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Davis, White outclass competition at NHK Trophy

Shibutanis earn bronze in senior Grand Prix Series debut

Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White lead by almost 300 points.
Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White lead by almost 300 points. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/23/2010) - Meryl Davis and Charlie White opened their season in style, winning Japan's NHK Trophy by 23.64 points.

The two-time U.S. champions, second to Canadian training mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the Olympics and worlds earlier this year, showed a free dance to Tangos that was surprisingly polished for so early in the season.

The intricate program, created by their coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, had all of couple's hallmarks: speed, pristine twizzles and intricate lifts, while adding sophistication and fluidity. It earned 98.24 points, and they ended the event with 165.21 overall.

"It felt great," White said. "It's our first competition of the year, but at the same time, we felt very comfortable here in Japan. We're happy with our performance and look forward to building on it."

"We've been working very hard this off-season," Davis said. "After the Olympic season, getting revved up and starting new things, learning new things about ourselves.

"Our goals for the season are to take our skating to a new level, both for ourselves and our audience...and getting world gold is not far behind."

Performing to a wide-ranging medley including "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and "Tango de Roxanne," Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje placed third in the free with 82.88 but second overall with 141.57 points.

U.S. junior champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who train alongside Davis and White in Canton, Mich., climbed from fifth place after the short dance to third overall with a second place showing in the free.

The siblings, who performed to a medley of "Smile" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance," gained six Level 4 elements, the most of the event. They ended with 136.93 points.

Russian world junior champions Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov turned to the world of classic ballet in a charming free dance to Minkus' Don Quixote, but dropped from third after the short dance to fourth overall. They finished with 135.05. Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte also lost ground in the free and placed fifth with 127.43.

In the men's event, which concludes with the free skate Saturday evening, Daisuke Takahashi took first place in the short with a flashy, crowd-pleasing program set to a rumba and samba medley.

Japan's world champion, who won bronze at the Vancouver Olympics, put a hand down on his triple Axel but aced a triple flip-triple toe combination and triple Lutz. His spins were crisp and he attacked his step sequence with gusto, earning 78.04 points.

Jeremy Abbott was second with a solid outing to a Tango, choreographed by Antonio Najarro. The two-time U.S. champion, who has "tweeted" to fans about equipment problems, wore last season's boots but still managed to hit all of his jumps, including a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz. He lost ground when his change-foot sit spin did not count, but he still racked up 74.62 points.

Shawn Sawyer sits in third place with 70.15. The Canadian had a wild landing on his triple Axel but wowed with a full split position in his closing spin.

France's Florent Amodio is a fourth with 70.01, while 2009 U.S. junior champion Ross Miner put a hand down on his triple Axel and sits seventh with 64.85 points.