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Johnny Weir Claims His First Cup of China Grand Prix Title

Cup of China, held this weekend in Harbin, marked the halfway point of the 2007-08 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series.

All four disciplines were won either by by American or Asian skaters. Russia walked away with one silver medal in ice dance and skaters from European nations claimed three bronze medals in total.

The men’s event turned into a clash of the American titans, Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek. The 2007 World bronze medalist, Stéphane Lambiel did not have a stellar start to his new season.

Lysacek claimed a new personal best in the short program (81.55), defeating Weir by less than two points (79.80). Lambiel of Switzerland placed a distant third with 70.20 points. Lysacek said he felt much stronger than at his first Grand Prix event, Skate America. “It’s a good sign that I’m taking positive steps forward towards the later part of the season,” he said.

But Weir claimed the free skate landing seven triple jumps in his program “Love is War” by Yoav Gordon earning a personal best score of 151.98 points. His combined point total of 231.78 assured him the gold medal.

“I was very excited with my performance today. It is the first time in a long time that I felt really comfortable on the ice and I think it’s due to a new training regimen,” Weir said. “I just harder work in general and I am so happy it’s paying off with good performances. I am just so happy to be back on top.”

Lysacek fell on his opening quadruple toe loop and under-rotated the following triple Axel. He also landed seven triples in his program, earning 229.36 points overall and placing second. Lambiel placed third with 192.22 points.

Carolina Kostner of Italy claimed the lead after the short program with 14-year-old Caroline Zhang in second and South Korea’s Yu-Na Kim in third. Kostner scored 60.82 points, ahead of Zhang who earned 58.76 and Kim who scored 58.32 points.

But the results flip-flopped in the free skate when Kim skated to gold with a daunting 24-point lead over American Caroline Zhang. Kim earned a 180.68 points overall. Zhang placed second with 156.34 points.

Zhang, the 14-year-old American “wunderkind” experienced a few technical glitches in the long but skated into second place with a 156.34 point total. Kostner, the leader after the short program, finished third overall with 143.86 points.

Kostner had jumping issues in the long and fell twice. Her routine to “Dumsky Trio” by Dvorak was ranked fourth best of the evening but the reigning European champion finished in third place overall with 143.86 points.

Only Kim and Japan's Fumie Suguri managed to stay vertical throughout their programs. The ten other competitors hit the ice a total of 25 times.

Hometown favorites Qing Pang and Jian Tong won both portions of the pairs event. American’s Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker were second and Jessica Miller and Ian Moram from Canada placed a surprising third.

Pang and Tong, the 2006 World Champions earned a combined total of 176.75 points. “This was as mediocre performance. We’ve made a lot of changes to our free program since Skate America, and we still don’t feel so comfortable with the program,” Pang said at the post-event press conference.

McLaughlin and Brubaker had a few technical difficulties in their long program but held on to second place with a score of 154.66 points overall. Miller and Moram won the bronze, the first Grand Prix medal of their career, with 137.30 points.

Marie Vartmann and Florian Just from Germany were forced to withdraw when came down with Vartmann a stomach flu.

Though Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin took the lead in both the compulsory and original dance portions, they could no better than second after the free dance. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto from the U.S. claimed gold and Italian champions Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali placed third.