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Evgeni Plushenko Strikes Gold at Rostelcom Cup; Miki Ando Claims Ladies Title

Rostelecom Cup, the second event of the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, concluded in Moscow, Russia on Saturday evening.

Hometown boy Evgeni Plushenko skated to the top of the podium in his first amateur competition in almost four years. The 2006 Olympic champion won the short program ahead of Takahiko Kozuka of Japan and America’s Johnny Weir.

As a non-ranked ISU skater, Plushenko was first out of the gate in the short program. He opened his routine to “Concierto de Aranjuez” with a solid quadruple-triple toeloop combination followed by a triple Axel but doubled the Lutz. He collected 82.25 points.

“I am very pleased to have come back to competition after almost four years,” the three-time World champion said. “I’m happy with my quad-triple combination and with my triple Axel, but then I relaxed a little and did a double Lutz. I need to pay attention to each element.”

The last man to take the ice in the free skate, Plushenko oozed confidence as he performed to “Tango Amore” by Edvin Marton, reeling off a series of solid jumping passes in the first half of his program. The 26-year-old earned 158.40 points and racked up a total score of 240.65 points to win his first international competition in three and a half years. At the end of his performance he skated around holding up his index finger, indicating he was No. 1 as he pointed to himself.

“Today, I just had to show everything and I had to be attentive as yesterday I missed the Lutz,” Plushenko said. “Today, I took each element at a time. I actually have two quads in my program, but today I decided to do just one, because I wanted to skate a clean program for my confidence, for the audience and for the judges.”

Skating to “Bold As Love” by Jimmy Hendrix, Kozuka landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple Axel and a triple flip in his short program. The 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist scored 75.50 points.

The long was a challenge for Kozuka at times but he stuck with it. Skating to a “Guitar Concerto” by Michael Kamen, Kozuka attempted a quadruple toe loop, but under-rotated the jump and stumbled out of it. He recovered to land a triple Axel-triple toe but the second jump was downgraded and later in the program, he stepped out of a triple flip. The Japanese star earned 139.63 points and a total score of 215.13 points to take the silver medal.

Russia’s Artem Borodulin was the surprise bronze medalist in the men’s event. He delivered a solid performance to a Tango-themed program and scored a new personal best of 129.48 points and moved up from fourth after the short to third with 201.55 points.

Weir had technical difficulties in his free skate to “Fallen Angel,” missing two triple-Axel attempts and placed a disappointing fourth with 198.55 points.

THE LADIES

Julia Sebestyen of Hungary upset the favorites to win the short program followed by Alissa Czisny from the United States and Japan’s Miki Ando.

But Ando stormed ahead of the pack in the long program to take the title. America’s Ashley Wagner seized the moment and rose from fifth after the short to second followed by Russia’s Alena Leonova, who moved up from fourth to take the bronze medal.

Ando had jumping issues in both programs. She attempted a triple Lutz-triple loop combination in her short program to Mozart’s “Requiem,” but under-rotated and stumbled out of the loop. Ando also received a deduction for a cheated triple flip and scored 57.18 points.

During her free program, the 2007 World champion went down on the back end of the double Axel-triple toe loop combination and the toe loop was downgraded. Ando earned 114.75 points for her free skate and scored 171.93 overall.

“I’m very happy about my result but not so happy with my skating. I missed a jump and I didn’t have enough speed again in my long program. But I see what I have to work on for my next competition,” Ando said.

Wagner turned in a solid free skating performance to “Polovetsian Dances” by Alexander Borodin. The 2009 World junior bronze medalist scored 108.81 points and claimed the second Grand Prix medal of her career with 163.97 points, having won the bronze medal at Trophée Eric Bompard in 2007.

Leonova gave a lighthearted free skating performance to “Chicago.” The reigning World junior champion picked up 103.28 points and won the first Grand Prix medal of her career with 160.06 points overall.

All three medalists are slated to compete at NHK Trophy in Japan in two weeks.

Czisny was fourth with 158.30 ahead of Mao Asada who scored 150.28. Asada once again had major technical issues with her triple Axel attempts. Sebestyen had a disappointing free skate and placed sixth with 148.50.

THE PAIRS

China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong took the gold in the pairs event with Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov and Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker (USA) placing second and third, respectively. All three teams retained the placements they attained in the short program.

Pang and Tong’s powerful performance to “Impossible Dream” by Joe Hisaishi was in a class of its own. The program, crafted by Canadian choreographers David Wilson and Shae-Lynn Bourne scored 125.93 points. The 2009 Four Continents champions earned a combined score of 191.33 points. “Today’s performance was okay, there some errors, but this is our first competition and so we are still very pleased with what we did today,” Tong said.

Kavaguti and Smirnov earned 118.52 points for their free skate and compiled 180.14 points overall.

McLaughlin and Brubaker struggled with some technical elements and ranked fifth in the free skating with 99.21 points, but held on to third place with 160.55 points.

ICE DANCE

America’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily danced to gold in Moscow with Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte from Italy placing second ahead of Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Russia.

Performing their energetic free dance to “Phantom of the Opera,” Davis and White collected 101.02 points and a combined score of 201.10 points. The gold medal was a birthday present for White, who turned 22 on Saturday.

“I think in general we were just a little bit more confident with our program at this point. Obviously it’s still early in the season and we have a long way to go,” Davis told the press. “I think in the last couple of weeks since Oberstdorf (Nebelhorn Trophy) we’ve made some big improvements and we plan on continuing to do so.”

Cappellini and Lanotte scored 83.26 points for their free program and claimed silver with 168.57 points overall. Rubleva and Shefer earned a new seasons best score of 82.07 for their free dance and won their first Grand Prix medal with 163.32 points overall.


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