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Joubert, Kostner are golden in Moscow

Ice dance wraps up Cup of Russia on Sunday

Rachael Flatt won the silver medal.
Rachael Flatt won the silver medal. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(11/22/2008) - Brian Joubert, Carolina Kostner and Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang claimed victory in Moscow at the Cup of Russia today and also secured their spot in the Grand Prix Final. Rachael Flatt won the silver medal in the ladies event, but U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White had a disastrous outing in the OD and slipped to fourth place.

Men
Joubert wasn't as superior as yesterday, but although he was ranked fourth in the free skating, the difference in points between the Frenchman and Tomas Verner, Jeremy Abbott and Alban Préaubert wasn't too big, and Joubert still was the clear winner with an advantage of almost eight points. The Frenchman landed forward on a quadruple toe that was subsequently downgraded, but hit hit two triple Axels and four other triple jumps in his program to Last of the Mohicans.

Verner showed much improvement over the Cup of China again and won the free skating. He produced an excellent quad toe and four clean triples, but he stumbled on a Salchow.

"After the boot problems I had in October, I wasn't yet ready for my free program today. I was very nervous at the beginning, but now I feel more confident," Joubert commented. "I know that I still have to work. I was tense, but I also enjoyed skating. It was a hard competition for me, but I found myself again step by step, although I didn't win the free skating."

"It's good that I came second and that I am improving from one competition to the next," Verner, the European Champion, said. "I'm not really satisfied with my points and result, but everything goes according to plan for this season."

Preaubert really was a crowd pleaser with his program to Russian folk music such as "Kalinka." Some of his jumps were wild, but he landed them and had a quad and eight triples in his arsenal.

Abbott rallied back from a disappointing short program and produced seven triples to move up to fourth. With his first place finish in China, the American qualified for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final for the first time in his career. Joubert also qualified while Verner has to wait and see if he gets through.

Adam Rippon followed up on his short program with a solid long. The only error came when he put his second foot down on the triple Axel.

Ladies
Kostner is on her way up again. The Italian showed a large improvement over her performances from Skate Canada and won the Cup of Russia. She opened her routine to "Dumsky Trio" by Dvorak with a solid triple flip-triple toeloop combination and a however, two-footed, triple Lutz-double toe -double loop combination. She went on to produce two more triple jumps but fell on a underrotated triple toeloop. Kostner had gone back to last year's free program "Dumsky Trio" as she didn't feel as comfortable with her "Swan Lake" program that she skated earlier this season.

"I was quite nervous as I remembered Skate Canada. I was nervous there too and I was thinking too much and didn't go well. But when I got into my starting position I felt calmer and after the first two jumps, I gained confidence," the world silver medalist said. Like Joubert, she qualified for the final with first and fourth-place finish in the Grand Prix.

Flatt achieved the best result of the U.S. ladies on the senior Grand Prix circuit so far by winning the silver medal. Her triple flip-triple toe combo was a bit shaky, but she held it together.

"I thought that I skated very well but it wasn't my best program. I think I still need to improve upon some things, but I had a lot of fun and it was very exciting to have the honor of skating in this wonderful facility. This arena is absolutely incredible. It was great to have such a good program in my second senior Grand Prix," Flatt commented.

Fumie Suguri was solid in her triple Lutz, but the triple Salchow was cheated and the second flip was only a double. The Japanese slipped to third but still won her second Grand Prix medal this season. Alissa Czisny unfortunately fell twice, but still moved up one spot from fifth to fourth. Kimmie Meissner fared worse, and finished 8th.

Pairs
It looked like nobody really wanted to win the pairs competition as there were quite a few errors. Zhang and Zhang struggled with the solo jumps and a lift, and the same happened to the other top teams. Zhang and Zhang lost the free program by just 0.15 points to Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov.

The Chinese hit their impressive throws, but she did only a single Salchow and a double Axel-double toe instead of the planned triples, while he had to abort a lift. "We are not too happy with how we skated as we made three major errors -- on two jumps and on the lift," Hao Zhang explained.

"We lost about 17 points which is really regrettable and I apologize for that. I slipped a little going into the lift and I didn't have enough strength," he explained. "The performance itself wasn't bad, we showed the character of the program. The only problem were the elements."

The highlight of Kawaguchi and Smirnov's program was the quadruple throw Salchow, an element that only two couples so far have shown in competition -- the team from St. Petersburg themselves and Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent from the U.S. On the other hand Kawaguchi fell on the double Axel and they too, had problems with two lifts. He had to put her down early in the Lasso lift and the hand-to-hip lift looked awkward. Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov had trouble with the side by side jumps. He doubled both the toeloop and the Salchow, but the triple twist and the throw triple Salchow were excellent. The Ukrainians finished third. Zhang and Zhang and Kawaguchi and Smirnov qualified for the Grand Prix Final and Volosozhar and Morozov most likely will get to go.

Ice Dancing
There were a few surprises in the original dance. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin are still in first place but their lead diminished as their teammates Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski won today's competition. Khokhlova and Novitski had more energy in their Blues and Swing routine while Domnina and Shabalin were more elegant in their charming Waltz from the 30s, but lost a few points on the technical side. Their circular step sequence was only a Level 2 and their twizzles a Level 3 while Khokhlova and Novitski got a Level 3 for the footwork and a level four for the twizzles. Both couples achieved a new seasons-best.

"We skated quite well. We had ten days in between the Cup of China and the Cup of Russia and we used them to work on our programs," Shabalin said. "As for our elements -- we got a Level 2 for the circular in China and here we got a Level 2 again," he went on.

"The Cup of China was our first and the Cup of Russia our second competition, so obviously it was easier to skate and we felt more free," Novitski observed. "We didn't lose time [in between the two Grand Prix events], and improved what we had."

It was not a good day for Davis and White. After he stumbled out of the first element, the side-by-side twizzles, in the Charleston program, he completely seemed to have lost his focus and fell at the end of the diagonal step sequence as well as during the side-by-side footwork. He also put down his foot on the spin which resulted in another low level. The Americans were ranked only 8th in the OD and slipped to fourth overall.

"It was a bad day. It just didn't happen," a shocked Meryl Davis said. "Sometimes something happens and you have to get through it."

She had no explanation for the disastrous performance. Now Davis and White's chances to medal are slim since they are trailing Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte by 7.37 points. The Italian couple gave a technically solid but somewhat bland performance to "Bei mir bist du schön" arranged as a Lindy Hop and Slow Foxtrot.