Takahashi takes gold at Skate America

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi (21) performs his long program to Tchaikovski's Romeo and Juliet.

In the men’s competition, it was a case of one skater winning the battle with another winning the war. In what turned out to be a closer competition than expected, USA’s Evan Lysacek won the free skate with an inspired performance to Puccini’s Tosca, but was unable to overcome the deficit that he had incurred in the previous night’s short program.

Overnight leader Daisuke Takahashi of Japan skated a flawed program with two major mistakes; nevertheless, he was able to win the gold medal for the second time in three years with help from commanding lead of his flawless short program.

“I am happy with the result,” Takahashi cautiously stated. “But I am not happy with the skating.”

The two-time and current Japanese champion opened his Romeo and Juliet program with a gigantic quadruple toeloop that was so big he was unable to control the landing in order to execute the second half of a planned jump combination. He then fell on his triple Axel before landing five clean triple jumps, and then fell again on a triple Lutz attempt.

In all, Takahashi received a total of eight points in deductions for the two miscues, but earned the highest marks of the night for his program components which kept him on the podium’s top step. The current World silver medalist scored 148.93 points in the freeskate, and with an event total of 228.97 points, outdistanced Lysacek by almost nine points overall for the win.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting great marks,” said the 21-year-old. “I am still learning about the new scoring system, and it surprises me that I received such high scores for what I did.”

Lysacek also opened his program with a quadruple toe loop, but unlike Takahashi, was able to land his next element, a triple Axel. In all, Lysacek landed seven triple jumps to Takahashi’s six, including a triple Axel combination and a triple flip-triple toeloop combination to earn a total of 152.38 points (220.08 points overall).

“I was coming in today with such a large deficit,” lamented Lysacek. “So I wasn’t really looking for the win, per se. I just wanted to continue to fight through the competition to make it a success overall, which I think it was.”

The audience embraced the impassioned Lysacek, who seemed to pour his heart out a little more with each connecting move in his routine to Tosca. As the music began to build towards the end of the program, so did Lysacek’s performance quality. The audience’s reaction began to build as the U.S. champion executed a crisp straight line step sequence which was full of edge changes, turns, and modern dance moves.

“I try to have a synergy with the music,” explained the 22-year-old. “I think tonight was actually pretty good with that, and I wanted to make sure that when I stopped the program, that I made a statement.”

Finishing in third place was Canada’s Patrick Chan, who, with a stirring performance to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, demonstrated that he is a skater to look for in the future.

The 16-year-old opened with a solo triple Axel, an element that he landed for the first time in competition in the short program, and completed six other clean triples to earn the second highest technical scores of the night.

“I definitely wanted to make a good impression here,” admitted Chan. “Since I landed the Axel last night, I felt pressure that everyone would expect it tonight. Once I landed the Axel, I was pretty much under myself.”

Chan fell on his last jump attempt, a triple flip, but enjoyed high program component scores for a new whopping personal best of 145.86 points. The 2007 Junior World silver medalist’s combined total of 213.33 points easily eclipsed his previous competition best by almost 30 points.

“Overall, I thought that the program was excellent,” gushed Chan. “I’ve never seen the program components so high in my long program, so putting emphasis on that really paid off.”

Moving up from sixth to fourth place was reigning Junior World champion Steven Carriere of the Unites States. Carriere skated a sultry program to Hollywood Nocturne by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, landing six clean triples along the way, including two Axels. The 2006-07 Junior Grand Prix champion also eclipsed his own personal best total score with 196.33 points, edging out Frenchman Alban Preaubert by a little less than two points.

Preaubert landed a total of eight clean triple jumps, but was unable to earn high levels on any of the other elements in his program to music from the soundtracks of Dracula and Interview With A Vampire. The 22-year-old earned only one level two in all, which allowed Carriere to move ahead of him in the standings.

USA’s Ryan Bradley skated an entertaining, yet up-and-down program to a Charlie Chaplin medley. His routine included six triple jumps, but his fully rotated quadruple toeloop had a shaky landing. It also appeared that the U.S. silver medalist lacked a bit of his typical charm and playfulness for which audiences have grown to know him. Bradley, who was eighth at this event last year, scored a total of 181.66 points to finish sixth.

Takahashi earned 15 points at this event, and will compete next in his home country of Japan at the NHK Trophy.

Lysacek (13 points) will compete next at Cup of China, while Chan (11 points) is slated to compete next at Trophee Eric Bompard.

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