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Lambiel leads after short at Nebelhorn Trophy

Brezina takes second spot

Stéphane Lambiel won the Swiss national championship despite some injury woes.
Stéphane Lambiel won the Swiss national championship despite some injury woes. (Getty Images)

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By J. Barry Mittan, special to icenetwork.com
(09/24/2009) - The men began their quest for spots for the 2010 Olympic Games today in Oberstdorf, Germany, at the 41st Nebelhorn Trophy. Of the 32 men competing, 23 were trying to win a spot at the Games.

Former Canadian competitor Fedor Andreev, the son of choreographer Marina Zoueva, was unable to compete for Azerbaijan because he was unable to complete his paperwork in time.

Leading the charge in the short program was 2006 Olympic men's silver medalist Stéphane Lambiel of Switzerland, who scored 77.45 points while skating to Giacomo Rossini's "William Tell Overture." Lambiel, who has been skating professionally for the last year, is ranked 16th in the icenetwork.com world rankings.

Lambiel fell on the first jump in his planned quadruple toe-triple toe combination, but showed strong spins and footwork. He landed a double Axel and triple flip.

"I felt good, I was prepared, and I was ready to attack," Lambiel said. "It was a shame about the quad toe because it was good in practice."

He was followed by the Czech Republic's Michal Brezina, who won the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2007 and is ranked 17th in the world rankings. Brezina, who trains in Oberstdorf, skated a crowd-pleasing routine to "Puttin' on The Ritz," scoring 73.23 points. He put a hand down on his opening triple Axel but otherwise skated well, landing a triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe combination.

"I had hoped to skate clean, but I was maybe too much inside in the rotation of the triple Axel," Brezina said. "We only changed the program on Wednesday to take out the quad Salchow and put in the triple Lutz, but I'll do the quad in the long."

"It would be cool to beat Stephane," he added, "but I'm happy with where I am now. It could have been better, but it was my first time competing this program."

Brezina did beat Lambiel technically, scoring 39.88 in his element score to 38.10 for Lambiel.

American skater Ryan Bradley used "Dark Eyes" for his short program, scoring 68.18 points to place third in the segment. Bradley's opening quad toe-triple toe combination was the highest scoring element in the men's short, gaining 14.60 points.

Bradley also landed a double Axel and triple Lutz, but he fell on his circular footwork sequence.

"I'm ready to compete with these boys," Bradley stated. "I expected to do a lot better. I didn't expect to fall on my footwork."

"This is the first season that I really anticipate going on the ice," he continued. "I'm ready to do my free program right now.

Canada's Joey Russell went with the Rolling Stones for his short program music, using "Paint It Black" and "Sympathy for the Devil" to score 67.80 points. Russell popped his opening triple Axel but completed a triple flip-triple loop combination and triple Lutz to finish fourth.

Russia's Ivan Tretiakov landed a triple Axel, triple Lutz and triple flip-triple toe combination to place fifth with 67.05 points. Skating to Bach's "Toccata and Fugue," he had the second highest total element score at 38.50.

Viktor Pfeiffer of Austria, a 2006 Olympian, used Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" in his short program, scoring 65.32 points to place sixth. He had problems with his opening triple Lutz but landed a triple flip-triple toe combination and a double Axel.

"I decided to come back again because I'm really passionate about skating," Pfeiffer said. "I was very anxious today. I was thinking too much about my new spins during the program, but I think it went well."

Akio Sasaki of Japan was the last to skate and finished with a lively program to Spike Jones' "Black Bottom," placing seventh with 64.30 points. He landed a triple toe-double toe combination, triple Lutz and double Axel.

Germany's Stefan Lindemann, who competed at the 2006 Olympics, had been absent from the world scene for the last two years. He was eighth with 63.95 points in the short while skating to music from the motion picture soundtrack of The Firm.

"I never wanted to stop, but I had too many injuries," Lindemann said. "I had two surgeries so now I'm back. The short program was very hard. I was very nervous, and I think maybe too over motivated on my spins. My spins are usually very good. I lost a lot of points there."

Song Choi Ri of North Korea, which rarely sends skaters internationally, was a surprise ninth with 60.41 points. He landed a triple flip-triple toe combination, triple Axel and triple Lutz. If he holds his placement in the long, Ri will become the second skater (after sending Kim Yong Sung, to the '06 Games) ever to represent North Korea at the Olympic Games.

Frenchman Yannick Ponsero, who was the highest ranked Nebelhorn men's competitor in the icenetwork.com world rankings in 12th place, showed improved footwork but had errors on every jump. He earned only 55.50 points to finish 13th.