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Davis, White take commanding lead at NHK Trophy

Kostner shines while Mao stumbles; Flatt sits third

Meryl Davis and Charlie White lead heading into the free dance.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White lead heading into the free dance. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/22/2010) - Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily won the short dance competition at Japan's NHK Trophy, taking an 8.28-point lead over the field.

Skating to waltzes by Puccini and Verdi, the Olympic and world silver medalists earned 66.97 points. Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are second, and world junior champions Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia sit third with 56.89.

Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are fourth with 55.68. U.S. junior champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, competing at their first senior Grand Prix, earned 53.68 for fifth place.

European champion Carolina Kostner, who has returned to former coach Michael Huth in Oberstdorf, Germany, after training in the U.S. under Frank Carroll last season, took first in the ladies short with a stylish Flamenco program, choreographed by Lori Nichol.

The Italian, who has had some uneven performances in recent seasons -- including a 16th place at the 2010 Olympics -- hit a triple toe, double toe combination and triple loop on her way to earning 57.27 points.

Japan's world junior champion Kanako Murakami, who withdrew from Nebelhorn Trophy last month due to boot problems, hit a triple toe, triple toe combination in her perky outing to "Jumping Jack," earning 56.10 points.

Sporting a new short hair cut and sparkling green dress, Rachael Flatt began her international season well with a solid program to a jazzy medley of "Summertime" and "Happy Feet Blues," choreographed by Nichol. The U.S. champion included a triple Lutz, double loop and triple flip in her program, earning 53.69 points.

"It looked like you were having fun," Flatt's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said as she entered the kiss and cry. "You were really into the program."

U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, returning to last season's short to music from the Once Upon a Time in America soundtrack, sits fourth with 52.93, while American Caroline Zhang is sixth with 50.71.

The shock of the event was world champion Mao Asada's weak outing to Tango music. The world champion failed on an attempted solo triple Axel and also popped an intended triple flip into a single. She sits eighth with 47.95, despite earning the event's second-highest program component scores.

To no surprise, world champions and Olympic silver medalists Qing Pang and Jian Tong are first after the pairs' short. Skating to Chopin, the Chinese veterans earned 67.10 points, nearly seven points more than Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov.

In a close contest, Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran -- who have already qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final -- are third with 57.23. U.S. champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett's short to music from the Cousins soundtrack put them fourth with 55.03. Americans Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin are sixth with 54.19.