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Figure Skating - 28. November 2008.

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - NHK Trophy, Day 1

The NHK Trophy in Tokyo, Japan kicked off Friday with the Compulsory and Original Dance, the Ladies and Pairs Short Programs. The NHK Trophy is the sixth and last event in the series and provides the last opportunity for skaters to qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in December in Goyang City, Korea. The skaters compete for a global prize money of US $ 180, 000 per individual event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and receive points according to their placements. The NHK Trophy celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Ice Dancing, Compulsory & Original Dance
The Ice Dancers opened today’s competition with the Compulsory Dance and returned later in the evening for the Original Dance. The Compulsory Dance for the NHK Trophy is the Paso Doble. The Paso Doble is a dramatic and powerful Spanish dance requiring good body control and precise footwork. It can be expressed in terms of its origins from the music of bull fighting or in Flamenco style. The Paso Doble was created by Reginald B. Wilkie and Daphne B. Wallis. It was first performed in London in 1938. The Original Dance for this season is “Rhythms of the 20s, 30s and 40s”.

After the two segments, Italy’s Federica Faiella/Massimo Scali are leading ahead of Nathalie Péchalat/Fabian Bourzat of France and Kristina Gorshkova/Vitali Butikov (RUS).

Faiella/Scali captured the lead in the Compulsory Dance with a strong Paso Doble that had much attack. The Italian Champions picked up 35.61 points (17.72 element score/17.89 program component score) for this performance. They then gave an entertaining performance of their Original Dance to Tap Dance and Slow Foxtrot from the “Follow the Fleet” soundtrack. Faiella/Scali produced a level-three dance spin, side by side midline footwork and a level-four one-armed rotational lift. Then Faiella suddenly got stuck with her toepick during a transitional move and fell, but the couple recovered instantly and finished with a diagonal step sequence (level two). The Trophee Bompard silver medalists were awarded 53.78 points (27.40 element score/27.38 program component score) and were ranked second in the OD, but overall remained in first place at 89.39 points. “We performed pretty well today. The Compulsory was very good, we felt comfortable and were really in character”, Scali told the press. “We did a good job in the OD too, there was just this mistake, the toe-pick of her. It’s part of our job to keep going if a mistake never happened, you have to keep your energy and give even more energy for the rest of the program”, he continued when asked about recovering from the fall.
Péchalat/Bourzat chose the Flamenco style for their Paso Doble and also skated very well to earn 33.20 points (16.80/16.40). They picked a Lindy Hop from the movie “Hellzapoppin” for their OD and put out a charming interpretation of the dance, completing a curve lift with changes of position, a level-three circular step sequence and a dance spin that was graded a level four. The side by side step sequence on the other hand got only a level two. The French scored 54.27 points (28.30/25.97), which was a new seasons-best and were ranked first in the Original Dance. In the combined result the couple is sitting in second place at 87.47 points. “It was a bit tiring to skate both Compulsory and Original Dance on one day, but it went well for us. We don’t like the compulsory dance so much, but we are happy with the way we skated, although for sure we can improve on this performance”, Péchalat said. “As for the Original Dance, we skated very well and I am especially proud and happy with it because this dance didn’t go well at Skate Canada. I’m feeling much better now”, she added, referring to the fact that she fell during the side by side midline steps in Ottawa.
Gorshkova/Butikov came in fourth in the Compulsory dance with a solid Paso Doble and pulled up to third with an Original Dance set to Charleston and Swing that included two level-three step sequences, a level four rotational lift and fast twizzles. They collected 51.80 points (28.40/23.40) for the OD, which was a seasons-best for them.

Emily Samuelson/Evan Bates (USA) are very close to the podium with 83.10 points. The reigning World Junior Champions finished third in the Compulsory Dance, but Samuelson stumbled on a twizzle in the side by side footwork and the Americans slipped to fourth. Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) are standing in fifth place (79.41 points).

Pairs, Short Program
Qing Pang/Jian Tong of China took the Pairs Short Program ahead of Rena Inoue/John Baldwin (USA) and Canada’s Jessica Dubé/Bryce Davison.

Pang/Tong had to overcome a shaky start when she missed the planned triple toe, doubling it and falling. The 2006 World Champions recovered quickly to complete a high triple twist, a throw triple loop and a difficult lift in their program to “Still got the Blues for You” by Gary Moore. Pang/Tong were awarded a level four for the spins and the death spiral. The reigning Four Continents Champions received a new seasons-best score of 63.10 points (34.94 element score/29.16 program component score). “We had some problems with the toeloop and I fell, although we felt confident after our practice”, Pang said. “We didn’t really perform at our best level”, Tong admitted. “Compared to the Cup of China we did some things better here but we still had mistakes. We hope to skate much better tomorrow in the free skating.”
Performing to “Song from a Secret Garden”, Inoue/Baldwin produced a double twist, a throw triple loop, a level-four spiral sequence and side by side spin, but he doubled the side by side triple toeloop. The 2006 Four Continents Champions scored 57.60 points (31.12/26.48), which is a new seasons-best for them. “We’ve been practicing this program a lot since Skate America. Today was all about putting out the best performance we can do”, Inoue comented.
Dubé/Davison struggled with the solo jump as well when she fell on the side by side triple Salchow in their routine to “Fix” by Coldplay. The triple twist was messy and she also two-footed the throw triple loop. The reigning World bronze medalists showed a difficult hand-to-hip lift and received a level four for their pair combination spin and the death spiral to earn 55.24 points (29.40/26.84). “We are not very happy with our performance. We did a couple of mistakes and we know that we can do better than that. Hopefully we’ll skate better tomorrow”, Dubé told the post-event press conference.

Stacey Kemp/David King (GBR) came in fourth. They landed a double twist, throw triple loop and had level fours for their death spiral, pair spin and the lift (49.36 points). Monica Pisotta/Michael Stewart (CAN) are ranked fifth (47.78 points).

Ladies, Short Program
Mao Asada of Japan delighted the home crowd with her win in the Short Program ahead of Ashley Wagner (USA) and Finnish Champion Laura Lepistö.
Asada opened her lyrical performance to “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy with a triple flip-triple loop combination. However, the second jumps was underrotated and downgraded. Asada continued with a triple Lutz, and two level-four spins as well as a double Axel, but she wobbled on the spiral sequence that got only a level one. The World Champion posted a new seasons-best of 64.64 points (34.40 element score/30.24 program component score). “I was able to focus on practicing my jumps and I felt I would be able to do them the way I did before”, Asada commented. “I found out that my combination jump was downgraded after I skated, but I’m still happy that I did it. Tomorrow in the free skating I will give it more energy”, she added.
Wagner’s routine set to “Somewhere in Time” featured a triple flip-double loop combination, a triple Lutz and a double Axel. The American was awarded a level four for all three spins and the spiral sequence and a level three for the straight line footwork to score a new personal best with 61.52 points (35.60/25.92). “I am extremely pleased with my short program. I went out there, I felt confident and it was much better than at the Cup of China”, Wagner said.
Lepistö landed a triple toe-double toe combination, a triple loop, a double Axel and received a level four for two spins, but only a level two for her shaky spiral sequence. The current European bronze medalist had 59.14 points (32.50/26.64), which was a seasons-best for her. “I am not very satisfied with my performance”, admitted Lepistö. “The biggest error was in my triple-triple combination. The landing of the first triple toe was pretty bad and I couldn’t pull in the second triple toe. I was disappointed about that. Otherwise it was good, except for my shaky spiral.”

Akiko Suzuki (JPN) finished fourth. She executed a triple Lutz-double toe combination but singled the flip (55.56 points). Yukari Nakano (JPN) is standing in fifth place after doubling her flip (in combination with double toeloop) and cheating the Lutz that was downgraded (54.82 points).
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