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U.S., Japan dominate at Gardena Spring Trophy

Rippon wins free, finishing second overall behind Kozuka; Young Americans win international debuts

Vincent Zhou ruled over the novice field, winning by more than 34 points.
Vincent Zhou ruled over the novice field, winning by more than 34 points. (Lindsey Weber)

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By Mimi Whetstone, special to icenetwork.com
(04/03/2013) - Adam Rippon closed out his 2012-13 season in fine form this week, winning the free skate at the 2013 Gardena Spring Trophy ahead of 2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan.

Kozuka, the 2012 Skate America champion, entered the free skate nearly 13 points ahead of the field. His short program, despite a fall on a quadruple toe loop, earned 81.18 points, and he earned Level 4s on two out of three spins. Kozuka finished the week with 228.63 points and collected his first Gardena Spring Trophy title.

Rippon, who placed third in the short program, executed a strong free skate to Claude Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune" to earn the silver medal. His free skate performance featured seven triple jumps and earned 155.52 points, a score that bested the field by more than eight points. His opening jumping pass, a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, earned a program-high 10.80 points, and his program components score of 81.34 points was more than two points higher than that of his competitors. Rippon finished the week with 219.16 points.

The bronze medal went to Stèphane Walker of Switzerland with 193.71 points, while Rippon's teammate, Brandon Mroz, finished fourth with 190.26 points.

The junior ladies title went to reigning U.S. junior champion Polina Edmunds, who finished the week with 158.45 points. Representing Team USA for the first time, Edmunds' elegant free skate, set to Romeo and Juliet by Nino Rota, included two triple-triple jump combinations that netted a combined 20.90 points. She earned 107.76 points for the segment, a score that would have won silver in the senior ladies event.

Completing the podium were Rin Nitaya of Japan with 123.61 points and Briley Pizzelanti of Italy with 116.54 points.

Team USA's Jordan Moeller also made his international debut this week, taking the junior men's title by nearly 32 points. His short program, set to "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles, featured a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination that earned a program-high 10.80 points, giving him an eight-point lead heading into the free skate. Moeller finished the week with an impressive 195.67 points.

The silver medal went to Shu Nakamura of Japan with 163.82 points, while the bronze went to Moeller's teammate, Jimmy Ma, who earned 153.98 points at his first international event. Ma most recently placed fourth in the junior men's event at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Neb.

In her international debut, 13-year-old Karen Chen of the United States won the novice girls title by nearly 20 points. Her "Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra" free skate featured five triple jumps, including a double Axel-triple toe loop combination. Known for her artistic abilities both on and off the ice, Chen's program component scores topped the field by more than nine points. She earned 131.24 points for the week.

The Japanese team rounded out the podium with Yuhana Yokoi taking silver with 111.77 points and Eriko Yamakuma snagging bronze with 104.65 points.

In the novice men's event, Vincent Zhou, who won U.S. intermediate, novice and junior titles in consecutive years, took home the title, leading the field by more than 34 points. His free skate, set to music from Casablanca, featured seven triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination that earned a program-high 11.50 points. Zhou finished his first international event with 153.55 points.

The silver medal went to Taichiro Yamakuma of Japan with 119.13 points, and the bronze went to Adrien Bannister of Italy with 98.68 points.