Golden Skate

Takahashi takes Four Continents title

Daisuke Takahashi, 21, landed two clean quadruple jumps (one in combination with a double toeloop) in his Long Program to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet.

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi maintained his overnight lead to win his first Four Continents title with a safe margin of over 30 points. Jeffrey Buttle of Canada edged out USA’s Evan Lysacek by just over a point to win his second consecutive silver.

Performing an very strong and expressive routine to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Takahashi opened with a solid quadruple toeloop, followed by a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop combination. The 2007-08 Grand Prix Final silver medalist proceeded to land a total of seven triple jumps throughout his program, including two triple Axels (one in combination).

Takahashi earned positive GOEs for 13 of his 14 elements, with a triple loop receiving a -0.86 for a slight overrotation on the landing. The Japanese champion also produced two level 4 spins, as well as a two excellent footwork sequences, and earned a new personal best of 175.84 (93.98/81.86) points for a first place finish in the long. His total score was 264.41 points.

His long program and total scores bested Evgeni Plushenko’s Long Program score of 167.67 and Total Score of 264.41 – both of which were achieved at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

“I’m so happy to have achieved my best result,” said the 21-year-old. “During my performance, I was calm, everything was smooth – the jumps, the spins, the steps, and I was careful and focused on each detail. I landed two quads for the first time in an ISU competition, and this is a big improvement for me. I got a great score, and it gives me confidence for Worlds.”

Buttle also delivered a strong performance, opening with a solid triple Axel-double toeloop and triple flip-triple toeloop combination, however, he later fell on a triple Lutz and double a planned triple Axel. The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist also had a bad lean on the landing of a triple loop, but otherwise landed five clean triple jumps.

Despite the mistakes, Buttle showed very good transitions and connecting elements in his expressive routine to music from the Ararat soundtrack, earning a level 4 on three of his spins, as well as displaying good footwork throughout. The Canadian silver medalist earned a new seasonal best of 150.17 (73.59/77.58) points for second place finish in the long, and with a total score of 234.02 points, moved up to second overall to win the silver.

Buttle was visibly surprised and pleased when his scores were shown.

“I’m pleased with the result today,” said the 25-year-old. “I wasn’t overly pleased with how I skated, but I think it was a small improvement over Nationals. As I said earlier this season, this is really the direction that I want to have. As long as things are getting better, I’m happy with that.”

Lysacek had a rough start in his Tosca routine when he fell on a quadruple toeloop which was intended to be a combination jump. The two-time and defending champion recovered to land a solid triple Axel, triple loop, and triple Salchow, but then put his hand down on the landing of a triple Axel and didn’t complete the second sequence jump.

Nevertheless, Lysacek landed three more triple jumps, and earned a level 4 on three of his spins. He also displayed a very complex level 3 straightline footwork sequence, and in the end, earned 149.05 (74.27/75.78) points for a third place finish in the long. However, with a total score of 233.11 points, the U.S. champion slipped to third overall by less than a point to settle for bronze.

“It was pretty bad,” said Lysacek of his performance. “I think I’ve been training really well, but this was much below what I’ve been doing in training. So, I was pretty disappointed in that, but at least I know it can’t get very much worse than that going into Worlds.”

The 22-year-old has been working a great deal on his stamina since U.S. Nationals, as well as the quad. “My quad has actually been really consistent,” said Lysacek, “so to go down on it in the program is kind of strange. But something that I’ll obviously go home and analyze and see what went wrong and where I need to make more improvements before Worlds.”

Teammate Jeremy Abbott, who stood in ninth after the Short Program, placed fourth in the long with a new personal best of 145.53 (74.37/ 71.16) points. Last year’s bronze medalist opened his routine with a solid quadruple toeloop, but then touched down with his free foot on the landing of a triple Axel. He also stepped out of his second jump in a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination, and singled his Lutz in combination with a triple toeloop.

Abbott otherwise landed three more triple jumps, and earned a level 4 on all four of his spins. The 22-year-old also displayed expressive level 3 circular and straightline footwork, showing good use of his upper body. With a total score of 206.40 points, he rose to fifth place overall.

Abbott felt he did very well. “It’s probably the last time I’m going to do that program and to end it the way it did,” he said. “I’m just very pleased.  I felt that I really stayed in the program the whole time.  I mean, I had mistakes, but I really felt that it couldn’t have gone any better.  I did exactly what I came here to do and I’m proud of what I did.”

“This is my second Four Continents,” Abbott continued. “Last year was at home, so coming to Asia is quite a bit different. This is my third trip to Asia this year, and I love it. The arena is full, so that’s really nice.  The fans here are incredible. They’re just so appreciative of everything you do. It’s really gratifying that good, bad or indifferent, no matter how I skate, to know that that support is there and they really appreciate what I did is just so cool.”

USA’s Stephen Carriere placed fifth in the long with a new personal best of 144.22 (72.14 72.08) points for his routine to Hollywood Nocturne, and with a total score of 218.30 points, maintained fourth place overall.

The current World Junior champion singled his opening triple Axel, but otherwise landed a total of six solid triple jumps, including a triple Axel-double toeloop and a triple toeloop-double toeloop-double toeloop. Carriere also earned a level 4 on three of his spins.

“It’s bittersweet,” replied Carriere, when asked how he felt about his performance. “I haven’t popped in a program in forever, so doing that single Axel at the beginning of the program was kind of weird. But, I re-centered myself and it was an amazing skate.”

“It was a really good experience,” said the 18-year-old of his experience at this event. “Coming off of Nationals for a week and a half – I’ve never had that before. Now I’m just getting ready for Worlds.  I’m planning on lots of practice. It’s going to be ‘pedal to the metal’, full-out for Worlds, because I want to be the best of the best, so I’m definitely pushing harder than I’ve ever pushed before because I know it will be the last competition.”

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan also produced a good skate to Beatles Concerto by John Rutter which consisted of six triple jumps. The 2006 World Junior champion received a -1.29 GOE for his triple flip-double toeloop-double loop combination for using the wrong take-off edge on the flip. The 18-year-old also singled a triple loop, but otherwise earned a level 4 on three of his spins, and earned 128.90 (64.14/64.76) points. He finished eighth overall at his first appearance at this event, with a total score of 196.38 points.

Shawn Sawyer of Canada earned a new seasonal best of 126.39 (60.65/ 66.74) points for his expressive routine to Moments in Love by Art of Noise. The 23-year-old underrotated and fell on a triple Axel and two-footed the landing of a triple Lutz, but otherwise had a fairly solid program which consisted of six clean triple jumps. He placed seventh in the long, and with a total score of 187.18 points, finished ninth overall.

Teammate Vaughn Chipeur placed eighth in the long with a new personal best of 125.74 (59.24/66.50) points. The 23-year-old landed a total of five triple jumps and earned a level 4 on all of his spins. In his first appearance at this event, he finished in seventh place overall with a total of 196.57 points.

Chengjiang Li of China slipped from fifth to sixth place overall (197.98 points) after finishing ninth in the long with 125.73 (59.37/67.36) points. The 28-year-old landed a quadruple toeloop, but two-footed and fell on a triple Lutz, and later put his hand down on the landing of a triple toeloop. The Chinese champion showed obvious signs of fatigue during the last 30 seconds of his routine.

In his sixth appearance at this event, it was the first time that the veteran skater didn’t make the podium.

Teammates Jialian Wu and Ming Xu finished in 10th and 11th place respectively.

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