Press Release

Joubert, Wagner take top spots after shorts at NHK

Davis, White lead dance; Kavaguti, Smirnov lead pairs

Brian Joubert proved he was still a force to be reckoned with at the French Masters.
Brian Joubert proved he was still a force to be reckoned with at the French Masters. (Getty Images)

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(11/06/2009) - The NHK Trophy kicked off Friday in Nagano, Japan, with the compulsory dance and the pairs, men's and ladies short programs. The NHK Trophy is the fourth of six events in the 2009-10 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. The skaters compete for a global prize money of US $180,000 per individual event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and receive points according to their placements. The top six skaters/couples of the series will proceed to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Tokyo, Japan.

Compulsory dance
The compulsory dance at the NHK Trophy was the Tango Romantica. The Tango Romantica is a romantic sinuous dance which expresses the soft, lyrical interpretive characteristics of the Tango. It must be skated with deep edges. The judges are looking for very erect carriage, precise timing and continuous flow. The difficulty of the steps should not be revealed in awkward or stressed upper body positions. The dance was created by 1976 Olympic Ice Dance Champions Ludmilla Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov and their coach Elena Tchaikovskaya. It was first performed in Moscow in 1974.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) danced to the lead ahead of Great Britain's Sinead Kerr and John Kerr and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev.

Davis and White put out a solid Tango Romantica that earned them a new seasons best score of 38.09 (18.90 element score/19.19 program component score).

"We felt like it was a good dance today. It was improved since Russia. We tried to add a little bit of romantic flair. We worked on a few things technically and performance-wise since Russia," Davis commented.

Kerr and Kerr skated also well and picked up 35.04 points (17.42/17.62). Bobrova and Soloviev produced a nice Tango as well to score 31.72 (16.54/15.18) points.

Pairs short program
Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov grabbed the lead in the pairs short program ahead of Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China. Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett (USA) came in third.

Performing to "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saens, Kavaguti and Smirnov produced a strong performance that was highlighted by their excellent side by side triple toe loop, a throw triple loop and a triple twist. The reigning European silver medalists were awarded a Level 4 for their spins and the lift while the death spiral and the footwork were graded a level three. The couple from St. Petersburg received a new seasons best of 68.90 points (38.94 element score/29.96 program component score).

"We were very active in these past one and a half weeks after the Rostelecom Cup," said Smirnov. "We wanted to make up for the weaknesses we showed there. We skated quite well today, but it wasn't ideal yet. We still had some problems with our elements, not all of them were as clean as we wanted them to be," he continued.

Pang and Tong opened their lyrical program to "The Pearlfishers" by Georges Bizet with a side by side triple toe loop, but he put his hand down. The team recovered instantly to reel off a high triple twist and throw triple loop. They got a Level 4 for their spins and the lift. The reigning Grand Prix Final Champions picked up 67.30 points (37.74/30.56).

Denney and Barrett skated first out of the eight pairs. Their dynamic routine to "Firebird" included a triple twist, triple toe loop, throw triple Lutz and a Level 4 spin. The backwards outside death spiral received only a Level 1. The U.S. silver medalists scored 55.20 points (33.08/22.12).

Men's short program
Brian Joubert of France captured the men's short program with U.S. skaters Jeremy Abbott and Johnny Weir following in second and third.

Joubert nailed a strong quadruple-triple toe loop combination and a triple Axel in his fast-paced routine to "Rise" by Safri Duo, but he did a three-turn out of his triple Lutz. The European Champion went on to complete two Level 4 spins and Level 3 footwork. Only the combination spin got a Level 2. The Frenchman earned 85.35 points (46.80 element score/38.55 program component score), significantly improving over his score from the Trophée Bompard.

"I am very happy with today's performance. It was difficult for me after my first Grand Prix. I was very disappointed there, and it was important for me to do this kind of program today. This gives me confidence for the rest of the competition," Joubert told the press.

Abbott opened his elegant performance to "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles with a solid triple flip-triple toe loop combination followed by a triple Axel and triple Lutz. The reigning ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Champion was awarded a Level 4 for the change foot sit spin and the flying sit spin and a Level 3 for the combination spin and both step sequences. Abbott scored 83.00 points (45.40/37.60).

Skating to a program he titled "I Love You, I Hate You", Weir landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, a triple Axel and triple flip. He picked up a Level 4 for two spins and a Level 3 for the combination spin and the circular footwork to post a seasons best score of 78.35 points (41.70/36.65).

Ladies short program
Ashley Wagner(USA) won the Ladies short program ahead of Japan's Miki Ando and Yukari Nakano.

Wagner's routine set to music from Once Upon a Time in America featured a triple flip-double toe loop combination, a triple Lutz and two Level 4 spins, but her double Axel was cheated and downgraded. The two-time world junior bronze medalist collected 56.54 points (29.62 element score/26.92 program component score).

"I am pretty happy with my short program. Obviously first place is a good place to be, but it was not my best performance. My double Axel was downgraded. That was a little silly of me, but tomorrow in the long program I'll be able to redeem myself and do a clean double Axel like a senior lady should be able to do," Wagner noted.

Ando opened her program to a modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Requiem" with a triple Lutz-double loop, but two-footed the Lutz. She fell on the triple flip, but landed the double Axel. Ando was awarded a Level 4 for the combination spin and a Level 3 for the flying sit spin and the spiral sequence, but the layback spin was just a Level 1. The 2007 World Champion scored 56.22 points (28.70/28.52).

Nakano also had trouble with a jump. She under-rotated her triple Lutz and stepped out of it and had no combination. The Japanese recovered to hit a triple flip, a double Axel and showed beautiful spins. All three spins received a Level 4. Nakano earned 54.92 points (28.40/26.52).