Golden Skate

Lambiel takes easy lead in Moscow

Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland won the Men's Short program after his routine to Carne Cruda by Fernando Egozcue.

Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel won the Men’s Short Program, with USA’s Johnny Weir right on his heels. Andrei Griazev of Russia is currently in a distant third by over 10 points.

Coming off a disastrous performance at Cup of China, Lambiel said that his main goal for this event was to put the performance in Harbin behind and skate two clean programs. He nearly reached his goal with his short program to Carne Cruda by Fernando Egozcue.

The 2006 Olympic silver medalist opened with a double Axel (he is still currently re-learning the triple Axel), but then doubled the second jump in an intended quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination. He also land a strong triple Lutz out of footwork and his spins received positive GOEs from the judges.

However, the true highlight of the program was the intricate choreography of his two expressive footwork sequences – one of which only received a level two.

The Swiss champion was very proud of his performance which earned a score of 80.49 (41.58/38.65) points.

“I was very confident today,” said Lambiel. “I just wanted to do a clean program. That’s why I didn’t try the triple Axel.”

Lambiel admitted that he didn’t feel so confident during the six-minute warm-up.

“But after waiting in the dressing room, I was just ready to step onto the ice and fight,” said the 22-year-old. “Maybe when Peter (Grütter, his coach) told me that I just should do a clean program and not take any risks, that gave me the confidence to skate [well] today.”

Weir makes no secret of his love of Russia, and consequently has a huge following in Moscow. He was greeted at the Khodynka Ice Palace with more banners than all other skaters put together.

The 2007 Cup of China champion obliged and made his fans happy by nailing all three jumping passes which included a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel, and a triple flip out of footwork. The quality of his jumps earned him a combined GOE of +3.40.

Weir also improved his non-jumping elements, gaining a level four on all his spins, but his footwork only received a level two. Compared to his past programs, however, his routine to Yunona and Avos by Alexei Rybnikov lacks the intricate choreography. Nevertheless, it was a strong and clean program and enough to earn the U.S. bronze medalist a new personal best of 80.15 (43.30/36.85) points.

“I skated better at the Cup of China,” acknowledged the 23-year-old, “but I am very happy with my performance today. To perform well in Moscow with the Russian music was exciting for me today, but the step sequences and spins were a little bit weak.”

Griazev found himself in third with 70.95 (39.20/31.75) points despite being ranked the second-to-last skater of the competition. The 22-year-old was left off the 2007 World team and struggled with injuries this fall, but at least for a now, all those troubles seem to be over.

The Russian champion skated a clean and confident program to Didle Mourani by Space, landing a strong triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel, and a good triple flip out of footwork. His non-jumping elements were also nicely done and he expressed a lot of character in the footwork sequences.

“I was supposed to skate in two other competitions, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to compete there because of my [ankle] injury. Now I’m feeling much better and I don’t think I’ll have any problems in the future.”

Yannick Ponsero of France opened his short program with a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop combination and a triple Axel, but the 2007 World Junior bronze medalist opted to do only a triple Salchow jump for his third jump pass, and later fell during a straightline footwork sequence.

Overall, the French silver medalist’s routine to a remix of Otonal by Maxime Rodriguez seemed to be a rather strange choice as the skater doesn’t posses the softness necessary to express the music. His elements were strong, however, and he earned 67.93 (37.38/31.55) points for a fourth place finish.

Russia’s Andrei Lutai of Russia is currently fifth with 65.55 (35.50/30.05) points.

The 21-year-old landed a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a triple Axel, and a triple loop out of footwork, but he received some low levels on his spins and footwork.

The Russian silver medalist was strong and confident in his performance to music from the Truman Show soundtrack, but relatively low basic value prevented him from finishing higher.

Jeffrey Buttle of Canada experienced problems on all of his jumping
elements and currently sits in sixth place with 65.15 (30.06/35.10) points.

The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist turned out the landing of a tight triple flip-triple toeloop combination, fell out of the landing of a triple Axel, and doubled an intended triple Lutz.

The Canadian champion had strong spins and footwork, all of which received level threes, but without the most “expensive” elements of the short program, the non-jumping ones and the strong program components score could only help so much.

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan is currently in seventh, followed by Russia’s Alexander Uspenski.

The event continues tomorrow with the Original Dance and the Ladies’, Pair’s, and Men’s Long programs.

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