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French team regains No. 1 ranking after Skate America

Kozuka moves up nine spots after surprise gold medal

Takahiko Kozuka shows off his Skate America gold medal Saturday in Everett, Wash.
Takahiko Kozuka shows off his Skate America gold medal Saturday in Everett, Wash. (Paul Harvath)

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By Todd Hinckley
(10/27/2008) - Thanks to Skate America, the ISU Grand Prix Series-opening event held in Everett, Wash., last weekend, there were several changes to icenetwork.com's World Figure Skater Rankings.

South Korea's Yu-Na Kim (ladies) and France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder (ice dancing) took over their respective No. 1 rankings after winning gold this weekend. But the main move came from men's gold medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, who leaped up nine spots to No. 6.

Ladies

Kim showed that the back and hip injuries that plagued the second half of her 2007-08 season are long gone when she routed the field in Everett by more than 20 points. She opened with a 69.50-point short program that would have been a new personal best had she not slipped on the landing of her double Axel. On Sunday, her triple flip-triple toe combination in the free skate was the only triple-triple in the whole event that was not downgraded by the technical panel. In taking back the No. 1 ranking, she sent her longtime rival, Mao Asada of Japan, a message that she's healthy this year and very ready to contend for the world title.

1. Kim -- We will see her encore performance in two weeks at the Cup of China.
2. Asada -- The reigning world champion will not make her first Grand Prix appearance in 2008 until the Trophee Eric Bompard, Nov. 14-16, when she'll have to answer Kim.
3. Carolina Kostner
4. Yukari Nakano -- The 23-year-old Japanese skater was the second-biggest ladies story at Skate America, moving up four spots after her silver-medal performance. She appears to be continuing the momentum she sparked with her near-podium finish at the 2008 World Championships.
5. Kimmie Meissner -- The 2006 world champion switched coaches in the past year and expected to show off her renewed confidence at Skate America, but an eighth-place finish left her frustrated. Until she can end her jumping struggles, she will continue to slide down this list.
6. Miki Ando -- The 2007 world champion executed two solid programs in her bronze-medal performance last weekend, moving her up a spot here. Look for her to regain her top form over the course of the season, and a quad jump could elevate her to a new level.
7. Joannie Rochette
8. Sarah Meier
9. Caroline Zhang
10. Mirai Nagasu -- Despite an ankle injury, the 15-year-old U.S. champion finished fifth in her Senior Grand Prix debut. As long as she's not affected by her growth spurt, she should only improve when she's fully healthy.
11. Laura Lepistö
12. Rachael Flatt -- She was the most impressive American at Skate America, finishing fourth in her own Senior GP debut. The sky is still the limit for this 16-year-old as she gets acclimated to competing against the best in the world.
13. Julia Sebestyen
14. Mira Leung -- The Canadian moved up three places despite finishing only seventh in Everett.
15. Kiira Korpi
16. Ashley Wagner
17. Fumie Suguri
18. Susanna Pöykiö -- The veteran from Oulu, Finland, entered the ranks for the first time this year after placing sixth at Skate America. She hopes it will kickstart a rebound year for her after she failed to qualify for the Finnish World Team in 2007-08.
19. Bebe Liang
20. Emily Hughes

Men

The top five of the men's rankings stayed put this week, but Kozuka surprised them all with his victory at Skate America. The 19-year-old from Nagoya, Japan, earned his victory with his total elements score (75.88), which distanced himself from the two top Americans -- Johnny Weir (69.75) and Evan Lysacek (66.61). None of the three landed their quad jump, but Kozuka earned Level 3s and 4s on his spins and step sequences. Weir and Lysacek received some Level 2s, and that cost them.

Time will tell if this result was a fluke. Lysacek and Weir were testing out new programs after all. Kozuka, however, could finally be living up to the hype he created when he won the 2006 world junior title.

1. Brian Joubert -- The 2007 world champion is still having issues with his blades, but he's got time to fix them. His first GP assignment isn't until the Trophée Bompard.
2. Daisuke Takahashi
3. Lysacek -- The U.S. champ turns right around to compete this week at Skate Canada.
4. Weir -- He deleted a planned double toe loop from one of his combinations, and that omission probably cost him the Skate America title and a chance to move up here.
5. Patrick Chan
6. Kozuka -- He will skate next at the Trophée Bompard.
7. Tomas Verner
8. Kevin van der Perren
9. Stephen Carriere
10. Adam Rippon -- The world junior champion moved up a spot to crack the top 10, despite struggling with nerves in his Senior Grand Prix debut, finishing a disappointing eighth. He should regain his top form as he gets used to facing top competition.
11. Sergei Voronov
12. Alban Préaubert
13. Michal Brezina
14. Sergei Davydov
15. Yannick Ponsero
16. Brandon Mroz
17. Kristoffer Berntsson
18. Jeremy Abbott
19. Andrei Lutai
20. Ivan Bariev

Pairs

World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany retained their No. 1 ranking this week, but they showed a small chink in their armor at Skate America. They received a negative Grade of Execution on their flying change-of-foot combo spin in their short program, and Szolkowy doubled his planned triple loop to open that segment. They showed their resiliency, though, coming back from a 2.24-point deficit to win the gold.

Russians Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov won the short program on Friday night, earning a career-best 66.32 points. They came back down to earth in the free skate, though, and were only able to claim the bronze medal.

1. Savchenko / Szolkowy
2. Dan Zhang / Hao Zhang
3. Qing Pang / Jian Tong
4. Yuko Kawaguchi / Alexander Smirnov
5. Jessica Dubé / Bryce Davison
6. Mukhortova / Trankov -- The Russian duo showed the ability to beat the best at Skate America, but their sloppy free skate prevented them from moving up in the rankings.
7. Keauna McLaughlin / Rockne Brubaker -- The U.S. champions used a career-best, 115.67-point free skate to storm past Mukhortova and Trankov for the silver medal. They held their place in the rankings, but this team could be on the brink of joining the elite teams at the top of these rankings.
8. Ksenia Krasilnikova / Konstantin Bezmaternikh
9. Rena Inoue and John Baldwin -- The veteran U.S. pair finished fifth in the short, the free and overall at Skate America. They are excited about a full Grand Prix schedule this year, which they bypassed in 2007-08, but they will need to recapture their signature throw triple Axel if they want to move up these rankings.
10. Tatiana Volosozhar / Stanislav Morozov
11. Anabelle Langlois / Cody Hay
12. Lubov Iliushechkina / Nodari Maisuradze
13. Stacey Kemp / David King
14. Adeline Canac / Maximin Coia -- The French national champs entered the rankings this week after their seventh-place finish at Skate America. Based on their 14th-place result at the 2008 worlds, this spot suits them well.
15. Brooke Castile / Ben Okolski
16. Yue Zhang / Lei Wang -- Despite finishing last at Skate America, the Chinese duo moved up five spots this week. By combining a junior and senior schedule this year, they have acquired a lot of points, but the Beijing pair will need to improve their finishes if they want to remain this highly ranked.
17. Meagan Duhamel / Craig Buntin -- The Canadian pair, who will compete in their first full GP season together this year, entered the rankings this week after a fourth-place finish at Skate America. Coming off their sixth-place finish at the 2008 worlds, it will be no surprise if this team keeps climbing the charts this year.
18. Tiffany Vise / Derek Trent
19. Jiaqi Li / Jiankun Xu
20. Laura Magitteri / Ondrej Hotarek

Ice Dancing

The revolving door atop the ice dancing rankings started again at Skate America. Delobel and Schoenfelder walked through it this week, claiming the No. 1 ranking because of their victory in Everett. It appears that, after deciding to continue skating competitively following their first world title last March, the veteran couple will again be a force to be reckoned with this year.

The competition last weekend was a bigger benchmark for Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who were able to gauge their progress after an offseason of change. The five-time U.S. champions moved up a spot in the rankings to No. 2 after their silver-medal finish, but more importantly, they won the free dance, showing that their coaching switch may be paying off. The "new" Belbin and Agosto proved that they will indeed be a threat to reach the top of this list.

1. Delobel / Schoenfelder
2. Belbin / Agosto
3. Oksana Domnina / Maxim Shabalin -- The idle Russian team fell two spots this week, but they will have a chance to regain their perch with a victory at the Cup of China in two weeks. Shabalin's health will play a large role in whether or not that will happen.
4. Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir -- Virtue recently underwent surgery on a leg condition, and the rising Canadian stars had to withdraw from Skate Canada. They will fall away from the top three teams while she recovers from that injury, and their rise up the rankings will be put on hold for the time being.
5. Jana Khokhlova / Sergei Novitski
6. Federica Faiella / Massimo Scali
7. Nathalie Pechalat / Fabian Bourzat
8. Emily Samuelson / Evan Bates -- The world junior champions moved up a spot this week thanks to a fourth-place finish in their Senior Grand Prix debut. With an outstanding free dance that earned the highest technical marks of the event, the couple showed that they are ready for prime time.
9. Meryl Davis / Charlie White
10. Sinead Kerr / John Kerr -- The Scottish siblings stayed put despite winning their first career Grand Prix medal (bronze) last weekend. They peaked in the original dance, finishing second in that segment.
11. Anna Cappellini / Luca Lanotte
12. Pernelle Carron / Mathieu Jost -- The French couple moved up two spots, despite finishing in only fifth place in Everett. Their 32.26-point compulsory dance was a career high, but they will need to close events stronger if they want to fend off the other teams at this level in the rankings.
13. Alexandra Zaretski / Roman Zaretski
14. Madison Hubbell / Keiffer Hubbell
15. Madison Chock / Greg Zuerlein
16. Kimberly Navarro / Brent Bommentre
17. Ekaterina Bobrova / Dmitri Soloviev
18. Kristina Gorshkova / Vitali Butikov
19. Vanessa Crone / Paul Poirier
20. Ekaterina Rubleva / Ivan Shefer -- The Russian team broke in at No. 20 after a sixth-place finish at Skate America, its best-ever Grand Prix result.