Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi took the lead in the Men’s short program, while teammate Nobunari Oda placed third. USA’s Evan Lysacek currently sits in second.
Takahashi delivered an impeccable tango which featured a triple flip-triple toeloop, a triple Axel, and triple Lutz. The defending silver medalist also displayed good footwork and spins, and earned a new personal best of 89.95 points – very close to Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko record score of 90.66 from the 2006 Olympics.
“I was very nervous during the warm up since I hadn’t competed with the top skaters last season,” confessed Takahashi. “But in today’s performance, I didn’t think about what my rivals were doing. The performance today wasn’t ideal, but I’m in good condition in the Final and I feel I’m achieving my ideal performance step by step.”
“I didn’t make any big mistakes,” said the Japanese skater, “but I made some small ones, like getting behind the music in the step sequence and spins. I couldn’t control my movement in the step. I felt that my lower body didn’t move well today (skating and footwork).”
“Thanks to the support from the audience,” continued the 23-year-old. “I was able to get such good marks today. I won’t think about the Olympics and just focus on skating well in the Free program the same as I did today.”
Lysacek gave an outstanding performance to Stravinski’s Firebird which featured a triple Axel, triple Flip, triple Lutz-triple toeloop, and fast and well-centered spins.
“Technically I’m the best I’ve ever been,” said the U.S. bronze medalist. “I haven’t pulled out all my tricks yet.”
The U.S. bronze medalist renewed his personal best with a score of 89.85 – just a tenth of a point behind Takahashi.
“For the last two seasons, I’ve been trying to break 85,” said Lysacek of his new personal best score. “I think the closest I’ve come was 83 and 84. So to not just break it, but to go up to almost 90 points, is really a great improvement for me, and I think it’s reflected a lot in the components score. I’ve been working so hard technically making these elements so strong, not just execute them.”
Oda also delivered a flawless program which featured a very solid triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toeloop, and triple flip. The former Japanese Champion also earned a new personal best of 87.65 points.
“I’m happy with my performance today,” said Oda. “I was very nervous because I was the last skater. I knew Daisuke and Evan had gotten high marks, but I just tried to focus on what I had to do. I was confident with myself.”
The 22-year-old was pleasantly surprised with his Grand Prix standings. “I trained hard over the summer, and gained confidence from my GP wins. My condition was good coming into this competition – better than in China. I had trained well, so I believed in myself.
USA’s Johnny Weir also earned a new personal best (84.60 points) for fourth place. The 25 year-old put out a good program which featured a solid triple Lutz-triple toeloop and triple Axel, however, his triple flip was called on the use of the wrong take-off edge.
“I’m happy with the way the program went today,” said the defending bronze medalist. “The crowd reaction was really wonderful for me. I’m happy with such a high score in an international event, so today was a success – definitely.”
The former U.S. Champion has been improving and he states that this is due to him being healthy. “That helps when you’re trying to get through a program. I think my training this summer has pushed me to go to each competition and just keep building. Hopefully I’ll be at my peak at the National Championships and Olympic Games.
Teammate Jeremy Abbott came in fifth (76.65 points) after stepping out of the landing of his triple Axel and falling on the triple Lutz.
“I think it was a little rough,” Abbott admitted of his performance. “I felt good this morning, but it just wasn’t my day. Fortunately I start in the long program, so it is not over yet. I heard Takahashi’s score and I was very impressed because it is very large, but it had no effect on my performance. I mean, I went out and I started pretty good, and then my triple Axel was a little off and from that I just got a little off my feet through the rest of the program.”
“There was a very quick turn-around from NHK to Canada,” Abbott told the press. “It was just enough time to build some confidence in my free program which I was lacking in Japan. And then there was another quick turn-around just to the Final. I think after Canada I only had a week in between. It’s very difficult, because before a competition you want to go up, but after such a strenuous competition your body has to go down. So it was some kind of battling for that week. I just want to improve upon each of the competitions and the short program was not an improvement. I would much rather learn from that here than have that happen at the U.S. Nationals.”
Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic opened with an incredible quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination, but singled his Axel and Lutz and struggled with his straight line footwork. He currently sits in sixth place with 70.17 points.
“It is hard to say I enjoyed to skate,” said the 23-year-old. “It was hard. You can see I struggled in my steps. Hopefully I get the spins in the right level, but the steps where a bit of a disaster for me. As everybody saw, the combination in the beginning was quite good. I took a lot of points there, but then two singles…
“It was still better than in the U.S. (Skate America),” he continued, “but in those days I was really sick so that’s no excuse for me now. I just missed like 15 points easily by those two jumps and this is not good.”