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Men's and ladies favorites struggle in Paris

Canadians Rochette, Chan win short programs at Trophee

Patrick Chan won the men's short program in Paris with 81.39 points.
Patrick Chan won the men's short program in Paris with 81.39 points. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/14/2008) - The top-ranked skaters in the ladies and men's events at the 2008 Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire -- Mao Asada of Japan and Brian Joubert of France, respectively -- struggled a little bit on Friday in Paris. Instead, a couple of Canadians reigned in the short program. First, Patrick Chan topped the men, then Joannie Rochette bested the ladies.

Men

Last year, Chan won the short program at the Trophée Eric Bompard because Joubert was hit by a bad virus. This year, the Canadian champion won it because Joubert did not hit his planned quadruple toe-triple toe combination. Joubert did not even start his combination, something he had never done in competition before.

"I am very disappointed," the Frenchman said later. "I do not know what happened. I had a good warm-up; the quad went good. Then during the program, my left foot stayed stuck. I could not jump; I could not even do a triple toe loop, and I lost 14 points."

"Do not ask me what happened," Joubert's coach, Jean-Christophe Simond, said. "I have no idea. This has never happened to Brian."

Chan won the short program by 4.39 points over Takahiko Kozuka of Japan and 7.64 over Joubert.

"I did not make any mistakes," Chan said afterwards. He has made a duty to present each one of his elements clean and pure, whether it's a jump, a spin or a step.

"After I do my run-through every day," he explained, "I rehearse each element with the elements that come before and after it in the program. I do not skate just the element by itself." He also said, "The plan for the quad is starting to unfold. I do it three-to-five times each day, and it is slowly building. My goal is definitely to have it for the Olympics."

Kozuka, the surprise gold medalist from Skate America last month, took second place. His program was marred by a fall on his flying sit spin.

"This had certainly never happened to me in competition," he said with a smile.

Alban Préaubert of France skated a perfect program and took fourth place.

Ryan Bradley of the U.S. was happy about his short program: "I only did a quad to double toe, but the rest went well. I made 10 points more than last year ... I take them!"

Bradley finished fifth in the short program, less than four points behind Préaubert and four points ahead of teammate Brandon Mroz.

Mroz was quite happy too: "This is a good stepping stone for me, as I am getting the right character more and more," he said.

"At least," Joubert added later, having composed himself a bit, "my marks show that this program has a lot of potential and can be worth a lot more points."

Joubert got higher component marks than any other competitor.

"Yet I need to forget this program quickly and concentrate on my free tomorrow," he said.

Ladies

Just like Joubert in the afternoon, both Asada and Caroline Zhang of the U.S. popped a major element in their programs -- for Zhang, it was her double Axel; for Asada, it was the triple loop of her combination. In the meantime, Rochette took the lead.

Rochette, a four-time Canadian champion, had skated well throughout the practice sessions. Unfortunately, she fell on her triple flip-triple toe combination for the first time in competition. Her program was nonetheless the best of the field. She quickly composed herself after her fall to skate a flawless program.

"I felt good on the ice," she said later. "I do not know what happened on the flip. Since last summer, that triple-triple combination has been much more consistent. I am happy, however, not to have let the level of my spins fall down afterwards!"

Asada, ranked second in icenetwork.com's World Figure Skater Rankings, was the favorite to win the ladies event in Paris, so the crowd was shocked when she missed the triple-triple combination in her program, set to "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy. She then doubled her planned triple Lutz on her way to a second-place performance.

"Probably my mind was a little weak," she explained later. "Maybe I thought too much."

In fact, Asada admitted that she had been working extensively to correct the take-off edge of her triple Lutz, and that may have played a role in her second mistake.

"I have confidence in my triple Lutz now, but today, as I made a mistake on the combination, I did not feel confident anymore for the Lutz."

Zhang was the only skater to land a triple flip-triple toe combination (although it was downgraded).

"I felt a little shaky at the beginning of my program, but my jumps were good. The double Axel was just a surprise," she commented in laughter.

Zhang's teammate, Bebe Liang, fell on her triple Lutz combination, which was downgraded. The two Americans sit in third and fourth place. The third American, Emily Hughes, had a rough start, falling on her triple flip, and her triple Lutz-double toe loop combination was downgraded. The 2006 Olympian is in eighth place.