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Shen and Zhao, Lysacek Win Gold in Lake Placid

Chinese pairs team Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao and American Evan Lysacek were golden yesterday at Skate America in Lake Placid. Meanwhile Yu-Na Kim of South Korea took a huge lead in the ladies event and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the United States strengthened their lead in ice dance.

The skaters are competing for a global pot of $180,000 (U.S.) and spots in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, slated for Tokyo in December. Lysacek pocketed $18,000 for his win while Shen and Zhao were awarded that amount (as a pair) as well. The Chinese pair and American star have earned places in the final. “I really wanted to do a good job in my home country,” Lysacek said. “I’ve been to Skate America I think five times now and I have a lot of silvers and really wanted to win gold this year.”

THE MEN

Lysacek held on to the overnight lead to claim gold but the skaters in the spots below him shuffled spots. Shawn Sawyer of Canada pulled up from fifth to claim the silver medal and Ryan Bradley (USA) vaulted from eighth to third overall to capture the bronze medal.

Lysacek compiled a season best 158.55 points (77.55 element score/81.00 program component score) and racked up a total of 237.72 points. Lysacek won his first gold at Skate America.

The reigning World champion’s program to “Sheherazade” featured a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, two triple Axels (one in combination with a double toe), a triple loop, triple flip-double toe-double loop, a triple Lutz and strong spins. His only miscue came when he stepped out of the triple Salchow.

“My goal of this season was just to take one step forward at each event,” Lysacek said. “Tonight was obviously a much better score than China. I had no technical deductions tonight, so that was an accomplishment for me."

Sawyer scored a season best 137.96 (68.86/69.10) for his free skate and a total of 203.91 points to take his first Grand Prix medal of his career. “I’m extremely proud of myself,” he said. “I put so much passion into my training and when I come to compete and it doesn’t work out, I get really mad at myself. Today, I gave a real performance, I gave a show. My jumps were not all perfect, but they are not always perfect in practice.”

Sawyer put out a playful routine to “Amadeus,” a medley of music by Mozart. He landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, three other triples and showed off his flexibility in his spins that were all graded a level four. He stumbled on a cheated triple Axel and on the back end of his double Axel-triple toe combination.

Bradley stood in eighth place after a faulty short program but made up for it with the second-best free skate of the night. The American charmed the audience with his program, also skated to a Mozart medley from "Amadeus." He hit a quadruple toe and a quadruple-double toe combination as well as four clean triples and had two level-four spins. He stumbled on a triple flip and popped a Salchow.

Bradley earned a season best 138.88 points (70.38/68.50) and jumped on to the podium with 198.12 points. “I’ve been out three times this year internationally and I’ve been training so hard and so well, but the first two times (competitions) were really disappointing for me,” he said. “Today was just about putting everything together at the right time. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m excited to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Florent Amodio (FRA) slipped from second to fourth at 197.58 points,. Bradley edged him by less than one point. Amodio hit a nice triple Axel and triple loop, but most of his other jumps were not clean.

Tomas Verner (CZE) moved up from 11th to fifth place. He fell on a quad toe loop but landed six triple jumps (194.06 points). Brandon Mroz (USA), who was ranked third in the short program, plummeted to eighth after several errors.

Lysacek pocketed 15 points and proceeds to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final with 28 points. Sawyer now has 16 points and Bradley has 11 points (he finished out of the points in Paris). Verner has 20 points from his two events and still a chance to qualify for the Final, depending on what will happen next week at Skate Canada.

THE PAIRS

Shen and Zhao of China continued their successful comeback this season by winning their second Grand Prix event this season. The husband-and-wife team collected 127.04 points (62.20 element score/65.84 program component score), and complied a competition mark of 201.40. “It wasn’t such a good performance today, because we felt tired. Some elements weren’t so good and we hope to skate better in the Grand Prix Final,” Zhao said.

Ukraine’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov took the silver medal while Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China moved up from fifth place to clinch the bronze medal.

Shen and Zhao landed side-by-side triple toe loops, a triple twist, throw triple Salchow and difficult lifts in their romantic “Adagio” routine. The couple received a level four for the spins, the spiral sequence and a level three for the rarely seen forward outside death spiral.

However, Zhao stumbled badly on the second jump in the double Axel-double Axel sequence. Shen put down her hand on the throw triple loop.

“We skated our free program better at the Cup of China. We are now looking at the protocol to see what we need to improve in our elements,” Zhao said “There is something still lacking in some elements.”

Volosozhar and Morozov earned a season best 110.12 points (56.40/54.72) and were ranked third in the free skate. Overall they remained in second place with171.82 points.

Their powerful program to “Pearl Harbor” included a big triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow as well as level-four spins. The Ukrainians also picked up a level four for their impressive one-armed lifts.

Morozov struggled with the side-by-side jumps. He stepped out of the first jump of the triple toe-triple toe sequence and the second jump didn’t receive credit. He also doubled the side-by-side Salchow.

“Today we didn’t do the first two elements,” Morozov said. “Overall it was a bit difficult to skate, but after the errors on the jumps we did all the other elements very well and were rewarded for it. We’ve fought and tried to give our best, so we are quite satisfied overall.”

Zhang and Zhang stood in fifth place after the short program. They rallied in the free skate, performing to “Sheherazade." The reigning World silver medalists scored 111.35 points (58.47/52.88) and moved up two spots with a total mark of 168.19.

“Today I’m very happy,” a smiling Hao Zhang said. “Yesterday we made errors. Today wasn’t our best either. We almost didn’t sleep last night and felt tired.”

Zhang and Zhang nailed a double Axel-triple toe loop combination and side-by-side triple Salchows. The successfully executed a high triple twist as well as a throw triple loop and Salchow.

Their only major glitch came in the side-by-side combination spin where he was off balance.

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker (USA) came in fourth at 165.37 points. They completed a triple Salchow-double toe combination, a triple twist and level-four spins, but both stepped out of the double Axel and she two-footed the throw triple Salchow and loop.

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig (USA) placed fifth. Their routine included a throw triple Lutz, a triple twist and difficult lifts and spins, but both the solo jumps were under-rotated and downgraded (148.33 points).

Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin (CAN) withdrew during the free skate as Duhamel had injured her right ankle in the warm up and then took a bad fall on the throw triple loop in the program. They stood in third place following the short program.

Shen and Zhao earned 15 points for their win and have qualified for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final with the maximum of 30 points. Volosozhar and Morozov (13 points) and Zhang/Zhang (11 points) both collected 24 points overall and will have to wait and see if they make it to the final.

THE LADIES

Kim of Korea captured the ladies short program and established a new record score en route. Rachael Flatt (USA) and Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen came in second and third.

Kim, the reigning World champion, skated last and put out another splendid performance of her cool James Bond program. She earned 76.28 points (44.00/32.28). “My short program is very special to me. It makes me enjoy the competition,” she said. “I was very nervous, because my short program in Paris (at the Trophée Bompard) was perfect and I felt the pressure. But as soon as my music started, I felt comfortable on the ice.”

She nailed an effortless triple Lutz-triple toe combination, the triple flip and a double Axel out of a spiral move. The 19-year-old was awarded a level four for two spins and the spiral sequence and a level three for the footwork and the combination spin.

“My footwork and the last spin were a little slow,” she said. “When I saw my score, I didn’t realize at first that it was a new world record score.”

Flatt risked a triple flip-triple toe loop combination right out of the gate, but fell on the second jump. The 2008 World junior champion recovered to land a triple Lutz, a double Axel and produced two level-four spins. Flatt earned a season best 58.80 points (33.40/26.40) for her performance to “Sing Sing Sing.”

“’m very happy about the fact that I did get credit for it (the triple-triple combination),” Flatt explained. “It was a little bit of a slip up. I don’t remembering falling even in training. My choreographer Lori Nichol said, ‘Just bounce if you have a mistake,’ so this is kind of something what I’ve been taking into account. I’ve been training just to forget about it (a mistake) and move on, continue with a clean program. This is kind of what I did today.”

Skating to “Song from a Secret Garden, ” Sebestyen received 58.54 points (32.10/26.44), a season best. “I was very happy at the end of my program, because it was one of my goals to skate a clean short program,” she said. “This was better than in Moscow (at Rostelecom Cup). The jumps were the same, but the spins and the footwork were better. A clean short program was the first step for me."

Fumie Suguri (JPN) finished fourth at 56.05 points. Elena Glebova (EST) is currently ranked fifth (52.28 points).

ICE DANCE

The original dance for the 2009-10 season is the folk/country dance. Belbin and Agosto built on their lead and are ranked ahead of Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski and Italians Anna Cappellin and Luca Lanotte.

Belbin and Agosto’s Moldavian dance was energetic. The routine was highlighted by a straight-line lift with changes of position, fast twizzles and smooth footwork.

The reigning World silver medalists earned a season best 60.95 points (29.90 element score/31.05 program component score). With two portions of the competition completed, they have accumulated 100.23 points.

“Today’s original dance felt really good. We really had a great time out there today,” Agosto said. “We felt like we were able to improve on our performance a little bit from China. We only had a week, but we really wanted to keep the energy up a little bit higher and to make it more of a dance.”

Khokhlova and Novitski’s Russian dance scored 49.53 points (21.90/27.63) and were ranked fifth in the OD, but held on to second place overall at 86.47 points. “Although not everything went the way we would have liked it, it still was a positive day,” Novitski said.

Cappellini and Lanotte scored 54.09 points (27.80/26.29), a season best, and were ranked second in this portion of the event. They have now 86.13 points. “We are very happy with our performance. It was very strong, very clean and the crowd was amazing,” commented Lanotte.

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski (ISR) are currently ranked fourth at 83.83 points. Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre (USA) finished fifth with an entertaining Brazilian dance (81.47 points).


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