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Friday, April 20, 2012

Takahashi, Suzuki give Japan strong start at World Team Trophy

Though tied with the U.S., Japan leads the six-nation competition due to higher finishes in individual disciplines

Staff writer

Strong performances by Daisuke Takahashi and Akiko Suzuki have Japan in first place after the opening day of the World Team Trophy at Yoyogi Gymnasium on Thursday.

News photo
Simply spectacular: Daisuke Takahashi picks up a world-record score of 94.00 points in the men's short program at the World Team Trophy on Thursday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. KYODO

Though Japan and the U.S. are even with 45 points each, the host nation is in the lead by virtue of its higher finishes in the individual disciplines, in the three-day, team competition that features two male and female singles skaters, a pairs team and an ice dance duo from six nations.

France is in third place with 35, followed by Canada (fourth) and Italy (fifth) both with 33 points. Russia is last on 22.

Takahashi put forth a splendid performance to "In the Garden of Souls" and leads the men's event after the short program with a world-record score of 94.00.

Takahashi landed his opening quad toe loop, followed that with a triple axel and later hit a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination jump. The 2011 world silver medalist was sharp with his step sequence and gave Japan 12 points with the result.

"My jumps were very good," said the 2010 world champion. "But I had some problems with my steps. There were no major mistakes and I had a good score, so I was very happy.

"The quad was not that good in this morning's practice, so I was relieved to pull it off today," added Takahashi.

World bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki delivered a crowd-pleasing show to "Hungarian Rhapsody" and is in second. Suzuki opened with a triple toe loop/triple toe loop combination, followed with a triple lutz and added a double axel. The judges rewarded her with a season-best score of 67.51.

Suzuki's bright smile and enthusiasm radiated as she went through her routine, flowing across the ice with her hair flying through the air.

"I'm very happy with my performance," said Suzuki. "I got a huge boost from the crowd, which helped me get my season's best score. I'm just trying to enjoy this as much as I can, as it is the last event of the season."

"I want to hit all of my jumps in the free skate, so as not to let down the crowd," Suzuki added.

World champion Carolina Kostner of Italy topped the women's short program with a season-best mark of 69.48. Kostner executed her program clinically, maintaining her momentum from last month's world championships in Nice, France.

News photo
Reason to smile: Akiko Suzuki earns a season-best score of 67.51 points while skating in the World Team Trophy women's short program at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Thursday. KYODO

"I was really tired at the beginning," said Kostner, "because I practiced here earlier today and didn't have the chance to go back to my hotel and rest. So when I started I realized I had to fight for my team. I got a lot of energy from my teammates and the crowd."

Kanako Murakami registered a season-best 63.78 to "Violin Muse" and is third. Murakami, the 2010 world junior champion, executed all of her jumps (triple toe loop/triple toe loop, triple flip and double axel) and was impressive with her layback spin and step sequence.

Canada's Patrick Chan is in second behind Takahashi after falling on a triple axel. Chan, the two-time defending world champion, is more than four points behind Takahashi at 89.81.

Chan, who split with American coach Christy Krall last week, skated to "Take Five" and was solid with the exception of the fall.

"It was a surprise," Chan said of Krall's unexpected resignation. "It was a great time (with her). She helped me with the quad. She gave me the confidence to do the quad. As with any athlete, we have to go through an evolution."

American Jeremy Abbott (86.98), who is coached by 1994 world champion Yuka Sato, is in third place.

Takahiko Kozuka, who finished a disappointing 11th at the worlds, had another calamitous outing. Kozuka fell on his opening quad toe loop, landed a triple axel, then tumbled to the ice again on a planned triple lutz/triple toe lop combination. He wound up with a tally of just 73.61.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. placed first in the short dance with a total of 72.18, ahead of Canadian world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (69.93).

France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were third with 66.57. The competition continues on Friday with the pairs short program, free dance in ice dance and the men's free skate.

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