Ice Network

Flawless Uno nails short program to take lead

Jump-happy Kovtun second; Murakami, Ten in virtual tie for third place
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World junior champion Shoma Uno gave a spirited performance of his short program, landing all of his jumps cleanly and earning Level 4's on all three of his spins. The Japanese skater earned a personal-best score of 89.56 to take a 2.74-point lead over the field. -Getty Images

Japanese skaters had a great night at 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard, much to the excitement of their numerous fans present in Bordeaux.

World junior champion Shoma Uno topped the short program and Daisuke Murakami sits in third place heading into the free skate.

Uno delivered a flawless skate. He racked up 89.56 points for his short, 2.74 points ahead of Russia's Maxim Kovtun (86.82 points) and 9.32 points ahead of Murakami (80.24 points). Kazakhstan's Denis Ten sits just behind Murakami in fourth place with 80.10 points.

Canada's Patrick Chan stands in fifth with 76.10 points. Team USA's Max Aaron is in seventh with 72.91.

Uno put his whole arsenal on display in Bordeaux with his usual stamina and charisma. He started with a superlative triple axel that earned a +1.86 points Grade of Execution (GOE). He then landed a clean quad toe and a perfect triple flip-triple toe (+ 1.10 GOE), both in second part of his program.

"This season I have struggled with my short program," Uno said. "But today, I [performed my program] at about 70 percent and I'm happy to be first tonight." 

If what seemed like perfection to many felt like 70 percent to Uno, where was the other 30 percent?

"I could have done my triple axel and quad toe higher, and with better quality," Uno said. "But it's not only a matter of jumps. There are also movements and steps where I could have done more, especially when I compare them to what I do in practice."

Kovtun skated the only program to include two quads of the night. His opening quad toe-triple toe was followed by another quad toe, which he landed with a hand on the ice. He then performed a triple axel. He earned 31.77 points from just these three elements. Like he usually does, Kovtun rushed from one element to the next.

"At the beginning of the season, this program was a big challenge for me," Kovtun said. "I was skating only my step sequence and I felt exhausted. There were so many upper body movements in it. Now I am in a good enough physical shape to skate this program without any problem and make it look easy and nice."

Murakami did not quite repeat his performance from Skate Canada, as he stepped out of his planned triple lutz-triple toe combination (he singled the second jump). The rest of his program was superlative and skated with great flow and fluidity.

"I think I was a little too overconfident in myself," Murakami said. "I had just landed my two difficult elements, and usually this combination is easier for me. I learned a big lesson today: don't give up before the last element, because every element counts."

Ten bounced back from the rough start of his season (he finished ninth at Skate America where he was fighting an injury). He fell hard on his opening quad toe but quickly recomposed himself to turn in a magnificent triple axel (+1.29 GOE), and then doubled the second element of his planned triple lutz-triple toe combination.

"I feel better, but sometimes I decide not to give updates on my health," he explained. "I don't want my relatives to worry more than I do! The quad was okay in practice, but I still need to adapt it for the beginning of the program. The fact is that I haven't jumped much lately."

Chan skated last in the first group as one of the top favorites. He had a less-than-stellar performance in terms of elements, as he doubled his opening quad toe and was only able to combine it with another double toe. His triple axel and triple lutz were good, however, unlike at Skate Canada.

"The quad is just a little bit of hesitation," Ten said. "I just didn't attack it -- and the attack of a quad is essential for me. The triple axel has been a big cloud over my head the last seasons, and I somehow really want to show people how good it is. Maybe I can now really focus on quads. Still, I'm not as upset as I was at Skate Canada because there are lots of good things in that program that were not good at Skate Canada. That's what the Grand Prix is made for. I am stretching my legs again; I feel comfortable, and the jumps will come."

Chan's technical score was second to last in the field (31.70 points). His components were lower than usual, but they remained quite high, for good reason. Chan seems to have improved on what was already his strongest attribute, the way he dissociates his upper from his lower body, giving him more freedom to move and jump. He was floating and flying over the ice in Bordeaux, from one edge to the next, throughout his program.

Aaron had an off night, as he doubled the second jump of his planned quad salchow-triple toe and fell on his triple axel.

"I'm disappointed by my scores. I would have expected 76 points, not 72," Aaron said of his seventh-place short. "I think I need to learn to control my excitement and my energy more."

Russia's Alexander Petrov, 16, was one of the few skaters (along with Uno) to deliver a clean program. He landed a triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toe combination and sits in sixth place, 1.73 points ahead of Aaron.