Skate America was the first of six events of the ISU Grand Prix series and was held at the Hartford Civic Center, Oct 26-29, in Hartford, Conn. Over 60 skaters from 15 different countries competed for points and monies totaling $180,000 in U.S. dollars. The points go toward qualification for the Grand Prix Final, to which the top six competitors in points standings from each discipline will be invited to compete for a total purse of $272,000 U.S. dollars. The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec 14-17, 2006, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Nobunari Oda of Japan was the winner in the men’s event, capturing his first Skate America title. USA’s Evan Lysacek rose from third place after the short program to win the silver, while France’s Alban Preaubert captured his first senior Grand Prix medal – the bronze.
Oda, who was eleventh to skate in the short, opened his program with a solid triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination. His routine to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon also displayed good spins and footwork as well as a good triple flip. The 2005 Junior World champ earned 81.80 points (personal best) to take the lead after the short.
“I was just enjoying my skating today,” said Oda. “I was [here] not just to win, but for myself.”
Skating to Night on the Bald Mountain and Buzzy Bee, Preaubert opened his enchanting routine with a good triple Axel and triple flip-triple toeloop combination. In addition to a nice triple Lutz, the Frenchman also delivered good spins and footwork sequences, earning 73.80 points (personal best).
Preaubert was happy with the way his entire program went. “I had a good contact with the crowd and I hope to confirm this performance tomorrow,” he said. The 21-year-old went on to explain that he had trained well with his coach, Annick Dumont, this summer in Courchevel. “I am well prepared,” he continued. “I think this was a good beginning for the season for me. For a year now, I [score] a new personal best in each competition, and that’s a good sign!”
Lysacek, however, didn’t fare as well. The two-time and reigning World bronze medalist touched down on his opening triple Axel as well as turning out his second jump on a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination. However, the 21-year-old exhibited good spins and footwork, earning 70.35 points for a third place finish after the short for his routine to Passion by Peter Gabriel.
“I had some minor errors,” explained Lysacek, “but I tried to put my heart and soul into the rest of the performance and I think it showed in the scores. It’s a start. Not a perfect start, but it’s a start to the season.”
Teammate Ryan Bradley was fourth after the short with 64.44 points, followed by Belgium’s Kevin van der Perren who earned 63.43 points.
Lysacek, who was in third after the short, won the men’s free with his Carmen routine. The Olympian nailed his opening triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and triple Axel. Delivering good spins and footwork (albeit a level two on the circular), he also landed a triple loop, a triple Salchow, a triple Axel-double toeloop combination, a triple flip-double toeloop-double loop combination, a triple Lutz, and a double Axel. The US National silver medalist earned a score of 150.74, and with an total score of 221.09 points, moved up to second overall.
“I went out tonight fighting for the win, and I did pretty well,” commented Lysacek, who felt he had a solid start for the season. “I did it [Carmen routine] last year a few times. I really like the music. It’s always cool for me to see the audience getting into it because it’s great music. It just makes you want to clap along with it.”
Oda, who was first after the short, opened with a good triple Axel-double toeloop-double loop combination and triple loop. Although he underrotated and two-footed the landing of a triple Axel, the 2006 Four Continents champ landed a good triple Salchow-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a triple Lutz, and a double Axel in his routine to Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovski. The 20-year-old also displayed good spins and footwork, earning 149.59 (personal best) for a second place finish in the free. It was enough to maintain first with a total score of 231.39.
“I was a little tired in the free program today,” admitted the Japanese National silver medalist, who was both surprised and happy. “My jumps and spins were ok, but I felt tired in the steps and I stumbled. Otherwise the program went well. He explained that his David Wilson, his choreographer, had chosen the music. “It is a little difficult for me because I’m skating to classical music for the first time.”
Preaubert earned a score of 138.87 despite a deduction for falling on the last of 8 jumps, a triple Salchow. The French National bronze medalist delivered an entertaining routine to music from the soundtracks of Mike Hammer, Swing Kids, Bob Fosse Show, and The Mask that included a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel-double toeloop-double loop combination, a triple Lutz, a triple Axel, a double Axel, and a triple loop. He also displayed good footwork and spins, placing third in the free and overall with a 212.67 points.
“This is my first medal in a big senior event and I want to dedicate it to my former coach, Elena Issatchenko, who died last month,” said Preaubert, who feels comfortable with the music and style. “She taught me the basics of skating.”
Russia’s Sergei Voronov, a newcomer to the senior circuit and coached by Alexei Urmanov, was ninth after the short. He finished fourth in the long (116.63) and moved up to seventh place overall.
Kevin van der Perren, who was fifth after the short, moved up to fourth overall with 178.52 points after placing fifth (115.09) in the free.
Sergei Davydov of Belarus was sixth after the short. He finished seventh in the long and fifth overall with a total of 175.72 points.
Bradley dropped from fourth to eighth overall, while teammate Scott Smith moved two spots up to sixth place.
Canada’s Nicholas Young was in 11th after the short, but withdrew from the event following a warm-up due to recurring symptoms from a viral infection he picked up last week.
Oda (15 points) will defend his NHK Trophy title next month, while Lysacek (13 points) will compete at Cup of China in two weeks. Preaubert (11 points) will compete in his home country at the upcoming Trophee Eric Bompard where he was 8th in 2004.