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Takahashi leads after men's short

Takahashi dazzles at Skate America.
Takahashi dazzles at Skate America. (Michelle Harvath)

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(10/27/2007) - Reading, Pa. -- Saturday is shaping up to be a big night for Daisukes.

While the Boston Red Sox send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound for Game 3 of the World Series, Daisuke Takahashi will take a huge lead into Saturday's free skate in search of his second Skate America title in three years.

Takahashi was mesmerizing Friday night, not to mention in a class of his own. When he took the ice last, five skaters were all within a point of the top spot, and he left them all in a cloud of his ice shavings. He scored 80.04 points, relegating everyone else to fight for second and third.

From the first time Takahashi showed off his new hip-hop "Swan Lake" short program in Reading, it was evident it would be a crowd favorite. The energy and enthusiasm he displays during the program is infectious, as is the music itself, and by the time it's over, the audience feels it has witnessed something special.

Takahashi opened with a huge triple flip-triple toe loop combination and followed that with a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. He received all level threes and fours on his spins and step sequences, save for a level one on his straight line.

The 2007 world silver medalist still has to go out and execute his "Romeo and Juliet" free skate, but if it's anywhere near as good as his short program, the fans at Sovereign Arena are in for a treat.

In second is Evan Lysacek, who once again could find himself in a familiar position. At this event in 2005, he finished second to Takahashi, and last year he was runner-up to Japan's Nobunari Oda. Lysacek's Zorro program couldn't have started out any worse as he fell on his intended quadruple toe-triple toe. He did recover nicely, landing his triple Axel and triple Lutz, but the damage had already been done.

"The program that I put out tonight had a lot higher difficulty," Lysacek said. "Obviously, I'd rather go with something a lot more difficult and miss it and be learning and growing than just keep going for the same thing over and over again so I feel good about it."

In third place is 2007 world junior silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada. He nailed his opening triple Axel, but he put his hand down on the ice on the front end of his ensuing triple flip-triple loop. He landed a nice triple Lutz later in the program, for which he earned a career-best 67.47 points.

"It's only the short program," Chan said, trying to keep everything in perspective. "Tomorrow's a different day. You don't want to get too carried away."

This is Chan's third senior Grand Prix Series event; last season he finished fifth at Trophee Eric Bompard and seventh at the NHK Trophy.

In fourth through sixth places, and separated by a mere .2 points, are France's Alban Preaubert (last year's Skate America bronze medalist), Russia's Andrei Lutai and 2007 world junior champion Stephen Carriere. They scored 67.05, 66.91 and 66.85 points, respectively.

Carriere punctuated the end of his mostly clean "Stairway to Heaven" program with an emphatic "Yeah!"

"I think these (Grand Prix) events will really boost my confidence for nationals and help me in my pursuit of making it to different competitions after nationals," Carriere said.