Press Release

Joubert, Ando top podiums at NHK Trophy

Pang,Tong win pairs

Despite finishing second in the short and free, Miki Ando took the gold medal at the NHK Trophy in Japan.
Despite finishing second in the short and free, Miki Ando took the gold medal at the NHK Trophy in Japan. (Getty Images)

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(11/07/2009) - The NHK Trophy continued Saturday in Nagano, Japan, with the original dance, the pairs, men's and ladies free skating. The NHK Trophy is the fourth of six events in the 2009/2010 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.

Original dance
The competition day started with the original dance. The original dance for the 2009/10 season is the Folk/Country Dance. The couples at NHK Trophy chose different dances from India, Russia, Spain, Italy, the USA and Greece among others.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) strengthened their lead in the original dance. Sinead Kerr and John Kerr from Great Britain remained in second place while Canadians Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier moved up from fourth to third.

Davis and White delivered a strong performance of their exotic Indian dance that featured a straight line lift with her changing positions in front of him and behind him, intricate steps and fast twizzles. The lift, the twizzles and the side by side footwork were graded a Level 4 by the technical panel, and the circular footwork was a Level 3. The 2009 Four Continents Champions earned a new seasons best of 63.09 points (31.50 element score/31.59 program component score) and have accumulated 101.18 points so far.

"We feel pretty good after the OD. We've been able to compete this program a couple of times so we feel more confident in the program," Davis said.

"It was nice to see the progression from Cup of Russia. One more level four is always good," added White. "Obviously I think it's just going to be a little more of practice, taking time to go over all our edges. It has to be a 100 percent on edge. It's easy to make a little mistake here and there. We just go home and really focus on that. It's one of the last things left in terms of technique in that program we need to work on."

Kerr and Kerr put out an entertaining American Country dance to "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash with him portraying a hitchhiker and her taking the role of a truck driver. The program was highlighted by a straight line lift and well synchronized twizzles and smooth footwork. The brother-and-sister team picked up a 56.53 points (28.10/28.43), which is a new seasons best. Overall they now got 91.57 points.

Crone and Poirier chose a Flamenco routine that included a rotational lift, a Level 3 diagonal step sequence and Level 3 twizzles. The 2008 World junior silver medalists scored 50.87 points (26.20 element score/24.67 program component score), which is a new seasons best, and moved up one spot to third at 81.38 points overall.

Pairs free skate
Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China skated to victory in the pairs event. Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov claimed the silver medal, and the bronze went to Rena Inoue and John Baldwin (USA).

Pang and Tong turned in a dynamic performance to "The Impossible Dream" from the musical The Man of La Mancha. The reigning ISU Grand Prix Final Champions hit their opening side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence, the triple toeloop, a high triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow. The 2006 World Champions were awarded a Level 4 for their side by side spin, the death spiral, the pair spin, spiral sequence and all three lifts and collected 132.35 points (69.63 element score/62.72 program component score), setting a new personal best for themselves. Overall they accumulated 199.65 points, another personal best, to move up one spot and to take the gold in their second Grand Prix event this season.

"We achieved a new personal best score today, and that makes us very happy. We skated very well, but there are still some things we can improve. In the three weeks before the Grand Prix Final we will work on solving these issues and then we want to skate our very best there," Tong commented.

Skating to "Valse Sentimentale" by Peter Tchaikovski and to "On the Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss, Kavaguti and Smirnov went for a quadruple throw Salchow, but Kavaguti took a bad fall. The Japanese-born skater needed a medical break before she was able to continue the performance. As if nothing happened, the couple then reeled off a side-by-side triple toe loop, a triple twist, a double Axel-double Axel sequence and a throw triple loop. The European silver medalists received a Level 4 for their spins, their lifts and the forward inside death spiral and posted a new seasons best of 124.15 points (65.39 element score/61.76 program component score). They received one point deduction for the fall and two points deduction for the interruption of the program. Kavaguti and Smirnov totaled 193.05 points and slipped from first to second place.

Inoue and Baldwin's program to Peter Tchaikovski's "Piano Concerto No. 1" included a side-by-side triple toe loop, a sequence consisting of two double Axels, a throw triple loop and difficult lifts. Only their triple twist was messy and Inoue fell on the throw triple Axel. The 2006 Four Continents Champions picked up 106.26 points (59.14/49.12). In addition to the deduction for the fall, they lost a point because of a time violation. The former U.S. Champions moved up from fourth to third at 158.78 points overall.

Men's free skate
Brian Joubert of France claimed gold in the men's event. Johnny Weir (USA) moved up from third place to second and newcomer Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic came from sixth place to clinch the bronze medal.

Overnight leader Joubert skated last, and knew what his competitors had done and what he needed to do. The three-time and reigning European Champion opened his routine to "Ancient Land" by Ronan Hardiman with a solid quadruple toe loop followed by a triple Salchow. He stumbled on the triple Axel but recovered to reel off two triple flips (one in combination with a double toe), a triple Lutz, triple loop-double toe and triple Salchow-double toe. However, the Frenchman received a negative grade of execution on both flips because of the take off from the wrong edge. The flying sit and change sit spin were graded a Level 4 while the footwork and the combination spin were a Level 2. Joubert earned a seasons best of 147.35 points (70.65 element score/76.70 program component score) and racked up a total score of 232.70 points to win the NHK Trophy.

"I am very happy about this competition. I've never won NHK Trophy," Joubert said. "We've worked a lot a lot, but we had only one week and I wasn't completely ready. Winning this competition is great, but I still have a lot to work on."

Weir landed a triple flip, a solid triple Axel-triple toe combination, another triple Axel and three more triples in his lyrical routine titled "Fallen Angel" which is set to music from the movies City of Angels and Lady Caliph. The only major glitch was a popped loop jump. The reigning ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist picked up a Level 4 for two of his spins and a Level 3 for both step sequences to score 139.35 points (68.15/71.20), setting a new seasons best for himself. Weir scored 217.70 points and was ranked third in the free skate but overall moved up to second place, edging out Brezina by just 0.22 points.

Brezina stood in sixth place after the short program and turned a playful program to "An American in Paris" by George Gershwin. The current world junior silver medalist nailed six clean triples, including two triple Axels, that all received positive grade of execution marks from the panel of judges. The Czech skater also earned a Level 4 for two spins and a Level 3 for the footwork and the flying sit spin. Brezina got a personal best of 146.68 points (78.78/67.90) and totaled 217.48 points (personal best as well) to jump on to the podium in the first senior-level Grand Prix event of his career.

Ladies free skate
Miki Ando of Japan came out on top in the ladies event with a lot of shuffling in the standings. Russia's Alena Leonova won the free skate to surge from fifth to second while overnight leader Ashley Wagner (USA) slipped to third.

Ando stood in second place following the short and skated next to last. She had to overcome a shaky start when she under-rotated and two-footed her opening triple Lutz attempt in her Cleopatra routine. The 2007 World Champion went on to complete a double Axel-double toe loop combination, a big triple loop and triple Salchow and a triple Lutz, but she fell on the back end of a triple toe-double loop combination. The reigning world bronze medalist received a Level 4 for the flying combination spin, the flying sit spin and the spiral sequence to earn 106.33 points (48.93 element score/58.40 program component score). She was ranked second in the free skate but overall pulled up to first at 162.55 points.

"I stood in the middle of the podium for the first time in Japan (at a Grand Prix event), but I'm not really happy, because my free skating wasn't competitive," Ando said. "I am pleased to be in the Final and I will train hard for it and try to become stronger mentally. I'm looking forward to the Finale in Tokyo, so I can show the people in Japan a better performance."

Leonova turned in an entertaining program to Chicago that featured five clean triple jumps, but she stepped out of the triple toe-triple toe combination and her triple Lutz was wobbly. The flying combination spin was graded a Level 4, while the combination spin and the spiral sequence got a Level 3. The world junior champion collected 108.51 points (57.07/51.44), setting a new seasons best and accumulating 160.85 points to move up from fifth to second.

Wagner started with a shaky triple flip-double toe combination into her routine to "Polovetsian Dances" and then hit a triple loop and double Axel, but she struggled with her jumps in the second half of the program, stumbling on a triple Salchow, a double Axel (in sequence with a triple flip) and singling her Lutz. The two-time world junior bronze medalist scored 99.45 points (45.61/53.84) which added up to 155.99 points overall.

Sarah Meier (SUI) withdrew from the Ladies event after the warm up due to an acute inflammation of her right Achilles tendon. She stood in eighth place following the short program.