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Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007

Ando in second after NHK short program

Staff writer

SENDAI — Italy's Carolina Kostner won the short program over heavily favored world champion Miki Ando at the NHK Trophy on Friday night.

Skating to "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors, Kostner opened with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination jump and hit a double axel to register 61.24 points and outdistance Ando, who was second with 60.52.

News photo
Miki Ando performs in the women's short program at the NHK Trophy at Sendai Municipal Gymnasium on Friday. Ando was second with 60.52 points, follwing Italy's Carolina Kostner. KYODO PHOTO

"I made some small mistakes in my program today," Kostner said. "So I'm surprised to be first."

Ando, looking dazzling in a blue-sequined costume with a touch of orange, planned to open with a triple lutz-triple loop combo, but decided to change the latter to a double following the warmup period. She completed the combo, followed that with a triple flip, and also hit a double axel, but went off balance during her spiral sequence to "Samson and Delilah."

"I hope to make my triple-triple combination and have better timing in the free skate," Ando said. "I think I will be more relaxed tomorrow.

"I went off balance on my spiral and it was supposed to be a level four, but ended up being a level one," added Ando.

A top-three finish here should qualify Ando, who was second at Skate America, for next month's Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy. The free skate is scheduled for Saturday night.

Switzerland's Sarah Meier (59.16) came in third, while Alissa Czisny (58.24) of the United States was fourth.

Nana Takeda skated elegantly and was fifth at 55.06. Looking sharp in a black and orange outfit, Takeda hit all of her jumps and had fine presentation to "Tanguera."

"I could perform calmly tonight," said Takeda. "All of my practice bore fruit. I want to do everything perfectly tomorrow."

Mai Asada, battling a bad cold, gamely took to the ice but could not skate like she wanted to. She doubled the triple lutz planned for her opening combination jump, then followed that by doubling a triple flip and placed 11th.

A downcast Asada, her eyes visibly reddened after crying, spoke from the heart afterward.

"I was honored to be picked to take part in this event. I am ashamed by my poor performance. In the free program I want to skate to the end and put on a performance I can be proud of."

Daisuke Takahashi will open defense of his title here in the men's short program on Saturday afternoon.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won the pairs title by a large margin despite a less than scintillating free skate. Szolkowy touched down with both hands on a triple salchow midway through, and their final maneuver, a throw triple salchow, was only a single.

Despite the miscues, the pair tallied 190.64 points to win over surprise second-place finishers Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker of the United States, who scored 166.48. The American duo, skating to "Romeo and Juliet," clinched a trip to the GP Final with the result.

"We are so happy. We get to go to the final!" McLaughlin said. "Hopefully, we can get a medal there."

McLaughlin touched down with one hand on their throw triple salchow, and had a two-foot landing on a double axel, but other than that the pair put forth a very strong effort.

Brubaker claims the couple, who finished second at the Cup of China, still has room for improvement.

"It's all a process that we are still working on. The Germans have some elements that we don't. We know where we are doing well and where we need some work."

Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, who have already qualified for Turin, came in third.

France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder retained their lead in ice dancing heading into Saturday's free dance. They skated a French folk dance to "Breton Gavotte" and posted a score of 100.28.

"We felt good today on the ice," said Schoenfelder. "We tried to make it appealing and bring out the characters in the story. We still have to work on some technical elements."

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir remained in second place at 96.71, while Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski were third with 92.07.

Japanese-Americans Cathy and Chris Reed, skating for Japan, posted a season s best of 44.28 in the original dance and were in 10th place at 69.73.

"We feel really great," said Cathy Reed. "The hard work we put into the past few months is paying off. We are confident now because the free dance is always our best.

Nikolai Morozov, who coaches the Reeds, says the condition of Chris right knee — which has been surgically repaired twice — is key to the couple improving.

ICE SHAVINGS: Turin Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa, who grew up in Sendai, was in attendance for the second straight night. The rink where Arakawa skated as a youngster, Konami Sports Club Izumi, closed down several years ago, but in the wake of her winning the gold medal re-opened this year as Ice Rink Sendai.

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