Ice Network

Mura masters 'Carmen' short, leads men in Osaka

Abbott lays down clean short, sits second; Surprising Murakami in third
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Riding the momentum from his win at Skate Canada, Takahito Mura set a new personal best in the short in Osaka. The Japanese skater earned 86.28 points for his 'Carmen' program and sits atop the leaderboard. -Getty Images

Takahito Mura of Japan took the lead after the men's short program at the NHK Trophy with a new personal-best score of 86.28.

Skating to Carmen, Mura landed a quad toe-triple toe combination, and nailed a triple Axel and triple Lutz. He made a very minor stumble later in the program, during his step sequence, which didn't cost him.

"After winning Skate Canada, I felt a lot of pressure and didn't know what to expect here," Mura said. "During the warm-ups, my jumps felt a little tense, so I tried to relax more. When I successfully landed all of my jumps, maybe I relaxed too much. That's probably why I made a small mistake in the steps."

Mura, who seems to have gained a new level of confidence this season, worked with the Nagano Olympic champion, Ilia Kulik, during the summer to polish his jumps.

"There are many good quad jumpers that I could have gone to, but I was always fascinated with the Russians' technique. Many of them can keep their quad even after they become older," Mura said. "I will be 28 years old when the next Olympics are held, so I wanted to learn their technique."

Jeremy Abbott of the United States skated a clean program and earned 81.51 points to place second. He performed to the song "Lay Me Down," and his program was choreographed by himself and his coach, Yuka Sato. He landed a triple flip-triple toe combo, triple Lutz and triple Axel.

"I was very pleased with my performance today," Abbott said. "I love this program, and I love performing it. It feels very much a part of me."

When asked what the difference was between competing here and at Skate America, where he finished fifth, Abbott said he needed more time to adjust to his new technique.

"We changed a lot over the summer on my on-ice technique -- how I spin and how I jump. Even the way I stroke has changed," Abbott elaborated. "I felt good at Skate America, but I needed a little more time to let all of the changes sink in."

The surprise of the day came from 23-year-old Daisuke Murakami of Japan, who skated clean and is sitting in third place after recording a new personal best of 79.68. Skating to "Tango de Roxanne," Murakami landed a quad Salchow-double toe combination, triple Axel and triple flip.

"I'm surprised to be in third place. This is something I've never imagined," Murakami said.

It was at this competition two years ago that he dislocated his right shoulder and had to withdraw.

"I'm not here trying to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, so there is no pressure," Murakami said. "My goal here is to get a new personal-best score so that I can get two Grand Prix events next season." 

A lot of media attention surrounded Yuzuru Hanyu, who is in fifth after falling on his quad toe and making another mistake on his combination. No one was certain whether he would be able to compete here until last Wednesday, when he made an official announcement that he would stay in the field.

The reigning Olympic champion suffered injuries from his horrific accident at the Cup of China three weeks ago, when he collided with Chinese skater Han Yan during the six-minute warm-up before the free skate. Hanyu was later diagnosed with bruising to his head and a chin injury that required seven stiches. He also injured his left thigh and aggravated an old ankle injury.

"It was painful when I first came back on the ice to train," Hanyu said. "I wouldn't say I'm fully recovered now, but the mistakes I made today were not caused by injuries. I don't want to use them as an excuse."

He blamed himself for failing to stay in the moment Friday night.

"I kept saying that I wanted to go to the Grand Prix Final, but today I realized I'm competing in the NHK Trophy, here and now, and I should concentrate on it," Hanyu said.

His score of 78.01 has him less than two points out of third place and less than one point back of fourth-place finisher Sergei Voronov of Russia, who was awarded 78.93 points. 

It was not a good day for two other Americans; both Ross Miner and Joshua Farris made several costly mistakes apiece. Miner doubled his planned quad Salchow and stepped out of his Axel, and is in 10th place. Farris had two falls and is in 11th.