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Lysacek tops men at Skate America

Team USA's Weir second, Rippon eighth

Lysacek is calm and confident heading into Saturday's free skate.
Lysacek is calm and confident heading into Saturday's free skate. (Paul Harvath )

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By Linda Przygodski
(10/25/2008) - A slimmer, speedier and altogether more spangly Evan Lysacek handed in a commanding performance in the short program to earn the top spot in the men's field at Skate America.

Sequins be damned no more, the current U.S. champion hit the ice in a form-fitting, black, Tatiana Tarasova-picked onesie with a giant red cross on the front and matching black cross on the back.

"Tatiana's exact words were 'I like crosses,'" said Lysacek who skated to music from Bolero. "When I asked her to help me, and I listened to the amazing ideas she had, one of the things I promised her was that I had to relinquish all control and let her make choices for me.

"Overall, both of my programs this year are really different for me. I wanted to take the opportunity that all athletes have to grow in the offseason, become a better athlete, improve technique, better stamina, whatever an athlete can do to become a better person.

"There's no better way to reinvent and grow than to enlist the help of someone different. Tatiana was a natural choice because she's been a friend and mentor of mine for many years. She gave me a new love for skating. She gave me programs I can be proud of."

"I had no say in the music or the costumes or the movements -- I wondered, 'what am I getting myself into?'"

The skate was perfect, and the judges didn't disagree, awarding him an 81.30. The only fluky bit was a one-point deduction for only waiting three seconds at the beginning of his program instead of four to begin his choreography, causing his program to run over the 2:50-second limit.

"I was happy to start the season off that way," said Lysacek. "It is a program that I am very proud of, and I was looking forward to doing it. I am pretty happy with the way it went."

Lysacek opened with a powerful triple Axel followed by a spot-on triple Lutz-triple toe loop, scoring a positive Grade of Execution of +.6.

Johnny Weir was second with a score of 80.55. Weir's two opening jumps -- a triple Lutz-triple toe loop and a triple Axel -- were sporty, but a two-footed landing on his triple flip prevented him from challenging Lysacek for the top spot.

"I am pleased with how the first performance of the season went," commented Weir. "It's out of the way and I am happy about that. I stayed on my feet. There are some things I need to work on. I made some small mistakes -- but overall I am happy with the way it went."

Weir, skating to "Sur Les Ailes Du Temps" by Saint Preux, was as lyrical as ever, but his spins were not up to the three Level 4s Lysacek racked up. Weir grabbed two Level 3s on his flying sit spin and the closing combination spin; he did merit a Level 4 on his opening spin.

"The spins were slow," said Weir. "I don't know if they were a mistake per se, but I felt like I didn't do my best, so in my mind they were a mistake. Both step sequences were lethargic and lacking in passion in many ways."

Skating into third was Japan's Takahiko Kozuka with a tally of 80.10. Kozuka performed to "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck and was a surprise addition to the top three.

"I was quite pleased I didn't make any mistakes on the jump," explained Kozuka. "I was able to show everything, and I am very happy about that."

American Adam Rippon fell on his opening triple Axel and never seemed to regain his composure. He fell out of a flying camel spin and doubled a planned triple toe loop. His score of 59.60 relegated him to eighth in the short program.

"I'm a little upset with how I skated today," Rippon lamented. "I'm just going to try to forget about what happened. I'm going to try and focus on what I need to do to skate well tomorrow.

"Mentally, it was harder than it was physically."