Ice Network

Machida dominates short program at Skate America

Conservative Abbott in second place; Brown rebounds from shaky start
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
World silver medalist Tatsuki Machida was clearly the class of the event. The Japanese skater posted a whopping score of 93.39 to take an 11.57-point lead into the free skate. -Getty Images

Tatsuki Machida, a masterful on-ice technician with a poetic soul, opened up an 11.57-point lead over the field at 2014 Skate America with a dazzling display of athletic prowess tempered by an artist's touch.

The 24-year-old from Osaka came into his own last season with stellar Grand Prix results and a silver medal behind Japanese countryman Yuzuru Hanyu at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships. His short program Friday night, which combined explosive jumps and challenging spins with sensitive-yet-powerful choreography, proved he is still on an upward climb.

"This is my first competition of the season, and this was the first time I skated this short program," Machida, 24, said. "I was happy I was able to skate without any big mistakes."

Machida opened with a stellar quad toe-triple toe combination worth 15.69 points, one of just two clean quad combinations of the event. He followed with a strong triple Axel and dazzling spins and steps before nailing a triple Lutz. Although his 93.39 points were well under the personal best he set at the 2014 world championships, the score is still impressive for so early in the season.

Machida, who called his short program the story of "a sad love," credits choreographer Phillip Mills with tapping into his artistry. Mills, who is based in Southern California, shares coaching duties with Yoshinori Onishi, Machida's coach in Japan.

"This is the third year I have worked with Phillip, and I think he is the person who understands me best in terms of my artistic side," Machida said. "Everyone has different forms of love inside of themselves. The goal of this program is to touch the different forms of love in everyone's soul."

Jeremy Abbott chose English singer-songwriter Sam Smith's pop hit "Lay Me Down" for his short, and although he stepped out of his triple Axel and did not try a quad toe, the four-time U.S. champion earned a respectable 81.82 points.

The program was highlighted by a dynamic step sequence featuring up and down movements, as well as a well-centered upright spin and skid spiral into a low sit spin.

"I like [skating to] the lyrics -- it makes me feel more at home," Abbott said. "I did the program myself, so it feels second nature even though it's brand new."

"It was a solid skate with just a little bobble on the triple Axel; it got a little outside," he continued. "I can really see all of the work we have been putting in at home and it's been paying off."

The Detroit-based skater, who trains under Yuka Sato, hopes to add the quad toe to his short later this season.

"This is where I was at, and I feel really good," he said. "Everything has been building slowly and steadily and I have four weeks to add the quad into the short program before NHK (Trophy)."

U.S. silver medalist Jason Brown sits 2.07 points behind Abbott after falling on the opening triple Axel in his short, choreographed by Rohene Ward to Little Walters' up tempo blues' standard, "Juke."

The 19-year-old recovered quickly, and was musical and effervescent as ever for the rest of the high-energy program, which included intricate transitions into his spins, triple flip-triple toe and 'Tano triple Lutz.

"I wish I would have had a better start, but I'm happy with the way I recovered," Brown said. "I made sure to get every last point I could get by doing what I did. In that sense, I'm really happy. I kept the integrity of the program and pushed through."

Kori Ade, who trains Brown in Monument, Colorado, is encouraged by his 79.75-point score.

"I thought it was well-skated. I was pleased with the recovery because he didn't miss a beat," Ade said. "He popped right up after that fall as if nothing happened, which shows he is maturing and becoming a competitor.

"When I total up the score unofficially in my mind, what he potentially could have had tonight -- it's unbelievable. It shows me his hard work is being recognized."

Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten, still recovering his strength and stamina after a stomach ailment forced him to withdraw from Nebelhorn Trophy last month, fell on his quad toe and turned out of his triple Axel. His 77.18 points puts him fourth.

"It wasn't the performance I was looking for, but it was my first competition of the season and I just need to get back in competitive shape," Ten said. "There is nothing tragic about it. I will try to do better tomorrow."

Douglas Razzano, sixth in the U.S. last season, is tenth after falling on both his quad toe and triple Axel attempts.

"I think I just got a little ahead of myself after the fall on the (quad) toe and just tried to do the rest clean, and that's not the way to do it," a disappointed Razzano said. "I have to stay present and not think about a result, but think about my preparation. That's something to fix (for the free skate) tomorrow."