Mao Asada of Japan and Jeremy Abbott of the United States rose to the occasion at ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Saturday. Each skater claimed a gold medal at the prestigious competition being held in Goyang City in the Republic of Korea.
Asada, who last won the Grand Prix Final title in 2005, pulled out the big moves to claim the title: She hit two triple Axels in the first half of her long program. She is the only woman to successfully land two triple Axels during a competitive free skate.
In the end, her technical prowess helped push her past the elegant Kim Yu-Na of South Korea who had to settle for silver. Italy's Carolina Kostner, the reigning World silver medalist, took home the bronze.
Asada compiled 188.55 points to win the title by 2.2 points over Kim. Kostner scored 168.01 points overall.
Asada nailed a triple Axel-double toe combination, a second triple Axel, a triple flip-double loop-double loop, a triple Salchow, a triple toe loop and a double Axel. She fell while attempting a triple flip.
"I am happy that I could land two triple Axels in my program and that I was able to win here in Korea. It is really special," Asada said.
Kim, who had owned the last two Grand Prix Final titles, skated well. She landed a triple flip-triple loop combination but later fell while attempting a triple Salchow. "It was wonderful to skate at home. I am a little disappointed about my mistakes, but it's OK," she said. "I will do better next time."
Kostner landed four clean triples but crashed on the loop. The Italian star scored 112.13 points (55.45/57.68) and moved up from fourth after the short program to third place overall.
In the men's event, overnight leader Japan's Takahiko Kozuka of Japan slipped one spot to second place while Johnny Weir moved up one spot to claim bronze. Brian Joubert withdrew from the event with a back injury.
Abbott earned 237.72 points, while Kozuka compiled 224.63. Weir scored 215.50 points overall. "I wanted to come in here and do my best. I certainly know any given day there is a chance of winning, but I did not think it was going to happen," Abbott said. "There are so many amazing skaters and to be on the top of that list is such an amazing feeling.”
Abbott landed three combinations: a triple Axel-double toe, triple Lutz-triple toe-double loop, and double Axel-double toe combinations and five other triples. "I was so nervous, so to be able to control my nerves and to focus through that and put out the performance that I did was definitely most satisfying," Abbott said.
Overnight leader Kozuka went for a quadruple toe loop in his program to “Romeo and Juliet” by Nino Rota, but he two-footed and underrotated the jump. He hit six triples including a triple Axel-triple toe and earned a level four for all three spins. He looked tired at the end of the program and and fell on an attempted triple loop and triple Axel. Kozuka scored 140.73 points (69.43/73.30) and slipped to second place.
Performing to “Notre Dame de Paris,” Weir pulled off six triples including two triple Axels and showed difficult spins and steps. His only error was a double loop. Weir was ranked second in the free skating with 143.00 points (71.30/71.70).
In the ice dancing competition, World champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder claimed gold in a field weakened by two withdrawals: American pair Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto due to injury, and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia due to illness. Delobel also was sick with a stomach ailment.
Delobel and Schoenfelder put out a flowing performance of their dance to “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd that featured beautiful lifts and intricate step sequences. The lifts were all graded a level four by the as was the circular step sequence.
The reigning World champions posted a new seasons best with 95.75 points (47.00/48.75) and racked up a total of 156.10 points to take home the gold. “We are definitely very pleased, especially since I have been sick the whole day. ... I was sick this morning and during practice. Nevertheless we gave a strong performance,” Delobel said.
Schoenfelder added, “I think it was overall better than the previous performances. True, we could have put in more energy under different circumstances, but we really were focusing on the elements. Bravo to Isabelle for making it through, many others would have withdrawn from the competition. It’s a great joy for us to win this fnal for the first time.”
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia took the silver while Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States won the bronze in their first Grand Prix finals.
Domnina and Shabalin’s dramatic “Spartacus” program was highlighted by a level-four circular step sequence, a straight line-rotational lift, a curve lift and a rotational lift. The 2008 European champions picked up a seasons best of 93.62 points (46.30/47.32) and remained in second place at 152.95 points.
Davis and White, who stood in fifth place following the original dance, turned in a lyrical dance to the aria “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” and “Bacchanale” from “Samson and Dalilah.” The earned a level four for seven out of the eight elements, only the midline step sequence was a level three. Davis and White scored 92.15 points (47.70/44.45) and moved up to third with 148.04 points to take the bronze in what was the first senior Grand Prix Final of their career.
Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China rallied to win the pairs title Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao silver. World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany finished third.
“This comes a little surprise to us. We are very happy to have won tonight. We didn’t have so good results last year and this is a good comeback for us. We feel strong again. This is the first time for us to win the Grand Prix Final, we medalled before, but we never won. So this is the second best result for us after winning Worlds,” Tong said.
Pang and Tong gave a strong performance of their Tango routine that featured a side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence, a triple toeloop, a throw triple loop and Salchow as well as a triple twist. The 2006 World champions were awarded a level four for two lifts, their spins and the death spiral.
They received a season best of 125.25 points (64.93/60.32) and accumulated 191.49 points to win the first gold medal in what was their fifth appearance in the ISU Grand Prix Final.
Zhang and Zhang hit a double Axel-triple toeloop combination, a throw triple Salchow and triple twist but then Dan Zhang went down on the throw triple loop. She recovered instants later to land side-by-side triple Salchow. The reigning World silver medallists earned a level four for their lifts, spirals and spins and scored 119.88 points (62.16/58.72), which was a new seasons best for them. They had 188.22 points overall and remained in second place.
Savchenko and Szolkowy, the overnight leaders, struggled in their routine to “Schindler’s List” and “Adagio.” Savchenko doubled the second jump in the planned triple toe-triple toe sequence, stumbled on the triple Salchow (downgraded) and fell on the throw triple flip. The reigning World champions saved points thanks to a triple twist, their spins, and spirals and lifts that were all graded a level four. The Germans earned 114.95 points (55.35/61.60) and slipped to third at 185.09 points total.
In the junior ladies event, American Becky Bereswill pulled off a major victory by coming in second in the free skate to climb from fourth place to first overall. She scored a personal best 146.69 points.
Japana's Yukiko Fujisawa's won the free skate and rallied for a seventh-place ranking in the short program to claim the silver. Overnight leader Alexe Gilles of the USA placed fourth in the free skate and took home the bronze with an overall mark of 144.49.
Bereswill delivered a solid free skate to “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini. She landed an array of jumps: a triple Lutz, triple loop-double loop, a triple flip-double toe-double loop combination as well as a double Axel-triple toe and another triple toe late into the program. She also completed two level-four spins. Her only error came when she popped a second loop. The 18-year-old picked up 98.01 points (51.85/46.16), which was a significant improvement over her previous personal best of 83.24 points for the program and collected 146.69 points overall.
“I was very excited for the free skate. My goal was just really to perform the music and the story. I just went with that feeling and took everything just one step at a time and I just really enjoyed my time out there,” Bereswill said. “I landed my hard combination, the double Axel-triple toe so I was really happy about that. So far it was a personal best score for me.”
Fujisawa, 13, landed six triple jumps including two triple Lutzes and earned a level four for all three spins in her routine to “Cinderella”. She scored a personal best of 101.44 points (57.44/44.00) for her program
Gilles completed four triples but popped a Lutz and underrotated a triple Salchow that was downgraded. She earned 90.25 points (44.17/46.08) for the program and slipped to third place overall.
Junior Ice Dance
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein and Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell (USA) finished 1-2, respectively. Ekaterina Riazanova and John Guerreiro of Russia earned the bronze medal.
Chock and Zuerlein gave a strong performance to “Phantom of the Opera.” They executed difficult lifts and footwork, earning a level four for the diagonal steps and two lifts.
The couple was awarded 79.31 points (40.00 element score/39.31program component score) and won with 131.15 points overall.
“It’s absolutely incredible. I don’t think words can describe it,”,Chock said about winning the title. “It just has been such a great experience this year and last year was amazing.”
Their next competition is the U.S. Championships. “We are just going to go back and train really hard. We’ve had a few levels that were low, and were going to fix that. We want to do well at Nationals and then definitely after that hopefully at Junior Worlds,” Zuerlein said.
Hubbell and Hubbell celebrated a comeback after his fall in the original dance the day before yesterday and pulled up from sixth to second. The brother-and-sister team danced to the romantic song “Sognami” by Alessandro Safina and produced smooth footwork and three level-four lifts to score 76.70 points (39.20/37.50). Overall they accumulated 124.68 points.
Riazanova and Guerreiro had chosen a dynamic James Bond medley for their free dance and showed fast twizzles and a level-three serpentine step sequence. They scores of 73.45 points (38.30/36.15) and a total of 124.30 points.