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Takahashi whips men's field in Sapporo

Decorated Japanese champion rebounds from third-place finish in Canada to earn gold at NHK

Daisuke Takahashi posted the highest competition score this season at the NHK Trophy.
Daisuke Takahashi posted the highest competition score this season at the NHK Trophy. (Getty Images)

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By International Skating Union
(11/13/2011) - The 2011 NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan, concluded Sunday with the men's free skate. Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the event handily, defeating rival Takahiko Kozuka by almost 25 points.

Takahashi struck gold in the men's event, with teammate Kozuka claiming the silver. American Ross Miner came from sixth place to earn the bronze medal.

Takahashi went for a quad flip in his "Blues for Klook" program but underrotated the jump and fell. He recovered to produce five clean triple jumps and two Level 4 spins en route to scoring a season-best 169.32 points. The 2010 world champion racked up 259.75 points overall and, with the win, assured himself a spot in the Grand Prix Final.

"I am relieved to advance to the Grand Prix Final, but I know I must improve my performance in order to be ready for the final," Takahashi said. "My performance today wasn't 100 percent, and I won't win in the final with that kind of performance. But I am happy that I was able to land the quad flip in the six-minute warmup."

Skating to music from the movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Kozuka reeled off two triple Axels and four more triples, but he two-footed an underrotated quad toe. The reigning world silver medalist picked up a new season's best of 155.25 points, which brought his competition total to 235.02 points.

"Ever since the world championships, I have come to understand how good of a feeling it is to be on the podium. I'm glad to finish in the top three," Kozuka said. "However, a closer look to my performance reveals some errors. I wasn't able to skate cleanly from the beginning to the end, and before I knew it, my performance was over. I'd like to train harder so I'm able to skate very clean."

Miner turned in a solid performance to The Untouchables soundtrack that featured two triple Axels and difficult spins, earning him 141.24 points and an overall score of 212.36.

"It's awesome to be up here. I really wasn't anticipating to get a medal here. It is my first Grand Prix medal," Miner said. "When I came to this competition, my goal was to make myself happy. It wasn't perfect, but it was a solid skate."

Samuel Contesti of Italy moved up from seventh to fourth with 209.69 points, and the Czech Republic's Tomas Verner pulled up from ninth to finish fifth with 196.63 points.