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Abbott charges into top 10 with gold in China

Domnina, Shabalin move back up to No. 1 spot

Jeremy Abbott set three new career-high scores at the Cup of China in Beijing.
Jeremy Abbott set three new career-high scores at the Cup of China in Beijing. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(11/11/2008) - American Jeremy Abbott was the biggest star of the weekend in Beijing. With his victory at the Samsung Anycall Cup of China, he joined Takahiko Kozuka as surprise men's gold medalists on the Grand Prix circuit this year. He also joined Kozuka in the top 10 of icenetwork.com's World Figure Skater Rankings.

Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin also made some noise, moving back into the No. 1 spot in the dance rankings with their gold medal. But their narrow margin of victory over Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto showed just how close the top dance teams are.

Korea's Yu-Na Kim sailed to her second gold of the 2008 GP Series and distanced herself from the rest of the ladies in the world. Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China won the pairs gold in Beijing but stayed at No. 2 in the rankings.

Ladies

Kim claimed the No. 1 ranking with her victory two weeks ago at Skate America in Everett, Wash., and she put an exclamation point on that performance in Beijing. The Korean superstar improved her score in the free skate, earning 128.11 points at the Cup of China and demonstrating plenty of skill and determination. She has set the tone for the young season, and it is now time for her rival, Mao Asada, to make a statement.

2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan moved into the top five, jumping up two places after her silver-medal performance. The 20-year-old also bettered her performance from Everett and said she was much more comfortable on the ice. Now, she has to wait to see if it will be enough to send her to the Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea.

1. Kim -- She can now rest until the GP Final, where she'll likely have her first showdown of the season with Asada.
2. Asada -- The 18-year-old reigning world champion opens her 2008-09 season this week at the Trophée Eric Bompard.
3. Carolina Kostner
4. Joannie Rochette
5. Ando -- She now has time to perfect the jumps she cheated in Beijing and build off the positive momentum she developed with two good finishes so far this season.
6. Yukari Nakano
7. Kimmie Meissner
8. Sarah Meier -- The Swiss champion had a disastrous start at the Cup of China, missing several jumps. She started the event as a medal favorite but finished in only sixth place, keeping her at No. 8 in the rankings.
9. Caroline Zhang
10. Laura Lepistö -- The Finnish champion had a good week in Beijing, earning her first career Grand Prix medal, a bronze. That finish moved her up one place and into the top 10, where she should stay if she continues to skate like she did in China.
11. Mirai Nagasu
12. Rachael Flatt
13. Fumie Suguri
14. Ashley Wagner -- The American teenager made her 2008-09 debut in China and performed very well, finishing less than four points off the podium. She moved up three places thanks to her fourth-place finish.
15. Mira Leung -- The Vancouver native is off to her worst start in several years. She held her place in the rankings, but a next-to-last finish in China showed that she could be overmatched on the ice right now.
16. Susanna Pöykiö -- She is proving that she is ready to regain her place on the Finnish world team. The Oulu native moved up four spots this week after her fifth-place finish.
17. Julia Sebestyen
18. Kiira Korpi
19. Bebe Liang
20. Alissa Czisny

Men

Abbott reached a new level of skating for him in China. He received personal-best scores for his short program (77.05), free skate (156.39) and overall total (233.44). In fact, his overall score was the highest for a U.S. man under the International Judging System in international competition, besting Evan Lysacek's total from the 2008 Four Continents Championships.

Abbott, a native of Aspen, Colo., used eight clean triples to run away from the field in the free skate, winning the gold by over 16 points. The victory moved him up 11 spots in the rankings, all the way to No. 9.

Stephen Carriere won the silver medal in China, which was enough to move him up two spots, to No. 8, and keep him just in front of his teammate.

1. Brian Joubert
2. Daisuke Takahashi -- His withdrawal from the Cup of China paved the way for Abbott's victory, but even Takahashi would have had a hard time beating the American.
3. Lysacek
4. Johnny Weir
5. Patrick Chan
6. Tomas Verner -- The reigning European champion was supposed to fill the void left by Takahashi in China, but the Czech skater needed a strong free skate just to make the podium. His bronze medal moved him up one spot on this list. He will need to skate better down the road though, if he wants to defend his European title and again challenge for the worlds podium.
7. Kozuka
8. Carriere -- The 2007 world junior champion was upstaged by Abbott last weekend, but he earned a personal-best overall score of his own. He should be able to build on this performance throughout the year.
9. Abbott -- The Cup of China gold medalist will hit the ice again at the Cup of Russia.
10. Kevin van der Perren
11. Sergei Voronov
12. Adam Rippon
13. Yannick Ponsero
14. Alban Préaubert
15. Brandon Mroz
16. Michal Brezina
17. Ryan Bradley
18. Sergei Davydov
19. Kristoffer Berntsson -- The Swede hoped to challenge for the podium in Beijing, but he struggled on his jumps, particularly in his free skate, and finished a disappointing eighth. That result kept him at 19th in these rankings.
20. Shawn Sawyer

Pairs

Zhang and Zhang had a strong 2008-09 debut in China, winning both segments en route to the gold medal. The reigning world silver medalists did not gain any ground in the rankings; they still sit at No. 2.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine had their best Grand Prix performance ever, winning the silver medal and jumping up two places. Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China won the bronze medal and moved back up to No. 3, breaking their virtual tie with Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov of Russia, the gold medalists from last week at Skate Canada.

1. Aliona Savchenko / Robin Szolkowy
2. Zhang / Zhang -- The Chinese pair will skate next at the Cup of Russia.
3. Pang / Tong -- The 2006 world champions are scheduled to appear next at the NHK Trophy in Tokyo.
4. Kawaguchi / Smirnov
5. Jessica Dubé / Bryce Davison
6. Keauna McLaughlin / Rockne Brubaker
7. Maria Mukhortova / Maxim Trankov
8. Volosozhar / Morozov -- The Ukrainian duo will look to build off its silver medal in two weeks at the Cup of Russia.
9. Ksenia Krasilnikova / Konstantin Bezmaternikh
10. Rena Inoue / John Baldwin
11. Anabelle Langlois / Cody Hay
12. Yue Zhang and Lei Wang -- This young pair from Beijing finished fifth at the Cup of China and moved up five spots on this list. Zhang and Wang have been busy this season, competing in two JGP and GP events. Their best finish was third at the JGP Belarus, so this ranking could have more to do with the number of events they have skated in rather than their results in those events.
13. Lubov Iliushechkina / Nodari Maisuradze
14. Stacey Kemp / David King
15. Adeline Canac / Maximin Coia
16. Tiffany Vise / Derek Trent
17. Brooke Castile / Ben Okolski
18. Meagan Duhamel / Craig Buntin
19. Mylène Brodeur / John Mattatall -- This Canadian couple entered the rankings this week after finishing sixth at the Cup of China and fourth at Skate Canada in back-to-back weeks. Without another GP assignment this year, they will struggle to stay in the rankings until the Canadian championships in January.
20. Jiaqi Li / Jiankun Xu

Ice Dancing

Domnina and Shabalin began the year on top of the rankings but were replaced by France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder after Skate America. The Russians took back the No. 1 spot with their win at the Cup of China. In their first appearance since winning gold at the 2008 European Championships, Domnina and Shabalin showed that they are primed for a run at the world title they missed out on last March.

This race is still incredibly close. Belbin and Agosto won the OD in Beijing and were one hundredth of a point behind Domnina and Shabalin, their training mates in Aston, Pa., in the free dance. The silver-medal finish was not enough for the Americans to overtake Delobel and Schoenfelder in the rankings though.

1. Domnina / Shabalin -- The Russian team will dance again at the Cup of Russia.
2. Delobel / Schoenfelder
3. Belbin / Agosto -- The five-time U.S. champions can now wait for the Grand Prix Final, which they should qualify for with two silver medals so far in the 2008 Series.
4. Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir
5. Meryl Davis / Charlie White
6. Jana Khokhlova / Sergei Novitski -- The second-ranked Russian pair also opened their 2008-09 season at the Cup of China, and they were slightly overmatched by the top two teams. Their bronze-medal finish was not enough to catch Davis and White in the rankings, and it seems like they have some work to do to regain the form that made them the crowd favorites at the 2008 European Championships.
7. Nathalie Pechalat / Fabian Bourzat
8. Federica Faiella / Massimo Scali
9. Emily Samuelson / Evan Bates
10. Sinead Kerr / John Kerr
11. Vanessa Crone / Paul Poirier
12. Anna Cappellini / Luca Lanotte -- The Italians stayed at No. 12 following their fourth-place finish at the Cup of China. Their next appearance will be the Cup of Russia, where they'll need a silver medal to duplicate their Grand Prix results from a year ago.
13. Alexandra Zaretski / Roman Zaretski -- The Israeli siblings had high hopes for the 2008 Grand Prix debut after their silver medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September. Their performance on the ice in China -- a seventh-place finish -- was a step backwards.
14. Kimberly Navarro / Brent Bommentre
15. Pernelle Carron / Mathieu Jost
16. Kristina Gorshkova / Vitali Butikov
17. Ekaterina Bobrova / Dmitri Soloviev
18. Madison Hubbell / Keiffer Hubbell
19. Madison Chock / Greg Zuerlein
20. Kaitlyn Weaver / Andrew Poje -- The Canadian silver medalists entered the rankings at No. 20 after their sixth-place finish in Beijing. At the NHK Trophy, they will hope to improve on that result.