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Abbott is golden at the Cup of China

Kim, Domnina, Shabalin also win in Beijing

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin returned from injury to take the gold medal.
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin returned from injury to take the gold medal. (Getty Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(11/08/2008) - Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. rose to the occasion on Saturday to claim his first Grand Prix medal, and he did it in grand fashion, taking the gold at the Samsung Anycall Cup of China in Beijing. Stephen Carriere completed a strong showing by the U.S. men, earning the silver medal behind his teammate. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia skated to victory in the ice dancing competition, narrowly edging out Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the U.S. Earlier, Korean superstar Yu-Na Kim triumphed over the ladies, with Japan's Miki Ando coming in second.

Men

Abbott made a breakthrough at the Cup of China when he followed his short program with an excellent free skate. The 23-year-old nailed eight clean triple jumps, his spins and footwork were superb and earned high levels, and the presentation of his modern Tango program, "Eight Seasons," was exquisite. Abbott scored new personal bests in the free skate and overall -- 156.39 and 233.44 points, respectively.

"I really have to thank my coaches a lot for that. My coaches, Becky Calvin and Tom Zakrajsek, have trained me very hard this year," Abbott said. "We strategized my competitions a lot differently this year. I didn't put out the quad in the beginning. I'm going to work for it towards the end of the season. I just really wanted to put out two very strong programs that I could feel very confident and comfortable with. I think that I did that. I also have to thank my choreographers, Tom Dickson and Catarina Lindgren, because they put together two amazing programs that I love to perform and enjoy doing them every single day. Without all that, I wouldn't have been able to do what I did this week."

Carriere continued his international rise with his first Grand Prix silver medal. He gave a solid performance, set to "Firebird" by Igor Stravinski, that contained two triple Axels and five other triples, but he stepped out of the triple flip. The 2007 world junior champion, who stood in third place after the short program, moved up to second with 217.25 total points. He, too, improved his personal best score.

"Just like yesterday, the performance wasn't perfect. I'm always striving for perfection; that's just me. It was a good start to the season, a better start than last year at Skate America. I'm proud of myself for that. I'm proud of coming out to Beijing and getting my job done," he commented.

Reigning European champion Tomas Verner rallied back from a sub-par performance in the short program and nailed the only quad of the day. The Czech's characteristic Tango routine featured five clean triples, but he crashed on a cheated triple flip and doubled the second Lutz. Verner moved up to third place with 205.48 points overall.

Ice Dancing

Domnina and Shabalin edged out Belbin and Agosto by one hundredth of a point in the free dance on Saturday. The Russians had a 0.35-point lead entering the day, so their free dance win was enough to claim the gold. The bronze medal went to another Russian team -- Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski.

Domnina and Shabalin, who were appearing in their first event since winning gold at the 2008 European Championships, had picked the powerful music from the ballet Spartacus, which tells the story of a slave riot in ancient Rome. They showed precise footwork but were overall bit tentative, perhaps a result of coming back from Shabalin's injuries from last season. Their lifts looked impressive, but the straight line rotational one got a rather low level.

Belbin and Agosto's interpretation of Tosca had more flow than Domnina and Shabalin's performance, but in the end, the judges gave the nod to the Russian couple in the segment, 91.19-91.18. The Russians won the overall competition by just 0.36 points. In the technical score of the free dance, Belbin and Agosto were ahead by 0.10 points, while Domnina and Shabalin had the better program component score by 0.11 points.

"We felt tonight it was a little bit rough; it was a little bit difficult to compete the program," Belbin explained afterwards. "We didn't quite feel like we were into our knees enough throughout the program, so we'll go home and continue to work on that, but we are proud that we were able to continue fighting through the program, continue to try to show the character of Tosca, and hopefully the next time will be much smoother and much cleaner."

Khokhlova and Novitski took the role of musician Niccolo Paganini and his muse in an energetic performance to "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" by Sergei Rachmaninov. They attacked their program well and took the bronze with a total score of 179.50.

Ladies

The Korean Kim becomes more and more a superstar of figure skating. This delicate 18-year-old has an iron will, as well as beautiful jumps, spins and presentation. When she is ready, she is tough to beat. She was ready in Beijing.

Kim hit five clean triples, including her trademark triple flip-triple toe combo in her program to Sheherazade. She stepped out of her first triple Lutz but was unfazed by the error. She tacked a double toe onto the second triple Lutz. The two-time world bronze medalist improved her score from Skate America two weeks ago and scored 128.11 points for the program. She won with 191.75 points, almost 21 points ahead of Ando, the 2007 world champion from Japan.

"I felt tense in the short program on Thursday, and I tried to be more relaxed today, and I felt good on the ice," Kim commented. "My first triple Lutz was not stable, but I could do a combination with my second Lutz, and so I don't think that the error affected my score a lot."

Ando had some issues with cheated jumps. The second jump in her triple toe-triple loop combo and a triple flip were downgraded by the technical panel. The 20-year-old also stepped out of a triple Lutz, but the three other triples and her spins were very good, and she earned the silver medal with 170.88 points.

"I missed some of my jumps a little, but I felt a lot better than at Skate America," she said.

Laura Lepistö of Finland made it to the podium in the Senior Grand Prix for the first time, capturing the bronze, even though she popped a Lutz and a loop.

Ashley Wagner of the U.S. skated really well but lost a few precious points because of a cheated Lutz, for which she received deductions for a wrong-edge take-off.

Katrina Hacker, who like Kim skated to Sheherazade, dropped from fifth in the short program to eighth overall after missing a loop and a toe loop in her free skate.