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U.S. collects colorful medal haul from Nebelhorn

Chock, Bates claim gold; Denney, Coughlin take silver; Messing snags bronze

The gold medal won by the U.S. dance team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates was their first in six competitions together.
The gold medal won by the U.S. dance team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates was their first in six competitions together. (Kim Heim)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(09/29/2012) - U.S skaters netted three medals -- one of each color -- at the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. In the ice dancing event, Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their first gold medal together, while Caydee Denney and John Coughlin earned their second straight pairs medal at this event, improving to the silver this year. Keegan Messing took home bronze.

Ladies

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond pulled off a major upset to earn her first career international medal at any level. With 170.19 points, she edged favorite Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who tallied 168.23 points. The race for the bronze medal was also close, with Japan's Haruka Imai battling back from a ninth-place showing in the short program to overcome Estonia's Elena Glebova.

Osmond trailed the silver medalist by three points after the short program. The 2012 Canadian bronze medalist from Edmonton, Alberta, went on to earn 114.51 points for her Carmen free skate, which included triple flip-double toe, double Axel-triple toe and double Axel-double toe-double toe combinations.

The difference between gold and silver proved to be technical elements as Osmond barely outscored Sotnikova, the reigning Russian champion and world junior bronze medalist, on the program components mark.

Sotnikova, skating to "At Last Blues," fell on her free skate's opening triple Lutz but rebounded to earn positive grades of execution (GOE) throughout the rest of the program (although she singled her flip).

Imai was nearly seven points off the podium going into the free skate, and she outscored Glebova by 7.84 points in the segment thanks to a program that included six high-scoring triple jumps. Her total score was 153.64 points, while Glebova's was 152.36.

Carolina Zhang, the lone representative of Team USA, finished 12th in her season opener.

Men's

Nobunari Oda of Japan took the gold medal by more than 20 points over Russian silver medalist Konstantin Menshov. Americans Messing and Stephen Carriere finished three-four, respectively, in a tight race for the two remaining podium spots.

Oda earned 233.33 points overall, winning the short program and free skate by 10 points each despite struggling with his quad toe in both programs. Highlights of his Sorcerer's Apprentice free skate included a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a pair of triple Axels, one done in combination.

Menshov, the 2011 Russian champion, edged Messing for the silver medal with a total score of 212.94 points. Menshov's short program, to music from Pina, included a quad toe-double toe combination worth 11.89 points. His free skate's standalone quad toe received 11.87 points, while two triple Axels, one of which was done in combination, saw positive GOEs.

Messing maintained his medal standing over teammate Carriere by a little more than a point, 210.78 to 209.11.

"The competition went well for me. I had a few little mistakes, but other than that I thought it went well," Messing said. "I feel pretty confident and strong. Overall, I'm ready for the upcoming season. I hope I can get another senior B or a Grand Prix later this season."

Messing executed the highest-scoring element of the competition, a triple Axel-triple toe in the second half of his Matrix free skate that netted him 14.57 points. Despite suffering an early fall on his quad toe, Messing also performed a triple Axel and a Level 4 spin.

"Earning any medal internationally or nationally is an honor, whether you're representing Team USA or my home state of Alaska," he said.

Carriere's third-place finish in the free skate allowed him to move up to fourth place. While the Boston native didn't attempt a quad jump, he successfully executed two 11-point combinations in his Swan Lake free skate: a triple Axel-double toe and a triple Lutz-triple toe.

"My short program was not really desirable, so going into the free skate, I wanted to make sure I attacked the program," Carriere said. "I definitely feel more confident going into the season after this event. The short program reinforced that every aspect of the program is important, and the free skate helped bring out the Stephen I am used to being."

Pairs

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov continued an impressive streak, having now medaled at each of their 10 international competitions since teaming up in 2010. They skated to an easy victory, totaling 196.55 points, nearly 20 more than silver medalists Denney and Coughlin.

Volosozhar and Trankov, the reigning two-time world silver medalists, earned positive grades of execution on 11 of their 12 elements in the free skate. That program, set to "Violin Muse" and "Chaconne," featured a pair of group five lifts, a throw triple loop and a triple Salchow-double toe combination. They totaled 131.31 points for the segment, including 66.18 for program components.

For their part, Denney and Coughlin, the 2012 U.S. champions, placed second in both the short program and free skate to record 178.90 points. Their clean Phantom of the Opera free skate was highlighted by their trademark triple twist, the highest-scoring twist element of the segment, and a throw triple flip.

"We feel like we are right on track at this point in the season," they said. "We were excited to get our programs out, and of course it's always an honor to represent and win a medal for our country."

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres earned their first career international medal with 151.52 points. The 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalists, Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia, withdrew after placing fourth in the short program.

Also representing Team USA, Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff recorded their second fourth-place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy, having also competed at the event in 2010.

Ice Dancing

Chock and Bates rebounded from a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic to win gold in Germany with a total score of 147.79 points. Short dance winners Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi of Germany fell to third place overall after finishing fifth in the free dance, while silver belonged to Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov.

Chock and Bates were the only team to break the 90-point barrier in the free dance, earning 90.82 points. Set to selections from Dr. Zhivago, the program included a nine-point lift and a Level 3 circular step sequence worth 7.50 points. Each of the skate's eight elements received grades of execution of 0.64 or better, and each of their five program components marks were well over seven points apiece.

Zlobina and Sitnikov, beginning their second season as representatives of Azerbaijan (they previously skated for Russia), earned 86.64 of their 143.59 total points for their free dance, set to music by Goran Bregovic. The highlight of the program was a Level 4 twizzle sequence worth 6.29 points.

The Germans came into the event as reigning Nebelhorn silver medalists and earned an even 142.00 points for the week. They carried a three-point lead into the free dance but suffered a fall in the latter part of their program to drop to fifth in the segment.