming in to today with a large deficit, so I think I wasn’t really looking at the win per se," Lysacek said. "I just wanted to fight through the competition and make the event a success overall, which I think it was."
Skating to Puccini’s "Tosca," Lysacek did come out fighting, opening with a two-footed quad toe (-1 GOE), a jump he fell on in the short. He followed with a solid triple Axel; a triple loop; and a triple Salchow out of a lunge transition.
Unlike some of the other top competitors, Lysacek was able to hold enough rotations to gain Level 4’s on three of his four spins. Four of his jumping elements were after the halfway point, earning bonus points. His circular steps were done in the sensitive, slower section of the music, although the element was only graded Level 1.
The skater cut loose with his trademark dramatic straight-line steps, which made full use of his height (6’1"). He finished with a flying sit spin to a standing ovation.
"We were trying to establish a connection and a mutual respect between the audience and the judges and the skater, so I think that’s what I was kind of going for tonight," he said.
Lysacek’s winning free skate scored 152.38 points (TES 78.58 + PCS 73.80), and his second-place total was 220.08.
Takahashi’s free to Tchaikovski’s "Romeo and Juliet" was also dynamic; with the new, broadcast-friendly rule of skaters competing in their standing order, it gave fans an effective one-two punch.
The Japanese champion, who won the World silver medal in Tokyo last season, opened with a clean, fast quad toe (with a +1.4 GOE, it was worth 10.40 points) but fell on his next jump, a triple Axel. He recovered with a fine triple loop, and hit attractive positions in a combination spin that began in a low sit spin and ended upright. His circular steps were laden with twists and turns (+1 GOE), and they led into a triple Axel-double toe combination.
Takahashi did five jump elements in succession, all past the halfway mark. He fell on one of them, a triple Lutz, but executed his straight-line steps with his usual energy and flair. His closing combination spin gained only Level 1, due to too-few rotations.
The program earned 148.93 points (TES 74.83 +PCS 76.10), and he took gold with 228.97 total.
"I am happy with the result, but I’m not happy with the way I skated," Takahashi said. "I fell twice and my spins were not good and the (circular) steps were not good for me. I think I need more practice."
Patrick Chan, the 16 year-old Canadian who placed second to Stephen Carriere at the ’07 World juniors, won the bronze medal with an impressive free skate to excerpts of Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons."
After opening with a triple Axel – which he has been landing consistently since this summer’s Liberty Competition – Chan hit a lovely triple flip-triple toe combo (+1.6 GOE), followed by a superb triple Lutz (+.8 GOE) and unusually powerful flying sit change sit spin.
Like the other medalists, Chan added valuable bonus points to his score by putting five of his jump elements in the second half of the program; his only major mistake was a fall on his final jump, a triple flip. The teenager showed off a matured, uncluttered style, interpreting the music well in his step sequences and maintaining speed throughout. The various positions in his closing combination spin were not held long enough, dropping the element to a Level 1.
Chan received 145.86 points (TES 76.36 + PCS 70.50) and 213.33 overall. Although the ISU no longer announces personal best scores – preferring to acknowledge season best scores – the total far outstripped Chan’s prior mark of 184.55.
"This was my first Skate America and first Grand Prix of the year, and I wanted to be ready," Chan said. "I saw (Skate America) on TV last year and some of the guys looked shaky. We didn’t want that, so we trained the programs hard and I felt confident going in to them.
"I was a little nervous about the Axel; since I landed it in the short, I thought it would be misleading to miss it in the long. I thought the (program) was excellent, minus the fall on the flip. Our emphasis on music paid off; now we have to work on the little mistakes."
Rising U.S. star Stephen Carriere, winner of the ’07 World junior title, performed a stylish, sophisticated program to the bluesy "Hollywood Nocturne." Technically, it was a mixed bag; the 18 year-old Boston College freshman hit his opening triple Axel and a unique triple toe-double toe-double toe combo with one, then two, hands overhead, but popped an intended triple Lutz to a single and botched his second Lutz attempt.
Carriere ended strong with a solid triple loop and triple Salchow, and a fast, well-centered combination spin (Level 3). He was fourth in the free with 129.48 points (TES 65.38 + PCS 64.10) and fourth overall with 196.33.
Alban Preaubert’s interpretation of "Dracula," created by Nikolai Morozov, had some of the most complex and interesting choreography and transitions of the event. Unfortunately, the personable Frenchman failed to deliver on some of his jumps – an intended opening quad toe turned into a double -- and poor execution downgraded the levels of his spins and steps. Even when landed, his jumps were a bit wild, somewhat reminiscent of those of two-time Olympic bronze medalist Phillippe Candeloro.
Preaubert was fourth in the free with 127.35 points (TES 61.65 + PCS 65.70) and fifth overall with 194.40.
Performing to a Charlie Chaplin medley, U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley opened with a quad toe, but two-footed the landing. He planned back-to-back triple Axel elements, but landed his first Axel poorly and could not complete a combination, and doubled his next Axel. An improvised triple Salchow-triple toe combination was strong, as was a triple loop, but the remaining elements in the second half of his program were disappointing.
The program, choreographed by Braden Overett, was likely intended to be gently humorous and endearing, but needs more energy and attention to detail. Bradley placed sixth in the free with 122.97 points, and sixth overall with 181.66.
Also skating to "Tosca," Russia’s Andrei Lutai opened his free with a solid triple Axel, but turned an intended quad combo into a triple toe-triple toe. This proved costly; a fine triple Lutz-triple toe done later in the program did not count, because a skater cannot do three of the same triples in a program.
The Russian’s main challenge was lack of choreography; he skated from jump to jump, adding spins and step sequences when needed. Overall, the program came off as uninspired, although Lutai is clearly capable of far more. He placed eighth in the free and seventh overall.
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan had a somewhat frustrating performance; his program had several sections where he showed little choreography, but he had good speed, a fine style and particularly impressive flying spins. He seems to rush his jumps, and his program was marred by a fall and several large step-outs. Kozuka was seventh in the free and ninth overall with 177.47 points.
Skating to a Brahms’ violin concerto, 17 year-old Canadian Kevin Reynolds opened with a quad Salchow-double toe (-1 GOE), but turned his next jump, an intended quad toe loop, into a double. Interestingly, one of his later jumps – a triple Lutz – was deemed by caller David Santee to have an incorrect take-off edge, and the judges assessed their heaviest penalty, a -3 GOE. Some seconds later, after a solid triple loop, Reynolds did another triple Lutz (in combination with triple toe) that was called as correct.
Jumps aside, the choreography of the program seemed to require a bit more heavy drama than the teen could muster at his first senior Grand Prix. Reynolds placed ninth in the free with 109.87 points, falling from seventh in the short to ninth overall.
Japanese bronze medalist Yasuharu Nanri had a disappointing free to "Carmen" that lacked interesting transitions and choreography between the (often flawed) jumps. He placed 12th in the free with 96.17 points and 10th overall with 153.99.
Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden captivated the Tokyo crowd with his free to the disco "Boogie Wonderland," but was unable to repeat the magic here. Although he opened with a triple Axel-double toe combo and also hit a fine triple Salchow, other jumps were downgraded, and he fell on a triple flip. Berntsson took 10th in the free and 11th overall.
Italy’s Karel Zelenka’s free to music from "The Truman Show" soundtrack undoubtedly suffered from his lack of training time, caused by an ankle injury this summer. Many triples were reduced to doubles and it was a bit sloppy and devoid of personality. He placed 11th in the free and 12th overall with 144.51 points.
2007 Skate America Men's Medalists
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