U.S. skaters lead ladies and ice dance

Czisny near flawless; Davis, White edge French

Alissa Czisny leads heading into the ladies free skate in Beijing.
Alissa Czisny leads heading into the ladies free skate in Beijing. (Getty Images)


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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(12/10/2010) - Alissa Czisny continued her top-notch Grand Prix season with a clean and elegant short program that leads the field in Beijing by 1.63 points.

The 2009 U.S. champion, who trains in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, hit a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination as well as a triple flip in her short to a Korngold violin concerto.

As usual, the stylish skater's most remarkable elements were her trademark spins, which may be the best in the world. Eight judges awarded one or more of them rare +3 grades of execution.

"I was really nervous out there today; I was just trying to stay on my feet and complete each element," Czisny said. "It's definitely the best I've skated it in competition so far. I'm excited about my performance. I've been learning from each competition this season and trying to improve for the next competition, and it really worked out for me today."

Italy's Carolina Kostner is second with 62.13 after a solid performance to a fiery Flamenco featuring a triple toe-triple toe combination and a shaky triple loop. Perky Japanese youngster Kanako Murakami sits third, earning 61.47 for a lively program to "Jumping Jack" that also included a triple toe-triple toe.

U.S. champion Rachael Flatt is sixth after coming up short of rotation on her triple Lutz and landing her triple flip forward and on two feet. (The flip was downgraded by the technical panel.) In addition, her step sequence gained just level 1 from the technical panel.

"Obviously it was a big disappointment because I've been training the program pretty well," Flatt, who has been struggling with a foot injury, said. "It's my first Grand Prix Final so I'm happy to be getting the experience, but that wasn't the ideal way to start.

"I'm excited to be here. I'm trying to stay positive and do the best I can. The foot injury affected my training leading into the Final. I had to take a week off, which I normally wouldn't do in the middle of my season. It's been very frustrating because I wasn't getting the optimal training and I think it showed a little bit here."

Davis, White lead dance
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who train in Canton, Mich., under Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, took a 2.98-point lead after a near-flawless short dance.

The U.S. champions' twizzle sequence and lift were the highlights in their medley of two Waltzes to well-known opera pieces by Puccini and Verdi. The couple gained level 4 for all of their elements -- including, significantly, the two Golden Waltz sequences -- except the midline step sequence, which was awarded a level 3.

"It wasn't what we were aiming for, but it wasn't necessarily a bad skate," Davis said. "It's on the way to where we want to take it. Our performance today wasn't where we plan on capping off our program - it's still a work in progress."

"We got the levels we were looking for; we could definitely improve on the side-by-side footwork," White said. "The twizzles weren't perfect, but we got the level, so that's good. Overall I think the excitement and expression was better, but we know we have a lot of room for improvement."

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France are second with 65.66, some eleven points ahead of the four other couples. They interpreted the Waltz from the soundtrack of Dr. Zhivago.

Hungarians Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin are a surprising third after energetically performing the Waltz from "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Skaters' Waltz" by Emil Waldteufel. Zavozin formerly skated for the U.S. and was junior world champion with Morgan Matthews. In a tight race, just 1.6 points separate the third-place through sixth-place teams.

Oda's jumps win the day
Japan's Nobunari Oda won the men's short program after showing seven near-perfect elements, including a superb quad toe-triple toe combination that gained three +3 and six +2 GOE's from the nine judges. He also executed a perfect triple Axel that was rewarded with three +3's.

In addition to high technical scores, Oda's components ranged up to 8.5, and he earned an impressive 86.59 points.

"I decided to add a quad into my short program after Skate America," Oda said. "It worked in practice and my coach Lee Barkell agreed I [should] try it, and it did work."

Canada's Patrick Chan is second, just one point off the lead. His quad toe loop was a bit shaky; therefore, he did not add a second jump. Later in the program, he executed a solid triple flip-triple toe as well as a triple Axel.

Reigning world champion Daisuke Takahashi, also from Japan, is third after a clean and entertaining Rumba program that did not include a quad. The Olympic bronze medalist received the highest program component scores of the event, 42, and has 82.57 points going in to the free skate.

Germans dominate pairs
In the pairs' short, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took a comfortable lead of almost six points.

Skating to Russian/Hungarian folk music, all of their elements were clean, and their throw triple flip; side-by-side triple toes; and lift were excellent. For the first time they got a rare level 4 in the step sequence, and take 74.40 points in to the free skate.

"This was the best short program of this season, for the first time without mistake," Szolkowy said. "That makes us confident for the free program tomorrow."

World champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China are second with 68.63. They, too, skated a clean program, but some of their element levels were lower than the Germans'. Russian up-and-comers Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov sit third with 63.86.