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Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

Kim triumphant in GP Final


Staff writer

World champion Kim Yu Na fashioned a near flawless free skate to overtake Miki Ando and win the Grand Prix Final on Saturday night.

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Reason to smile: World champion Kim Yu Na collects her third Grand Prix Final title on Saturday, scoring 188.68 points in the two-day program. KYODO PHOTO

Kim landed four triple jumps while performing to Gershwin's "Concerto in F" and topped Ando by nearly three points (188.86-185.94) to collect her third GP Final crown in the past four years.

With another sellout crowd in attendance at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Kim dashed the hopes of the home fans with another fine outing. The only blemish coming when the latter part of her double axel/triple toe loop combination jump was downgraded.

"I'm still not completely satisfied with my performance, but I am very happy to have won the Grand Prix Final," Kim said. "My jumps weren't perfect, but I will use this experience to build for the future.

"I wanted to do well here because this is the last major event before the Olympics," added Kim. "Winning the gold here will certainly give me confidence for the Olympics."

Ando's effort to "Cleopatra" was outstanding, but just not enough to best the sublime Kim, who has won every event she has entered in the last 12 months.

Ando, who also hit four triple jumps, was downgraded on her planned triple salchow after touching the ice on the landing, but still clinched a ticket to Vancouver with the second-place finish.

"I am happy to win the medal here," said Ando. "There is always a little more pressure when you are skating at home. But I felt more comfortable skating today in the free program than at the other Grand Prix events.

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Strong finish: Nobunari Oda garners a silver medal in the Grand Prix Final on Saturday after a solid performance in the men's free program. He finished with 243.36 points. KYODO PHOTO

"I feel like I matured here," Ando stated. "The Olympics are a completely different stage, but I gained some confidence here."

Akiko Suzuki's enthusiastic skate to "West Side Story" saw her move from fifth place after the short program into third and dramatically improve her chances at making the Olympic team. With the Japan nationals just three weeks away, the timing could not have been better for her.

World champion Evan Lysacek won his first senior GP Final, scoring a comfortable victory over Nobunari Oda in the men's singles.

After stumbling on his opening triple lutz, Lysacek (249.45) had trouble with a pair of combo jumps, but put together a respectable enough program to "Sheherazade" to win. The American has work to do, however, if he is going to challenge for the gold in Vancouver.

"I'm glad that the improvements that I have made since Skate America were reflected in the result today," said Lysacek. "That was very encouraging for me."

Lysacek was the Junior Grand Prix champion in 2003.

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Elegant performer: Miki Ando skates during Saturday's Grand Prix Final in Tokyo. She finished second overall behind South Korea's Kim Yu Na. KYODO PHOTO

Oda (243.36) singled both his planned triple and double axels, but moved up from third in the short program to take second place and assure himself of his first trip to the Olympics.

"I had two big mistakes and can't be satisfied," said Oda. "But I'm happy to have made the Grand Prix Final and won a medal here."

Lysacek's compatriot Johnny Weir took third at 237.35.

Daisuke Takahashi struggled through his routine to "La Strada" and ended up fifth. Holding a slight lead entering the free skate, Takahashi fell on his opening quadruple toe loop, doubled a planned triple axel, botched two combo jumps and ended up with a total of 224.60.

With the Olympics just over two months away, Takahashi is really going to have to put it into overdrive fast if he wants to have a legitimate shot at a medal.

China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao claimed victory in the pairs, beating out compatriots Qing Pang and Jian Tong by a sizable margin. World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were third.

Kanako Murakami is in second place after the short program in the ladies Junior Grand Prix Final. Murakami, the top-ranked junior this season, trails Russia's Polina Shelepen by the slimmest of margins (59.54 to 59.42). Both skaters won two Junior Grand Prix events this season.

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Standing proud: Kim Yu Na (center), the women's Grand Prix Final champion, silver medalist Miki Ando (right) and third-place finisher Akiko Suzuki share the spotlight on Saturday evening at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. KYODO PHOTO

Looking radiant in a white-sequined outfit, the 15-year-old Murakami dazzled during her performance and received a standing ovation when she finished. Coach Machiko Yamada gave her a big hug as she left the ice.

"My (double) axel was downgraded unfortunately, but I did everything I could, so I'm happy with my performance," Murakami said. "This season I have focused on practicing my expression."

The junior ladies free skate will be held Sunday afternoon.

In late action on Friday night, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White recorded a narrow victory over Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the ice dance.

Davis and White, who won last month at the NHK Trophy, finished second in the free dance, but took the title by just over one point (169.44-168.22).



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