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Osmond steals gold in stunning coming-out party

Suzuki uses smarts to claim silver; Gold rises to seventh; Zhang suffers wardrobe malfunction

Kaetlyn Osmond was all smiles after capturing gold in her first senior Grand Prix event.
Kaetlyn Osmond was all smiles after capturing gold in her first senior Grand Prix event. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/27/2012) - Kaetlyn Osmond never won a world junior medal, or even a Junior Grand Prix title. Her highest finish in Canada's junior division was third, in 2010. Yet she is blazing a trail in her first international season.

On Saturday, the 17-year-old from Newfoundland followed her win at Nebelhorn Trophy last month with gold at Skate Canada, skating a dynamic program to Bizet's Carmen that captured second place in the free and gave her the title with 176.45 points.

"She has that flair and that excitement to compete," said Ravi Walia, who has trained Osmond in Edmonton since she was 10. "That combination is a big success."

Walia chose Carmen for his skater a year ago but didn't share his thoughts with Osmond until this spring.

"Carmen has been used so much, I was concerned, but I felt it was perfect for her," he said. "It fits her personality and it is mature. I wanted her to look like a top-10 senior lady, no longer a junior. I felt it could be a big breakthrough for her. I looked at the [1988] Katarina Witt version of it and said, 'Let's try to show that kind of maturity on the ice.'"

Osmond's Carmen is athletic in the mold of Witt's rival, Debi Thomas, but tempered with seductive power, especially in her stylish step sequence. It wasn't flawless -- the skater fell on her triple Lutz and two-footed the landing of a triple toe loop -- but Osmond fought for every element, including an opening triple flip-double toe combination and solid double Axel-triple toe. She earned 115.89 points, a new personal best.

"It wasn't perfect, of course; I missed a couple of things, but definitely it improved so much on my last competition in [program] components," Osmond said.

"This [win] is a little more shocking, because it's my first senior Grand Prix. On the Junior Grand Prix, I was always ninth or 10th, so this is just extraordinary."

Akiko Suzuki, Japan's world bronze medalist, rose from fifth after the short to win the free skate and silver medal with a solid program to music from Cirque du Soleil.

She opened with two combinations: a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop and double Axel-triple toe. Her next jump, a triple flip, was not as successful, and she added a single loop to the landing to keep from falling. She landed three more triples in the program's second half as well as a double Axel, and earned 120.04 points for a 175.16 total.

"I think I was able to put my short program behind me and was able to perform quite well today," she said.

Suzuki could give lessons in absorbing judging system rules and counting jumps. Once she did the unintended single loop after her triple flip, she could not execute a planned triple loop-double toe because it would have made for too many combinations. She substituted a solo triple loop. That took her second triple loop, planned at the end of her routine, out of the equation, because skaters are not permitted to do two solo triples of the same variety.

"I knew I could not repeat another loop, and so I substituted a double Axel," she said. "I was thinking, thinking the whole time. It was hard because I've never even practiced it that way."

Another Japanese skater, 2010 world junior champion Kanako Murakami, grabbed the bronze medal with a dramatic program to a Latin medley that opened with three triples, including a Lutz, loop and flip, but suffered a bit from three under-rotation calls on jumps done in the second half. She placed fourth in the free and ended with 168.04 points.

"I think I performed quite well today," Murakami said. "The jumps were not perfect, but I was able to portray the role of a strong woman in the program, which is what I wanted to do.

"Last season, I had some boot problems and I wasn't able to jump well. This season, I am practicing quite well, so I came into this competition with more confidence."

The short program leader, Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, faltered on several of the jumps in her free skate to Minkus' Don Quixote and placed fifth overall.

U.S. junior champion Gracie Gold climbed from ninth after the short to seventh overall with a sixth-place free skate that opened with her signature element: a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. Although the 17-year-old skated her free to the Life is Beautiful soundtrack with style and speed, she doubled an intended triple flip and triple loop, and popped a second planned triple Lutz into a single.

"I just really need more experience competing this program at the senior level," Gold said. "I was kind of taken with the crowd and the lights and the signs, and after I'd land one jump, I would get ahead of myself again and kind of mess it up. I have to work on keeping that in check."

If they gave out awards for calm under pressure, Caroline Zhang, U.S. pewter medalist, would be at the head of the line. One of the straps holding up the skater's black dress snapped at the very start of her free to Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," prompting her to play it safe with her spins.

Nevertheless, she landed opening triple flip and triple Lutz combinations (both had deductions) as well as a three-jump triple loop combination, a second triple loop and two double Axels, and placed ninth with 149.87 points.

"I got distracted on the first start pose; my dress, the back of it, sort of fell," Zhang said. "I got a lower level on my flying spin, and I skipped the Beillmann because I was afraid it was going to fall. I guess it broke, and I tried to fix it in my program, but it wasn't happening."

"I was wondering if I should stop her performance, but I was told [by a U.S. Figure Skating team member] to wait to see if the referee would stop it," Zhang's coach, Peter Oppegard, said. "The opinion was it should keep going. Unfortunately, she took a few positions out, the ones where it was most dangerous for the dress to fall off: the Biellmann position at the end and the doughnut position. So, she lost some points, but I'm so proud of her for staying focused."