Oda out-jumps field in Nebelhorn shortBrown debuts in style with Prince of a program; Ten puts himself in the mix
Japan's Nobunari Oda jumped out to a 7.93-point lead at the Nebelhorn Trophy after a clean short program that included the event's only quadruple jump.
The 26-year-old skater, who won this event in 2008 and 2012, performed a clean quad toe out of steps in his snappy short to Big Band music from The Cotton Club. His triple Axel was also outstanding, and his final jump element, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination in the second half of the program, gained +3 grades of execution (GOEs) from two of the nine judges. His trademark spins were exceptionally fast.
It all added up to a superb early-season tally of 87.34 points for the 26-year-old Oda, who has three times placed in the top 10 at the world championships but has not qualified for Japan's world team the past two seasons.
"I am happy that I had such a good beginning of my season, and I will try my best in the free program tomorrow to keep this first position and win Nebelhorn Trophy for the third time," he said.
Oda, who is married with two children, trains much of the year in Barrie, Ontario, under a team headed by Lee Barkell. He already has one impressive victory under his belt this season, having easily defeated three-time world champion Patrick Chan in the free skate at the Thornhill Summer Competition in August.
While in Canada, Oda works with two of the sport's foremost choreographers, Lori Nichol and David Wilson. Asked what the greatest difference between the two is, he made an interesting observation.
"With David Wilson, it is more natural and emotional, and we listen to the music on the ice, and we just skate second after second," he said. "Lori Nichol thinks more about the scores and the transitions and all the rules."
Making his senior international debut, Jason Brown of the U.S. kept last season's stylish short program to Prince's "A question of U." The two-time world junior medalist had outstanding body language and musical interpretation. His first element was a good triple Axel, followed by a rather shaky triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz.
His three spins gained Level 4 and were very attractive because of his flexibility. The majority of the judges assigned +2 GOEs for them, and two judges gave him +3 for his step sequence.
Asked if there is a big difference between senior and junior competitions, Brown said, "I treat every competition the same, whether it is senior or junior. I am not stressing about a quad. I practice it at home every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. It is not consistent enough to do in competition."
Canadian Jeremy Ten skated a career-best short program that earned 76.49 points. All of his jumps looked very easy, and he seemed to fly over the ice. He opened with a solid triple Axel, followed by a triple Lutz-triple toe loop and a triple loop in the second half of the program.
"This was a good comeback for me because in the last four years I had many injuries," Ten said. "Today, I feel better than ever."
"Canada has three Olympic [men's] spots, and Jeremy certainly is one of those who can make it to the Games," said Michael Slipchuck, Skate Canada's director of high athlete performance. "There will be a fight at Canadian nationals with two or three others."
Artur Dmtriev Jr. of Russia sits fourth with 73.39 points after performing four clean triple jumps in his speedy program. His triple Axel earned eight +2's from the nine judges.
The best skater representing countries trying to earn one of six available Olympic spots is Brendan Kerry of Australia, who placed fifth with 67.97 points. Although relatively unknown among the spectators, he got huge applause for his program to a classical version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." The spectators cheered his seven clean elements, including a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and fine triple Axel.
Kerry trains in Riverside, Calif., under Tammy Gambill, who also coaches U.S. skaters Ricky Dornbush, Vincent Zhou and many others.
Romania's Zoltan Kelemen earned 65.52 points, good for sixth place, after landing four clean triples.
Based on the short program results, Australia, Romania, Hong Kong, Israel, Ukraine and Italy are in position to qualify Olympic men's spots.
Reporter's notebook: The Israeli and Finnish federations each have two skaters in the competition and had to decide before the first draw which of the two skaters would try for the Sochi spot. Israel selected Alexei Bychenko, who trains in Hackensack, N.J., under Craig Maurizi. Thus far, it looks like a wise decision, as he earned six more points in the short than did Israel's other skater, Stanislav Samohin.
The Finns' selection, Valtter Virtanen, sits in 16th place and is some three points ahead of his countryman, Bela Papp.