Golden Skate

Akiko Suzuki wins NHK Trophy

Akiko Suzuki

Japan's Akiko Suzuki performs to "Die Fledermaus" at NHK Trophy.

Akiko Suzuki led the Japanese women to a one-two finish at NHK Trophy on Saturday when she won ahead of Mao Asada. Russia’s Alena Leonova earned the bronze medal in the figure skating event.

Suzuki wasn’t flawless in her classical routine to Die Fledermaus. She nailed the first three jump elements – a triple Lutz, double Axel-triple toe, and triple loop, but then popped another loop and the second Lutz. The Skate Canada silver medalist recovered in the last minute of the program to land a triple flip (that had an edge call) and a triple Salchow-double toeloop. Suzuki earned a level four for the spins. She scored 119.43 points for the free skating and was ranked second in this portion, but held on to her overnight lead to win with 185.98 points overall.

““I am happy to have won the NHK Trophy for the first time,” said the 26-year-old, “but I am not satisfied with my program. I did three good triple jumps, but then I made a mistake on the first jump in the latter half and panicked. I missed two jumps in a row and I am not satisfied with that.”

“As for the Grand Prix Final, my goal is to skate both programs without mistakes and my ultimate goal is to skate well at the World Championships,” Suzuki concluded.

Asada proved that she is on her way back. Her routine to Lizst’s Liebestraum featured five triple jumps and three level-four spins. Technically it wasn’t yet at the level she used to have a few years ago, however, it’s important to note that she is obviously enjoying skating and competing again. Her Lutz had an edge call, one triple flip was underrotated, and she didn’t go for the triple Axel, however, she had good flow throughout the program. The 2010 Olympic silver medalist was first in the free skating with 125.77 points and came in second overall at 184.19 points.

“For me the NHK Trophy was the first competition of the season,” the 21-year-old shared. “I started my season late and I practiced a lot. I got confidence from that and hopefully this result will give me momentum for my next competition in Russia.”

Leonova opened her somber routine to Adagio for Strings and Requiem for a Tower with a triple toe-triple toe combination, but stumbled badly on a cheated triple loop. She came back with two triple flips, but had doubled another flip and singled the Axel. The Russian still scored a season’s best with 108.92 points, which added up to 170.68 points overall.

“It is a little unexpected that I am here right now (at the press conference) as I didn’t skate my best,” Leonova said,. “but I am happy to have won the bronze medal. I want to learn from my mistakes and avoid them in my next competition. It was hard to skate after Mao and the long wait unnerved me.”

USA’s Ashley Wagner delivered a solid performance to Black Swan that included four triples, but the Lutz had an edge call again and a loop and the last flip were underrotated. The American placed third in the free skate and came in fourth overall with 165.65 points. Wagner was a little disappointed.

“I made a couples of mistakes in the program,” the 20-year-old admitted. “I got a little tired and I had two downgrades. Overall the program wasn’t perfect, but for how I felt going out there I’m happy with what I put out. I am not so pleased with the result, but it is what it is. I think this was good practice for my Nationals and, hopefully, Worlds.”

Georgia’s Elene Gedevanishvili dropped to fifth with 160.44 points. She produced four triples and looked dynamic in her routine to The Phantom of the Opera, but fell during the footwork.

Kiira Korpi of Finland finished sixth, followed by France’s Mae Berenice Meite and USA’s Agnes Zawadzki.

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