Takahashi returns with win at Finlandia

Team USA's Carriere finishes in third place

Stephen Carriere (left), Daisuke Takahashi (center) and Sergei Voronov (right) made up the men's podium at the Finlandia Trophy.
Stephen Carriere (left), Daisuke Takahashi (center) and Sergei Voronov (right) made up the men's podium at the Finlandia Trophy. (Tatiana Flade)


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By Tatiana Flade, special to
(10/10/2009) - Daisuke Takahashi is back.

The 2007 world silver medalist celebrated his comeback after missing last season completely due to a knee injury and won the Finlandia Trophy Saturday in Vantaa.

Russia's Alena Leonova took the ladies short program on day two while Sinead Kerr and John Kerr defended their lead in the original dance.

Takahashi performed a playful routine to "La Strada" and landed a triple toe, triple Axel-double toe and three more triples. But there were also some errors. He put his hand down on the second Axel, stumbled badly on a downgraded triple Lutz and stepped out of a triple flip. He also had only a Level 1 and 2 on two spins. Takahashi scored 142.62 points and totaled 225.25.

"Today's performance was not so good," the Japanese skater admitted. "But I found out what I have to do from tomorrow. My next competition is the NHK Trophy [in Japan], and I have a lot of homework to do. I need to work on my stamina, I was lacking that today in my spins and steps."

Russia's Sergei Voronov gave a strong performance to Schindler's List that included an excellent quad toe, two triple Axels, as well as a triple loop and Salchow, but he doubled both a Lutz and a flip. The Russian champion was awarded Level 3s for his spins and footwork and a Level 4 for the flying sit spin to earn 141.72 points. He won the free skating portion and moved up from third to second place at 210.22 points. Voronov is headed to his first Grand Prix of the season next week in Paris.

"My jumps today were good, but the skating was so-so, because my physical condition is not so good," the Russian said. "My job obviously is to skate as clean as possible and to show all the elements that my coach and choreographer have given me, and I would like to be on the podium," he answered when asked about his goals for the Grand Prix.

Stephen Carriere from the U.S. slipped from second to third. He stepped out of his opening triple Axel and popped a loop but landed five clean triples. Carriere was ranked fifth in the free skating with a score of 123.02 points and third overall at 193.24.

"I kind of lost focus in the middle of the program. This competition was a bit hard for me. It is the first one out, and I'll go home and work on everything. I got my butt kicked today," Carriere said.

Alexander Johnson (USA) moved up one spot to tenth overall in what was his first senior level international competition. He missed a triple Lutz and doubled another Lutz. Johnson had 165.03 points.

In what was a competition with many errors, Leonova came out on top ahead of Finland's Kiira Korpi and Susanna Pöykiö. The top six skaters are separated by less than three points.

The reigning world junior champion hit the boards when setting up for her opening combination triple flip-double toe and continued but stepped out of the flip. She quickly re-focused and switched her combination to the triple Lutz. Performing to Russian folk music, Leonova also landed the double Axel and produced solid spins and a Level 3 step sequence. She earned 56.24 points.

"I'm happy that I even after the stumble into the boards, I still managed to do almost everything as planned. I didn't expect to hit the boards like this. I had no problems in practice or warm up with the boards," the Russian said.

Korpi went down on her triple Lutz but went on to complete a triple loop and double Axel. She scored 54.71 points. "It was a difficult beginning [of the program], but I'm glad that I was able to keep my concentration and gave an okay performance," commented the 2007 European bronze medalist.

Pöykiö opened her routine with a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination and then put her hand down on her triple flip. The reigning European bronze medalist picked up 54.64 points.

"I felt relaxed and comfortable, but I was a little nervous because this is my first competition," Pöykiö explained. "Overall it was a good beginning."

Japan's Fumie Suguri stumbled on a triple Lutz to finish fourth with 54.09 points. Reigning European champion Laura Lepistö of Finland came in sixth at 53.45 points. She nailed her triple toe-triple toe combo but doubled her loop and crashed on a single Axel.

"The jump combination was very good. I don't know what happened after that. I felt good and confident. I don't remember the last time when I fell on an Axel like that," Lepistö said.

U.S. skaters Becky Bereswill and Molly Oberstar are ranked 12th and 14th, respectively. Bereswill fell on a doubled Lutz and her triple flip was cheated. Oberstar's triple Salchow and loop both were downgraded, and she singled the Axel.

Earlier today, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr strengthened their overnight lead in the original dance. The brother-and-sister team produced a lively American country dance to "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash.

Sinead Kerr two-footed a twizzle in the twizzle section, but the European bronze medalists recovered quickly and continued with a straight line lift and a fast-paced circular step sequence that was graded a level three. Kerr and Kerr pocketed 52.72 points and have accumulated 86.83 so far.

"Today probably wasn't our best performance, but at the end of the day, it was all about trying to get out and do a competition before we do France next week. It wasn't the best today, but hopefully we'll do better tomorrow," John Kerr told the press.

"As far as the original dance goes for me, I really felt like I didn't skate it well at all. I felt I was okay in the practice this morning, but I think probably the jet lag hit me a little bit this afternoon," Sinead Kerr explained. "I definitely felt tired a little bit sleepy, heavy. Hopefully we'll improve on that in Paris."

Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev of the Ukraine remained in second place with an entertaining Cossack dance that contained fast twizzles and a rotational lift. They scored 49.36 points and have 80.20 overall.

"In our dance, we are two Cossacks. He is the older, experienced one, and I'm like his assistant. The song is about two Cossacks going to war and about leaving the girlfriends behind, but in the end I take my hat off, and he realizes that his girlfriend was with him in the war, just dressed up as a man," Beknazarova told the story of their dance.

Russia's Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Grachev produced Level 4 twizzles in their "Lezginka" dance from the Russian region of Dagestan, but she stumbled at the end of the side-by-side footwork, and their circular steps were graded only a Level 1. The couple received 48.74 points for this performance and sit in third place at 79.37 points.

"I'm not so happy with our skate today; we could have done better. There were a couple of smaller errors and we will work on that," Platonova said.

Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles (USA) slipped from fourth to fifth after he fell in the side-by-side step sequence. They also got low levels for their lift and circular footwork. Summersett/Gilles now have 67.98 points and were overtaken by the Germans Christina Beier and William Beier, who showed a Hawaiian dance and scored 72.04 points overall. The Germans had the highest technical score of the ten couples.