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Kim and Kozuka in the Lead at GPF

First Medals Awarded at Junior Competition

Much to the delight of the crowd in the sold-out Goyang Ice Arena, Yu-Na Kim of the Republic of Korea won the ladies short at the ISU Grand Prix Final ahead of Japan’s Mao Asada and Yukari Nakano. The competition is being held in Goyang City, in the Republic of Korea.

In the men's event, two newcomers to the final skated to a 1-2 finish in the short program. Takahiko Kozuka of Japan grabbed the men’s short program ahead of Jeremy Abbott (USA) and France’s Brian Joubert. In ice dance, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France took the lead after the original dance.

Meanwhile, the first medals of the competition were awarded at the competition, in the junior men's event and junior pairs.

In the junior men's event, Florent Amodio of France skated to victory. Armin Mahbanoozadeh and Richard Dornbush of the USA finished second and third, respectively.

In pairs, Liubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia claimed the gold. China’s Yue Zhang and Lei Wang earned the silver while Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternykh (RUS) settled for the bronze.

Ladies Short

Kim’s powerful performance to “Danse Macabre” featured a solid triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a double Axel and beautiful spins that were graded a level four by the Technical Panel. However, the two-time World bronze medalist singled the triple Lutz. Kim collected 65.94 points (35.50/30.44).

“I didn’t think that I would be nervous, but in fact I was. The timing on the Lutz wasn’t so great. But the other things, the combination, the spins, the spirals were very strong and I was satisfied with that. Everything else except for the Lutz was very strong and that’s why I got this result,” the 18-year-old explained.

Asada went for a triple flip-triple loop combination in her lyrical routine to “Clair de Lune,” but the second jump was underrotated. The reigning World champion went on to hit a triple Lutz, double Axel and produced excellent spins as well, earning a level four for the flying sit and the combination spin. Asada scored 65.38 points (35.70/29.68) and was edged out by less then one point by Kim.

Nakano skated to “The Gadfly” by Dmitri Shostakovitch and landed a triple flip-double toeloop, a triple Lutz and a double Axel. The Japanese as well showed strong spins and had a level four for the combination and the flying camel spin. Nakano received 62.08 points (34.20/27.88).

Caroline Kostner was fourth in the short program.

Senior Men's Short Program

Kozuka established a personal best with 83.90 points (47.00/36.90). “Before I started skating my legs were shaking and I was really nervous and felt little bit anxious. But I finally did my performance and I felt much better with each successful jump and I think that I also could perform the final steps pretty well,” Kozuka told the press.

Kozuka delivered an excellent performance of his jazzy program to “Take Five” and landed a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel and a triple flip. The Japanese earned a level four for his fast spins and a level three for his footwork sequences.

Abbott, who like Kozuka is a newcomer to the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, hit a triple flip-triple toe, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz in his routine to “Adagio” by Tomaso Albinoni. The 23-year-old earned a level three for three spins and the footwork and a level four for his combination spin. He picked up 78.26 points (42.46/35.80) and slightly improved his previous personal best.

Joubert opened his energetic performance to “Rise” by Safri Duo with a quadruple toeloop-double toe loop combination followed by a triple Axel but then he fell on the triple Lutz. The reigning World silver medalist didn’t let that affect the rest of the performance and finished on a high note with fast steps and a spins. The change foot sit spin was a level four, the other elements were graded a level three. Joubert scored 74.55 points (39.80/35.75).

Johnny Weir is in fourth place.

Senior Ice Dancing Original Dance

WHile Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France took the lead after the original dance , they followed closely by Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin. Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali from Italy came in third.

Delobel and Schoenfelder put out a lively “Boogie Woogie” routine that was highlighted by a smooth side by side step sequence (level three), a level three circular step sequence and a straight line lift with changes of position for her. The spin, however, got only a level two. The reigning World champions earned a new seasons best of 60.35 points (29.80 element score/30.55 program component score).

“I think this was the best performance of the season of this program. We are really happy with it for today,” Delobel commented. “The audience in Korea was great, very supportive and we fed off their energy. We still had to stay focused and do the rest of our program, but it felt really good.”

When asked about their goals, she answered: “We want to win and to hear the Marseillaise like today for Florent Amodio. We just arrived and saw that he did a great program.”

Domnina and Shabalin danced their charming Shostakovitch Waltz with beautiful flow. The reigning European Champions completed intricate footwork, earning a level three for both the midline and the circular steps, and a level four dance spin. With 59.33 points (29.80/29.53) the couple scored a season best as well and is just 1.02 points behind the leaders.

Faiella and Scali’s entertaining tap dance to famous songs from the “Follow the Fleet” soundtrack featured a level four diagonal step sequence, fast twizzles and a one-armed rotational lift. The Italian Champions were awarded 57.89 points (29.90/27.99).

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski (RUS) withdrew after the warm-up from the competition as he was sick and unable to skate.

Senior Pairs, Short Program

Savchenko and Szolkowy reeled off a side-by-side triple toe, a triple twist and a throw triple flip in their dynamic routine to “Lost in Space.” The 2008 World champions were also awarded a level four for the lift, their two spins and two spirals to pick up a season-best score of 70.14 points (39.66/30.48).

“It was very had to skate,” Savchenko said “Maybe it was the jetlag, maybe the cold ice rink. The audience was wonderful and gave us so much energy. The highlight today was the toe loop."

Szolkowy added with a laugh, “It was very hard for me as well. Why? I don’t really know. The audience was with us from the first beat of the music, and they really helped us. If they weren’t there, it would have been worse for us! The highlight today was our score!”

Zhang and Zhang scored 68.34 points (40.22/29.12).. They gave a solid performance to “Riding on the Wings of Songs” by Felix Mendelssohn. Their routine included a high triple twist, a throw triple loop and a side by side triple Salchow. The reigning World silver medalist also were awarded a level four for all their non-jump elements, but Dan Zhang fell shortly after the Salchow.

In their “Midnight Blues” routine set to by Gary Moore, Pang and Tong set a season best for themselves with 66.24 points (37.52/28.72). The 2006 World champions
produced side-by-side triple toes, a triple twist, a big throw triple loop, level-four spirals and a pair combination spin with many changes of position.

Junior Men

Overnight leader Amodio skated an excellent free program to “The Mission.” The Frenchman couldn’t hold back his emotions in the final seconds of his program when he hid his face in his hands and almost forgot his final pose. Amodio posted a personal best of 131.38 points (71.48/59.90) and racked up a total of 199.58 points to win the title in what was his first Junior Grand Prix Final.

This is just fantastic. I did my very best, I gave everything until the end, I’m just so happy now,” he said, still overwhelmed by what he just had done. “We’ve corrected many things, and I progressed, I worked hard and it paid off. Now I have the French National Championships next week and then Junior Worlds. My goal is to make the podium. I will get down to earth now and start working hard again to achieve my best result in the next competitions."

The 18-year-old hit a triple loop, triple Axel-double toe, triple Lutz, triple Salchow-triple toe, triple flip and another triple Lutz-double toe and got a level three for his three spins and the footwork. The only glitch in his smooth program was a step out on the second triple Axel.

“Performing to “The Mummy” soundtrack, Mahbanoozadeh went for a triple Axel for the first time in competition and nailed it, although it was a bit shaky. He then reeled off seven triples including a triple flip-triple toe and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and two level-four spins to score a new personal best of 126.43 points (69.53/56.90).

He took the silver medal with a total of 193.48 points. The 17-year-old had won the bronze medal last year in the final.

Dornbush’s program to the “Backdraft” soundtrack by Hans Zimmer included a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe loop combination as well as four more triples and strong spins and steps. He only singled the second Lutz. The 17-year-old received 117.43 points (61.73/55.70) and captured the bronze medal in his debut in the junior final with 183.93 points.

Junior Pairs Free Skate

Iliushechkina and Maisuradze , the reigning World junior silver medalists, collected 92.50 points (45.82 element score/47.68 program component score) and accumulated a total score of 149.38 points to win the title. They competed in their first junior final.

“We don’t yet understand that we have won. The result is good today, but the performance wasn’t the best. We are still learning, we are not yet great champions. I don’t really make a difference in between the competitions, for me they are all of the same importance,” Iliushechkina said.

Iliushechkina and Maisuradze started strongly into their program to a selection of music by Edvin Marton with a side by side triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, a double Axel and a double twist. However, Ilushechkina stepped of the landing of the throw triple flip and fell on the throw triple loop. The couple recovered to complete a level-four death spiral and a level-three footwork sequence.

“The positive thing was that Liuba did the double Axel that didn’t work in the warm up. But we made mistakes on the throws which we usually don’t do. For us it is always important to skate well, if it is in practice or in competition,” Maisuradze explained.

Skating to “Coppelia” by Leon Delibes, Zhang and Wang gave a strong performance as well, highlighted by a triple toe-double toe combination, a throw triple loop and Salchow, a double Axel and a double twist. Their side-by-side spins were graded a level three. The Chinese team scored 137.92 points (46.34/41.36), which added up to 137.92 points overall, and they moved up from fourth to second.

Krasilnikova and Bezmaternykh were edged out by just 0.70 points. The 2008 World junior champions produced a triple twist, throw triple flip and difficult lifts in their program to "'Pirates of the Caribbean," but she stepped out of the side by side double flip and double Axel. They also doubled the throw loop. The Russians earned 81.94 points (42.48/43.20) and got 137.22 points overall.