Mao Asada's free skate wins Skate Canada gold

Canada's Virtue and Moir lead ice dancers

Mao Asada skated a beautiful free skate to leapfrog into the top spot on Saturday.
Mao Asada skated a beautiful free skate to leapfrog into the top spot on Saturday. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(11/03/2007) - QUEBEC CITY -- The moral of the story in the women's event here at the HomeSense Skate Canada International was: It ain't over 'til it's over.

In Saturday's final, the short program order of finish was jumbled beyond recognition.

Surprise first-round leader Laura Lepisto of Finland tumbled all the way down to seventh place overall, while Japan's Mao Asada climbed from third to the top of the podium. Asada's teammate Yukari Nakano went from fourth place to the silver-medal position, trading places with American Emily Hughes, while Canadian Joannie Rochette rose from fifth to claim the bronze.

U.S. competitor Ashley Wagner, the winner of the Junior Grand Prix Final last season and the current junior world bronze medalist, finished fifth among 12 women with 150.06 points in her senior debut. She vaulted up from eighth place after the short program.

Asada, the 2007 world silver medalist, once again floated like a feather through her offering to "Fantasie Impromptu" by Chopin. Her only miscue came on her opening triple flip-triple loop combo. The second jump was ruled to be short of rotation and counted only as a double.

"Tonight I was able to perform the program I was hoping for, so I feel relieved," said Asada, 17, through an interpreter.

"Skate Canada was very important for me to get to the Grand Prix Final so there was a lot of pressure," added Asada, winner of the Final two years ago.

For Nakano, Skate Canada is proving to be a very lucky competition. She landed a pretty triple Axel to open her program, just as she had two years ago en route to a bronze medal at Skate Canada in St.John's. Doubling her planned triple flip was the only significant error in her Spanish-themed routine.

Rochette battled back from a shaky short, nailing five solid triple jumps in the early going, although she appeared to lose steam towards the end when she doubled a planned triple Salchow singled an Axel. The 5,100 fans stood to cheer her feisty effort nonetheless.

The Canadian champion won this event a year ago, but said she was not sad to lose her title. "I will go home with a smile on my face," she said.

"I was very happy with what I did today. I was more in control than yesterday." Asada's total winning score was 177.66, while Nakano posted 169.43 and Rochette 168.18.

Nakano and Rochette will meet again at the Cup of Russia, while Asada, who trains in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., heads to Paris in two weeks for her second Grand Prix assignment.

U.S. national silver medalist Emily Hughes earned 162.42 points, while teammate Wagner scored 150.06. "The program I put out there, I felt really happy with. I'm going to improve on it for nationals, which is my main goal," said Hughes, who counted five triple jumps but doubled her Lutz.

"I think it was better than last week. I did break 100 points, and that's always nice," she said of the 103.70 points she earned for her free skating performance.

The American was also fourth last week at Skate America and was the only woman here who was competing in back-to-back Grand Prix events.

Nerves got the better of Lepisto, a rookie in the senior ranks who placed just seventh at the 2007 world junior championship. She missed on five jumps, including a fall on her triple Lutz.

Gold medals on the Grand Prix circuit are worth $18,000 in prize money, while silver earns $13,000 and bronze $9,000.

Ice Dancing

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir solidified their hold on gold in Quebec City with their dramatic original dance -- a Russian folk dance set to "Dark Eyes," which featured perfectly-matched, spinning twizzle turns.

With a total of 97.45 points after the compulsory and original dances, the 2006 world junior champions lead the 10-couple field by more than 11 points.

"Our goal this year is to make the jump to compete with the best in the world," said Moir. The duo was sixth in their senior worlds debut last March.

Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotee remained in second place. Their Serbian folk dance brought their total score to 86.13.

Americans Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov offered a crowd-pleasing Irish jig to Lord of the Dance music, but slipped back to fourth, less than a point behind the French team, Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost (80.70). With a total of 79.83, Gregory and Petukhov could still pocket a medal here, as they did the last time they competed at Skate Canada in 2005.

The ice dancers, as well as the men, skate their finals on Sunday.