2006 NHK Trophy: Men’s Highlights

As in the ladies discipline, the Japanese men swept the podium with Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda, and Takahiko Kozuka winning the gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.

Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland withdrew due to a viral infection. The two-time World Champion was told by his doctor to stay off the ice for at least a week.

Short Program

Takahashi produced a solid routine to Concert for Violin and Orchestra by Tchaikovski, landing a very good triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel, and a triple Lutz. The current Grand Prix Final bronze medalist also displayed good spins and footwork to place first after the short with a new personal best of 84.44 points.

“I’m happy with the result,” said Takahashi. “I was able to stay calm, but I could have been more exciting. I’m happy about my high component score. Tomorrow, I want to do the quad and I want to skate without any serious mistakes.”

Oda, who was eighth to skate in the short, opened his program with a solid triple Axel and a very good triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination. His routine to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon also contained good spins and footwork as well as a solid triple flip. The 2005 World Junior Champion earned 83.55 points (personal best), placing second after the short by less than a point.

“I’m satisfied with my performance,” said the Japanese National silver medalist, “however, my [straight line] step sequence wasn’t very smooth. I was a bit concerned if I’d be able to skate well today, so I was a little bit careful.”

Chengjiang Li executed a solid quadruple-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel and a triple toeloop in his routine to music from the soundtrack A World without Thieves, but his footwork and spins were mostly graded level one and two. The 2005 Four Continents silver medalist earned 69.26 points for a third place finish after the short.

“My health is still not good, but it’s a little better,” admitted the two-time Olympian. “After I withdrew from the Cup of China [November 10], I’ve been training for three days only. I still have a cold and I apologize for not skating better today.”

Kozuka produced a good routine which included a triple Axel, a triple flip-double toeloop combination, and a triple Lutz, as well as good spins and footwork. The current World Junior Champion earned a new personal best of 67.95 points for his routine to Art on Ice and Sarabande by Edvin Marton, for a fourth place finish.

Kevin van der Perren of Belarus was fifth with 65.55 points. His routine to Albinoni’s Adagio included a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple Lutz, and two level four spins.

Russia’s Alexander Uspenski was sixth with 64.63 points, followed by Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden (63.95 points).

Long Program

Performing to music from Phantom of the Opera, Takahashi nailed his opening quadruple toeloop, following up with a solid triple Axel, a triple Axel-double toeloop, a very good level three circular footwork sequence, a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, and a triple Lutz-double toeloop-double loop combination. The 2005 Four Continents bronze medalist also delivered three more triple jumps, a very good level four straight line footwork sequence, and good change combination spin. The 20-year-old was awarded a score of 163.49 points (personal best) for a first place finish in the long, and with a total of 247.93, edged out Oda to win the gold.

“I’m very happy to have won the gold medal,” said the Japanese National Champion. “I landed my jumps, but some of my steps and spins were not clean. That remains an issue for me.”

Oda produced a very solid and clean routine to Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovski, opening with a very good triple Axel-double toeloop-double loop combination, followed by a triple loop, a very good level four flying sit spin, and a good triple Lutz-double toeloop combination. The 2006 Four Continents Champion also produced four more good triple jumps, a double Axel, and good spins and footwork to earn 161.01 points (personal best) for a second place finish in the long. With a total of 244.56 points, the defending champion was second overall, missing the top spot on the podium by 3.38 points.

“I’m very pleased with the silver medal and with having qualified for the Grand Prix Final,” said the 19-year-old. “I’m happy to have skated a good free skate. I was really nervous in the short program. My quad [toeloop] has been improving in practice since I’m back in Japan, and I hope to have it for the Japanese National Championships.”

Skating to Piano Concerto No. 2 by Frederic Chopin, teammate Kozuka opened with a solid triple Axel, followed by a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple Lutz, and a level four flying sit spin. The 17-year-old also executed four more good triple jumps (two in combination with double jumps), as well as a very good level four change combination spin and good footwork, earning a new personal best of 140.39 points to place third in the long. With a total of 208.34 points, the current Junior Grand Prix Final Champion captured the bronze, his first senior Grand Prix medal.

“I’m very surprised about the bronze medal,” said the 2006 Japanese Junior Champion. “After the Trophee Bompard (he was sixth), I never would have expected to win the bronze medal. I’m especially happy about my triple flip. Before I will include a quadruple jump in my program, I will perfect the two triple Axels in the free skating.”

Li, who stood in third after the short, landed a quadruple-double toeloop combination and a triple Axel-triple toeloop- double toeloop combination, but touched down on a triple Axel and singled a flip. The 27-year-old placed fourth in the long with 122.06 points, and with a total score of 191.32 points, slipped to fourth overall.

Uspenski delivered a good routine with included seven triple jumps, but the 19-year-old stepped out of the landing on a triple Axel. The Russian was awarded 118.73 points for a fifth place finish in long, and with a total score of 183.36, moved up one spot to fifth overall.

Van der Perren, who was fifth after the short, placed seventh in the long (113.35 points) and dropped to sixth overall (178.90 points).

Patrick Chan of Canada was seventh (174.34 points).

Both Takahashi and Oda qualified for the upcoming Grand Prix final and will be joining Brian Joubert (FRA), Evan Lysacek (USA), Alban Preaubert (FRA), and Johnny Weir (USA) at the event in two weeks.

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