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Lysacek outpaces field for gold in Tokyo

Oda takes silver; Weir is third

Evan Lysacek is among the top skaters joining the cast of 2010 "Stars on Ice."
Evan Lysacek is among the top skaters joining the cast of 2010 "Stars on Ice." (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(12/05/2009) - Evan Lysacek overcame a popped triple Axel to win his first Grand Prix Final in commanding fashion, setting new personal bests in all three phases of the event.

The world champion had an inspired performance to Scheherazade, skating with more fire and aggression than at Skate America last month.

Lysacek opened with a strong triple Lutz, triple toe combination and hit a triple Axel and triple Salchow before singling his second Axel.

He landed four more triples, including a triple flip, triple toe combo worth 12.05 points.

"I feel confident now heading into the second half of the season," Lysacek said. "I'm happy with it. As far as the scores go it reflected an improvement from Skate America.

"I'm not surprised [about the personal best] because despite the [popped] Axel, the landings of the other jumps throughout the program were better than they have been. Yes, I had that one mistake, and I wasn't happy about it, because I've been training this program clean every day in practice here."

Lysacek earned 159.60 points; added to his short, that gave him 249.45 for the competition. He becomes the second American man, after Jeremy Abbott last season, to capture gold in this event.

Nobunari Oda also had Axel trouble, popping intended triple and double jumps into singles.

The rest of his engaging "Charlie Chaplin" free was solid but seemed to lack some of the charm it had earlier this season. Still, he earned 155.71 points for third in the free, and took the silver medal with 243.36 overall.

"I'm mad at myself for popping the Axel: it's exactly what I did at [Cup of China]," Oda said.

The Japanese champion made a last-minute decision not to try a quad in his program.

"I talked with my coach and decided to take it out because I wanted to skate a clean program," he said. "I was third yesterday, and in trying to pull up, maybe I tried to be too perfect. The total score was this season's best, but I'm not at all satisfied with my performance."

Johnny Weir, third at this event last season, had a solid if unspectacular outing to his "Fallen Angel" free and again took home the bronze medal.

In a huge step up from free skates earlier this season, the three-time U.S. champion hit both of his triple Axels, one in combination with a double toe, and a triple loop. He also hit a triple Salchow, triple Lutz and triple Lutz, triple toe combination late in his program but left technical points on the table by deleting his third jump combination.

"There were some good moments in the program and some bad," Weir said. "It's the best long program that I've done so far [this season]. I rotated all my jumps, so I'm happy with that. And a new year career best score is excellent.

"I defeated our national champion (Abbott) here. Last year I was fifth at the Nationals and he was first. And I hope this competition gives me some legitimacy, because a lot of people after I make mistakes always write me off and I have to climb my way back up."

Weir was fourth in the short and fourth in the free but took third overall with 237.35.

The night nearly belonged to Abbott; had the U.S. champion not tried and failed on an opening quad toe, he would have won the free skate with his superlative program to Saint-Saens' "Symphony No. 3."

As it was, the defending champion outscored Lysacek in technical elements by 6.53 points, landing a triple Axel, triple toe combination and a crisp triple Lutz, triple toe, double loop. Abbott earned 6.40 points lower than the champion in program components, a bit harsh considering his intricate transitions and fine edge quality.

"Today, I wanted to have a solid performance. I skated as a good practice for nationals and the Olympics," Abbott said.

"I put too much into [the quad] when I took off. But I forgot about my mistake and moved on to my next jumps."

Abbott added that he's happy with his offseason move from Colorado Springs to Detroit.

"I love working with Yuka Sato and I love the new environment. Everything fits me. I started living on my own and skating with leading ice dancers. I've skated with leading skaters before, but I wanted to have a smaller group."

Overnight leader Daisuke Takahashi of Japan fell to fifth place after faltering on several jumps and, curiously, spins. Czech Tomas Verner, an alternate who traveled to this event after Frenchman Brian Joubert's withdrawal, was sixth.

Lynn Rutherford contributed to this article.