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Lysacek leads after China short program

McLaughlin, Brubaker take silver in pairs

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker took home silver medals in their senior Grand Prix debuts.
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker took home silver medals in their senior Grand Prix debuts. (Getty Images)

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By Tatjana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(11/09/2007) - Day two of the Cup of China was quite successful for Team USA.

Pairs skaters Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker won the silver medal in their debut on the senior Grand Prix while Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir finished one-two in the men's short program. And ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto are still in second place after the original dance.

Lysacek made a big step forward Friday night. He again went for the quad in his passionate "Zorro" program and this time he landed it, only touching down with his hand. He was rewarded for his efforts with a new personal best of 81.55 points.

"Sometimes I don't like the short program; today, I do like it," the U.S. champion said. "I did kind of what I always do, I gave it a hundred percent today. I have a lot of confidence going into the free skate, which is always stronger for me. To have a few-points lead feels good."

The lead isn't big, though. Weir put out an elegant performance to "Yunona and Avos" that featured a triple Lutz-triple toe, a triple Axel and a triple flip. The 23-year-old earned 79.80 points. He decided not to put the quad into the program.

"I was excited with today's performance after a kind of shaky warm up", Weir told reporters. "I handled my nerves well and for the first Grand Prix of the season, to come very close to my personal best and to feel like I skated well makes me happy."

Weir added that he feels good about his change of coaches after last season.

"It was a very big decision to change my coach from Priscilla Hill to Galina Zmievskaya. Right now it's working very well, because it is a very business-orientated relationship that we have and we know the work that we have to get done every day. She is very supportive of me and a hundred percent into making me the best skater that I could be."

Two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland didn't have such a good day. He only went for a double Axel and then crashed on his quad toe.

"I concentrated too much on my quad and put too much energy into it. So I overrotated my upper body [and fell]," Lambiel said. "The reason was, I planned to do a double Axel today because in the last two weeks I have changed my [set-up] of the triple Axel. I still need to get used to this."

Sergei Davydov of Belarus was fourth with 68.69 points and gave a strong performance. Canada's Shawn Sawyer two-footed and cheated his triple Axel, but his other elements were well done and he finished fifth. Alexander Uspenski of Russia fell on his triple flip that was planned for his combo, but was smart enough to add a double toe to his triple Lutz to salvage a few points. He is ranked sixth at 60.90 points.

The pairs event was something of a letdown after the men's competition with no one skating very well.

McLaughlin and Brubaker looked like they needed to be cheered up a little even though they had just medalled in their first senior Grand Prix and can qualify for the final. But the disappointment is understandable.

McLaughlin went down on the throw triple Salchow, usually a solid element for the couple, and also crashed on the side-by-side triple Salchow that got downgraded to boot.

"Obviously we struggled in the free skate. I think nerves played a little bit of a factor," Brubaker said. "It's wonderful that we were able to come out second and it's great to medal. Sometimes you learn more from the harder skates, the skates that you have to struggle through and I think it will be good going into NHK knowing what to expect."

Qing Pang and Jian Tong were clearly first with 176.75 points versus McLaughlin and Brubaker's 154.66, but Tong messed up his solo jumps.

Jessica Miller and Ian Moram of Canada went for the quad-throw Salchow, but Miller fell. Moram then missed a double toe and the double Axel. They finished third because the other couples made even more mistakes.

In ice dancing, Belbin and Agosto didn't make up ground in the original dance as they had hoped. In fact, they even lost ground and now trail the leaders, Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, by 4.27 points, a significant deficit in ice dancing. That the Americans got a higher score than at Skate America may have been small consolation.

"I think the overall level of the performance was a step up from Skate America. It's still early in the year, and we obviously have a lot of work to do, but the levels are high, and we'll fix our circular [footwork] and keep working on it, but I really think the energy was much better here", Belbin said. "I think our free dance is a big asset for us this year. We feel very strong, very confident with it."

Both couples had skated very well and chose completely different styles of music. Domnina and Shabalin picked a powerful Cossack dance, while the Americans went for a playful "Appalachian Hoedown" and country waltz.

The original dance was again a festival of very different and entertaining dances. The kilt that British ice dancer John Kerr wore was something special. He and his sister Sinead unfortunately wobbled a few times and finished fifth.