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Oda's Chaplin makes the grade in Paris

Verner second; Rippon wins first senior Grand Prix medal

Nobunari Oda earned the top spot on the men's leaderboard in Paris.
Nobunari Oda earned the top spot on the men's leaderboard in Paris. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/17/2009) - If there's one thing you can bank on, it's that a Japanese man will win the first Grand Prix of the season.

Daisuke Takahashi (twice), Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka brought home Skate America gold 2005-2008. Now that Trophee Eric Bompard is first on the calendar, Oda has re-started the tradition.

The diminutive skater performed a sparkling rendition of his Chaplin free skate, earning 163.33 points. He took the title with 242.53 points, some 12 points ahead of the field.

"I couldn't try a quad and that is the only thing I did not do, but I think I did everything else [as well] as possible. I'm very happy," Oda, 22, said.

The skater substituted a triple Lutz for his intended opening quadruple toe, and elected to do a triple Lutz-double toe instead of a triple-triple, but was otherwise spot on.

His spin and step elements earned Level 3s and 4s from the technical panel, and he interpreted Nikolai Morozov's straightforward but challenging choreography with finesse, adding subtle Chaplinesque touches throughout.

"I saw the movies and was very impressed with him," Oda said.

About the quad, which he landed at worlds last season, the skater said. "I decided this morning [not to do it] because I couldn't do the quad even once. I talked with Nikolai, and he said there's no point in trying it now. I will do it in competition later this season."

Doubling two intended triples, the Lutz and the loop, in Godfather program cost Tomas Verner dearly.

The stylish Czech won the short program here, but after launching his free with a spectacular quad toe, triple toe combination (worth 15.20 points), the little glitches mounted. He wound up second in the free and second overall with 229.96 points.

"I was happy and pleased with my first four elements then I did my mistakes," Verner said.

"There are no limits to my program, I can get more points; the limits are in myself. Today I think Mr. Corleone would be disappointed in me because I was weak on the last elements. In the movie they didn't stop until everyone was dead and I won't stop until I get more points from the judges."

Two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon continued his successful maiden trip to Paris with a surprising bronze-medal finish, his first on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Third in both the short and free, he ended with 219.96 points.

The 19-year-old, who trains in Toronto with Brian Orser, performed a solid free to Barber's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

"It was not my best, but I wanted to put out a strong program, and I did," Rippon said. "I don't want to peak in October. I was happy with my short here and I'm satisfied with my free."

Rippon's opening triple flip, triple toe combination was light and easy. He turned out of the landing of both of his triple Axels, but got credit for rotating them.

The skater again executed a variation of the 'Tano triple Lutz, this time with just one arm overhead, and closed with an exceptionally strong and fast combination to scratch spin.

"It's a step forward on the triple Axel," Rippon said. "Last season I tried it two times in my free at three competitions, and only did it at junior worlds. Here was the first time I did a clean triple Axel in the short.

"I think its improved overall, and I proved that no matter what happens I can stay focused and land my other elements."

Rippon added he would continue training his Lutz variations, being pleased with all the attention they received.

"What I'll remember most from Paris is landing the "two-handed" [two hands over head] Lutz in the short. It's very difficult. I didn't try it in the free, because I have the Lutz in the second half of the program, and if my timing is off I'll go down. Even if I'm a little off, I can handle a one-handed version."

Brian Joubert had a disappointing, but promising, free skate that landed him in fourth place overall with 207.39 points. Disappointing, because he failed to land a clean quad; promising, because the hard-charging music and muscular choreography of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski suits the Frenchman.

"It was not such a catastrophe as the short program," Joubert said. "What bothers me, though, is I am not having any special technical problems. I lost some weight.

"It is true I do not like competing in France, because I get too nervous. [Joubert has won this event only once, in 2006]. Doing three quads in a program is very ambitious. I hesitated to launch the third, because I thought if I fell I would be exhausted, but I wanted the second."

The Frenchman, who won the world title in 2007, added he was redoubling his efforts for Olympic gold.

"I need to work, work, work," he said. "I'm on the right track. But what was enough training five years ago when I was 20 is not enough today."

Joubert sought out Rippon in the press area to extend his warm congratulations.

"It's an honor to beat Joubert in any competition, but I know his main goal is Vancouver, not Eric Bompard," Rippon said.

Showing unsuspected elegance in his new free skate to Bach and Mozart, 2007 U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley opened with a fine quad toe, but tripled his second quad attempt and missed his triple Axel. He placed ninth overall with 177.65 points.

"I was kind of prodded to do classical music the last two years, and I caved this year," Bradley said. "There are a lot of possibilities in this program, I just have to put everything together at the right time."

The 25-year-old skater, who trains under Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin in Colorado Springs, has worked to develop a consistent quad, which he also landed in the short program here.

"Over the past three years we've forced it into the program whether it was ready or not," he said. "I'd say its one of my most consistent jumps. If I had to bet $1 million on any of my jumps, the quad would be one I would bet on."