The first event of the new quadrennial produced some unexpected and surprising results. Skaters fresh out of the junior ranks claimed four of the 12 medals awarded in Nagoya, Japan.
Homeland hero Daisuke Takahashi brought the crowd to its feet with his energetic Latin-themed short program, ahead of America’s Jeremy Abbott and Canada’s Shawn Sawyer.
Takahashi tangoed to the top of the podium with an outstanding free skate that left his rivals in his wake. He captured his third NHK title in a runaway victory (234.79) over Abbott (218.19) and Frenchman Florent Amodio, whose captivating long program propelled him into third with 213.77 points.
“Last year I was fourth at NHK
Trophy, so I’m very happy to be on top of the podium,” Takahashi said.
Meanwhile, the ladies event was at the other end of the spectrum.
Italy’s Carolina Kostner claimed the title, despite having no triple flip or triple Lutz in her repertoire. She earned a combined total of 164.61 points.
Kostner later explained she was recovering from a pre-season injury to her left knee that prevented her from attempting those jumps. “I was not expecting this victory. It is very exciting,” she said.
Rachael Flatt from the U.S. won the free skating portion but placed second overall with 161.04 points.
Kanako Murakami, the reigning World junior champion, was second after the short but finished in third overall at her senior Grand Prix debut with 150.16.
It was the worst outing of Mao Asada’s career since her senior debut in 2005. The reigning World champion placed eighth in both the short and long programs, earning 85.45 points for the free skate.
China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong got off to a flying start, winning the pairs event by a margin of almost 16 points. The duo struck gold with 189.37 points over Russia’s Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, the 2007 World junior pairs champions, who landed in second with 173.83.
Third place went to the 2010 World junior silver medalists, Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, who also made their senior debut in Nagoya. The Japanese team, who live and train in Canada, scored 155.66 points.
Thi s season the International Skating Union has mandated that free dances must be upbeat, lighthearted and lively.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White were in a class of their own. Their short dance to selections from Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Verdi’s “La Traviata” gave them a commanding lead that never evaporated. “Charlie and I are really liking the transition,” Davis said of the new format.
The duo danced to gold with a score of 165.21. “We need more energy, but it is early in the season,” White said. “We know we can do better.”
Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje captured silver (141.57), earning the second Grand Prix medal of their career.
America’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani twizzled from fifth after the short into third place overall, earning 136.93 points at their first senior Grand Prix event.
Originally published in February 2011