Golden Skate

Lysacek leads at Skate America; Weir second

USA's Evan Lysacek leads the men after his Short Program to Bolero by Maurice Ravel .

USA’s Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir headlined the men’s short program tonight, and didn’t disappoint. Both men made small errors in their programs, but on the whole, were very put together for so early in the season. In the end, it was Lysacek who won the battle with Weir a little less than a point behind.

“I am proud of all of the hard work that I have put into developing this program,” explained Lysacek. “It’s just exciting to get this program out there so that I can show everybody what I have been doing. The elements were good, but I know that they can get better. I will just keep working hard on getting better, though this is a great start.”

Lysacek opened with all three of his required jumping passes to his new Bolero program choreographed by Tatiana Tarasova. Beginning with a much-improved triple Axel, Lysacek went on to complete an easy triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a solo triple flip.

“When I went to work with Tatiana, she had everything laid out for me,” Lysacek shared. “She had the music selected, the choreography finished, and the costumes drawn up. I was a little overwhelmed, being the control freak that I am, but it really worked for me. I love this program, and it was just so wonderful to have everything taken care of for me.”

Though it was an impressive debut with a solid performance, Lysacek made a silly error in starting his choreography one second too soon which made him go over time by one second. As a result, the leader incurred a one-point deduction.

“The skating was good tonight; the counting was not,” said an amused Lysacek. “I will be working with Tatiana again after Skate Canada, and I think that the timing is something that we will work on. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I was just so excited to perform this program that I got too anxious. It was a silly mistake.”

Still, Lysacek was able to outscore Weir on the strength of the rest of his skating, and earned a total of 81.30 points in this phase of the competition.

Like his rival, Weir opened his program with all three of his jumping passes with a similar result. In fact, Weir and Lysacek both scored 11.60 points on their triple Lutz-triple toe loop combinations, fueling the rivalry’s flames even more. However, Weir incurred a wrong edge deduction and a negative Grade of Execution (GOE) on his triple flip attempt for a two-footed landing.

“I am very pleased with the way the first performance of the season went,” Weir admitted quite candidly. “Of course there is a lot to work on, and a lot of small mistakes that I made that will be improved upon. At the same time, any score above 80 points is fantastic and I’m very happy with that and how generous the judges were with their scoring.”

However, t he World bronze medalist was disappointed with his spins in general, and feels like he can improve. “The spin levels were okay,” explained Weir, “but I know that I do them much faster, with more centering, and with much more passion on a regular basis. So I was a little disappointed in myself.”

Still, Weir showcased the framework of some spectacular footwork sequences, and believed that it is a great start to the season.

“My costume was fantastic,” giggled a spirited Weir, who skated to Saint Preux’s Sur Les Ailes Du Temps. “Two of the jump elements were very polished. As an artist and an athlete, it is very difficult to put something out there for the first time. You never know what people are going to say about the program, the costumes, and your fitness level so early in the season. But I think that I did a really nice job, and I am so excited to be competing for the first time in Skate America.”

Weir scored 80.55 points for his efforts, and goes into the freeskate in a virtual tie with his chief rival.

In third place with a great skate is the young Japanese skater, Takahiko Kozuka, who surprised everyone including himself with an impressive season debut.

“I am quite pleased that I did not make any mistakes,” said a humble and shocked Kozuka. “I did everything that I could do tonight.”

The 19-year-old not only skated clean with the same technical content as the leaders, but he outscored them on content, earning level four on all of his spins.

“I have only finished the short program, so it is a bit early to say if this competition is successful yet,” lamented the Japanese silver medalist. “But this gives me more confidence than before.”

The former World Junior Champion skated a jazzy program to Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, weaving seamlessly from one element to another. In the end, Kozuka was narrowly behind the leaders with a total score of 80.10 points, eclipsing his previous personal best by almost ten points.

Canada’s Kevin Reynolds finished in fourth place with the most technically demanding program of the competition. The 18-year-old opened with a quadruple Salchow-triple toe loop combination (the highest scored element of the competition with 14.30 points), but then underrotated his triple Axel attempt.

“I wasn’t able to complete the Axel like I normally do,” admitted Reynolds,”but I came back and landed the Lutz, so I am happy.”

Reynolds scored a total of 67.18 points with his performance to Armenian folk music – a new personal best for him.

“I have worked so hard on my component elements,” gushed Reynolds, who placed ninth at this event last year. “The scores tonight reflect all of the work that I put into them. I am so happy.”

In fifth place is Adrian Schultheiss, the pierce-lipped Swede who skates with the reckless abandon of a rock star. While his elements were clean, Schultheiss did not earn high levels of execution on his spins, and only earned a total of score of 64.40 points.

Canadian Shawn Sawyer struggled with his triple Axel and had an error on a spin to place sixth with a score of 64.14.

Russia’s Alexander Uspenski is currently in seventh place, followed by USA’s Adam Rippon.

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