Golden Skate

Joubert takes lead at Cup of Russia

France's Brian Joubert, 24, has over a 12 point lead after his Short Program to Safri Duo's Rise.

Coming off a disappointing fourth place finish last week at his home Grand Prix event, Brian Joubert of France dominated the field at this event. The World silver medalist currently leads the field by nearly 13 points.

Skating last after most of his rivals faltered, the student of Jean Christophe Simond held nothing back and delivered his program to Safri Duo’s Rise with maximum impact. The 24-year-old opened with a solid quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a strong triple Axel, and a triple Lutz out of steps.

While the levels of Joubert’s non-jumping elements could have been higher, it was his advantage in the technical mark that accounts for the lion share of his 13-points lead. The crowd really got into the upbeat mood of his routine, and supported the skater throughout the program. He picked up a new personal best of 86.10 points.

“I’m very happy about my short program,” said the French Champion. “I skated a lot better than in Paris a week ago, but I know I could do even better because I did not get all the levels. I only got a level 2 on one of the step sequences. The reason why I did not skate well in Paris was because I lacked confidence. I had a lot of problems with my boots. Finally they were fixed and I was able to jump much better, but I’m not physically ready for this competition.”

Joubert was excited when he learned that he would be competing at Cup of Russia. “The Russian public supports me very much. They give a lot of energy and power and I’m able to give good performances. Three years ago I did three quads – I’m sorry I won’t do it tomorrow. I’m simply not ready for it. My goal for tomorrow is to land one quad, two triple Axels and triple-triple combinations. The start of the season is always hard for me and I just want to do one clean competition.”

Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic finished second (73.20 points) in the short program after crashing down on his opening quad toe loop landing. The 2008 European Champion recovered to land a clean triple Axel and triple Lutz out of steps, but none on his jumps were quite as good as Joubert’s, though his non-jumping elements were. The 22-year-old was also able to capitalize on the fact that he kept last year’s short program to Melodie en Crepuscule and Gypsy Swing, which allowed him to feel comfortable on the ice and to deliver his program with a lot of style and character.

“I’m very happy about my performance,” said Verner. “It is an improvement over Cup of China. I did one element more this time, even though the landing was not that good, but it’s good to know that my program is still worth something even with mistakes. The Grand Prix Series are very important for me, but in a way it’s still a practice area, because the European and World Championships are more important.”

USA’s Adam Rippon edged out Alban Preaubert of France for a third place finish in the short program with a new personal best of 71.62 points. The student of Nikolai Morozov was almost flawless in his interpretation of Toccata and Fugue performed by Vanessa Mae, but the landing of his triple Axel was flawed (he brushed the ice with his free foot). The 2008 World Junior Champion did, however, land a clean triple flip-triple toe loop combination, and all his spins received level four which allowed him to post the second highest technical score of the night.

“I am very happy even though I can do things better in practice,” said the U.S. Junior Champion. “I need to take everything slowly, but even though it was not perfect, I am still very happy. I am so thrilled to be third. When they came to take me to the press conference, I thought it must have been a mistake.”

After Rippon finished eighth at Skate America last month, he went home and started over. “I changed to last year’s short program. I trained hard. I did both short and long program run-throughs every day. I felt very comfortable coming into this competition. I hope I’ll do as well tomorrow.”

The 19-year-old has also been working on the quad. “I trained it, but it’s not very consistent yet, so I have to hold if off. Perhaps I’ll put it into the programs later this season, but more likely next year.”

Preaubert, who is virtually tied with Rippon for the third place, also avoided making major mistakes, but the landing of his triple loop out of steps was tight and the quality of his individual elements prevented him from picking up strong GOEs. Nonetheless the French bronze medalist’s bluesy number to Exit Music by Brad Melhdau appealed both to the judges and to the public and he scored 71.60 points.

Belgium’s Kevin van der Perren, who withdrew from earlier events due to illness, came to Moscow well prepared to fight his way back into the men’s single skating elite. The 2007-08 Grand Prix finalist delivered his Night at the Bald Mountain routine, complete with a silver skeleton on his otherwise black costume, with his typical attack and abandon. He landed a strong triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple loop out of steps, but the landing of his triple Axel was a bit tight and he only received a level two for both his step sequences. He is currently fifth with 69.68 points.

USA’s Jeremy Abbott opened his program with a good triple flip-triple toe loop combination and triple Axel, but later popped as planned triple Lutz into a single and then fell on a flying sit spin. The 2008 Cup of China Champion otherwise was among the most intricate in the entire field, and was able to express the music perfectly in his routine to Albinoni’s Adagio. He is currently in sixth place with 68.80
points.

Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden sits in seventh, followed by China’s Chengjiang Li.

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