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French, Chinese, Asada take early leads

Préaubert, Delobel, Schoenfelder pump up home crowd

France's Alban Preaubert filled the void left by countryman Brian Joubert on Friday, winning the men's short program in front of the Paris crowd.
France's Alban Preaubert filled the void left by countryman Brian Joubert on Friday, winning the men's short program in front of the Paris crowd. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(11/16/2007) - Five competitions were held on the first day of the Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire -- the compulsory and original dances, and the three short programs. The crowd at the rink was smaller than usual, mostly thanks to a strike on the metro and public railways. But the people who did make it to the All Sports Arena of Paris Bercy were treated to some very good skating.

Ladies

There are only 3.5 points separating first and fourth places after the ladies short program, so the competition in the free skate will be quite fierce. Sitting in first place is Mao Asada of Japan, although she missed her combination jump. Her Lutz was started from the wrong edge, and she singled the loop. The other elements, however, were excellent. After the competition, Asada was quite upset about her mistake on the loop, something she has had problems with before.

Kimmie Meissner of the United States is in second place. She started with a triple flip, on which she took off from the wrong edge, and struggled on her combination jump later in her program. Her other elements were good, with the interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins" very convincing.

Afterwards, she said, "I skated pretty well today, except for the combination. I am excited about my triple Lutz, which caused some problems in the last weeks. I am happy that I am close to first place, and it was huge for me to get a level three and many plus-twos on my layback spin today, which is normally not my strongest element."

Elena Glebova of Estonia is third after the only errorless short program of the whole competition, which included a combination of two triple toe loops. Sarah Meier of Switzerland is fourth after a short program filled with safe jumps. Her score suffered because of a mistake on a spin that received no points at all. She did not go down with her body deeply enough.

Ashley Wagner is in fifth place, 3.5 points behind Meier. She took off from the wrong edge on her triple Lutz and had problems with her triple flip, but her performance was a big step up from her opening program at Skate Canada two weeks ago.

Men

After the world champion Brian Joubert from France withdrew earlier this week, the men's event was left quite open. In place of Joubert, countryman Alban Préaubert, who had been 11th at the 2007 World Championships, dazzled the French crowd by winning the short program. He began his program with a good triple flip-triple toe loop combination, followed by a shaky triple Axel.

"I did a good short program today, better than at Skate America. So I am happy."

He also collected a higher program component score than anyone else, thanks to his funny performance set to the music of "The Addams Family."

Second was 16-year-old Patrick Chan from Canada, who impressed the judges with his flow, his difficult and fast-paced footwork and his mature style. His triple Axel and his triple flip-triple toe loop combination were very clean, but he singled his Lutz.

Kevin van der Perren from Belgium was a bit unhappy about his third-place performance, but he executed only a double Axel and a combination of two triple toe loops.

"I know that this was not my best short program today."

But there are only 2.10 points between first and third place, so the final result is quite open.

The two Americans showed a lot of courage as the only skaters to try a quadruple jump, but both missed it. Ryan Bradley sits in seventh place after stepping out of the quad toe loop, but he did a very good double Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.

"My short program was a step in the right direction, but a lot of work remains to be done, especially cleaning my elements," he said.

Scott Smith tried a quad Salchow. His other elements were good, particularly his triple Axel and triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

"I was disappointed of the quad, which works at home in practice very well. But I was proud to come back and do the rest of the elements."

Pairs

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China, fifth at last season's world championships, won the short program in the pairs event, and they earned it. Their triple twist was brilliant, four of the ten judges even gave a it a plus-three; their triple throw loop was outstanding and got eight plus-twos; and their side-by-side triple Salchow was clean.

"We skated well today, but there is still room for improvement," Dan Zhang said.

Qing Pang and Jian Tong, world champions in 2006 and runners-up in 2007, struggled a bit on their triple throw and their spin, but the other elements were good.

In third place are Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia, pupils of Oleg Vasiliev, the coach of 2006 Olympic gold medalists Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent of the United States are fourth and got a season best in their short program (56.06), but they are still 5.7 points from a medal. The landing of Trent's triple toe loop was a bit shaky, but all the other elements and their speed were very good.

"We skated a lot better here than at Skate Canada. Our speed was better, the elements, everything. Only the levels were lower, but we are very happy overall," Vise said.

Ice Dancing

Like Préaubert, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France shone brightly in front of the home crowd. They took the lead after the compulsory dance, the Austrian Waltz, by almost five points. After their original dance, set to a modern celtic folk song from Brittany in West France, their lead grew to 6.57 points.

"We did a good job today and no mistake. But it was not our best performance, because we, like all other dancers, were quite tired after a long day. We had an early morning training, then the compulsory dance in the early afternoon, and now at 10:30 p.m. the original dance," Schoenfelder said.

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia took second in both dances Friday. They have a 6.05-point lead over third place.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the United States were fourth in the compulsory dance, just where they were at Skate America after that discipline. This time, however, they were just .12 points behind Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte.

Cappellini fell in the original dance on the straight-line lift, and the Americans made no mistakes in their Kalinka folk dance. Davis and White, therefore, the pupils of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, moved into third place, where they now sit more than six points ahead of the Italians.

All of the Americans' elements in the original dance got level fours, and their flow was excellent.

"Since Skate America we worked hard, especially on our expression, and it paid off," White said.

"Today we were in a fighting mood, and we were successful," Davis said.