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Abbott triples to men's lead at Trophee Bompard

Mura claims second; Recovering Joubert lands third; Amodio laments low score

American Jeremy Abbott's decision not to attempt the quad paid off in Paris.
American Jeremy Abbott's decision not to attempt the quad paid off in Paris. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/16/2012) - Jeremy Abbott won the short program of the Trophée Eric Bompard by head and shoulders Friday afternoon in Paris with 81.18 points, more than four points ahead of his next competitors, Takahito Mura of Japan (76.65 points) and Brian Joubert of France (75.46).

Skating last of the field, Abbott landed a crystal-pure triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz and finished with a wonderfully wide triple Axel. The strategy Yuka Sato and he decided upon Thursday night, after the practice session, proved the winning one.

"It's been a bit of a struggle with my back," Abbott explained afterward. "After Skate America, I took a one week rest. Then, we started working again on a low pace the second week and we have been pushing the training only last week.

"I have not landed a quad since Seattle, basically, so we decided to skate clean and build the confidence for the future. I needed it after Hilton Honors Skate America".

Abbott's short program to Nathan Lanier's "Spy," choreographed with Benji Schwimmer, was not only the winning program; it was also an instant hit with the French audience and the only program that was applauded throughout.

Managing to tell a story in just 160 seconds already packed with technical elements is a challenge that few skaters are able to meet. Abbott did. His upper body movement, head, arms and shoulders -- that incredible amplitude of his skate, the way he goes deep into himself to create an expression -- all helped convey strong emotion to the audience, to which the audience reacted instantly.

Abbott beat his season's best and also broke the "flower record" for the afternoon: He got a solid dozen bouquets.

Mura skated a clean program to "Malaguena." He two-footed his quad but he scored 11.63 for it, and his triple Axel created sensation.

"I am actually surprised to sit in second," Mura said. "But I did what I needed to do. I learned my lesson from Skate Canada (where he finished seventh)."

Joubert has teased us with successful short programs. This year's was no exception. His program, set to Justice's "Genesis" and Daft Punk's "Aerodynamic," opened with a quad-to-double combo. He tumbled on his triple Axel and recomposed right after with a solid triple Lutz.

"To be fully honest," Joubert explained, "I had to cure myself for a whole week after Cup of China (where Joubert had to withdraw after the short program, due to stomach fever), and I have started practicing again only last Monday.

"I am rather happy, though," the French champion added with a smile, "Because I lost three kilos in the process, which I needed. But I do not feel ready at all in terms of level of practice. This result makes me very confident.

"The free program is always much easier for me mentally -- but this one will be really difficult physically, because I do not feel ready."

Joubert has always been surprising in such occurrences, and no one can tell that he does not have another trick in his blades for tomorrow.

Almost seven points separate the first three skaters from the other six. Belgian Jorik Hendrickx scored 68.90 points with a quad-less, though otherwise flawless, skate.

Nan Song, who had won the silver medal for China last year, came back with a similar ambition but did not achieve his goal this time. His quad toe remained uncombined, and he could not land more than a triple Lutz-double toe. He scored 65.75, only two hundredths of a point behind his teammate, Jinlin Guan. Guan sits in fifth and Song in sixth.

Florent Amodio was next to last to take the ice. His practice sessions had been quite rough these last two days, and the quad seemed to be eluding him again. His competition program was even worse, as Amodio fell both on his opening quad Salchow and final triple Axel. To make things even worse, he doubled the Lutz of his combo and did not add his planned triple toe.

"I am sad for the audience and I am sad for myself," a distressed Amodio bravely admitted afterward. "This is one of the worst programs of my young career. It's a tough time. Usually I feel each one of my programs; here I don't.

"I can't feel the connection with the audience, so I think we will absolutely have to change that program in the next weeks."

Amodio has completely changed his style these last two seasons, from hip hop to jazz, and now to flamenco. Each time, though, the real Amodio could be found in the tension and concentration his whole body reflected, in the precision of his steps and in the wittiness of his skates.

The fact that the audience did not connect to his program was quite meaningful for him.

"Come on, I skate for the audience," he said. "Some people advised me to withdraw tonight, but I will certainly not. I want to please my audience tomorrow, and I will."

Tomáš Verner, from Czech Republic, skated even worse than Amodio, as he had one of those disaster showings he only can offer. He fell on his quad Salchow attempt, singled his triple Axel and missed his final combo. He stands in last position tonight.

Many falls marred most programs tonight. Abbott, Mura and Joubert proved that it still paid off not to fall in skating.