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Flawed Takahashi wins Skate America gold

Repeating Axel costs Oda; Mahbanoozadeh gains bronze

Daisuke Takahashi won the men's gold medal at 2010 Skate America.
Daisuke Takahashi won the men's gold medal at 2010 Skate America. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/14/2010) - Though far from his best, Daisuke Takahashi squeaked out victory in Portland, beating out his countryman Nobunari Oda by less than a point.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh skated a brilliant free to capture his first senior Grand Prix medal, a bronze. Adam Rippon, third after the short, faded to fourth overall after failing to land a clean triple Axel.

Takahashi, the first Japanese man ever to win a world title, popped the opening quad toe attempt in his Tango program to a triple. He hit his next three planned triples, including a triple Axel, but fell on his second Axel attempt and had the jump downgraded by the technical panel.

The Olympic bronze medalist lacked some of the fire he showed in his short, although he cranked it up for his circular step sequence, which earned a rare Level 4 from the technical panel. He earned 146.81, substantially less than in his winning free at NHK Trophy earlier this season, and ended with 227.07 points overall.

This is Takahashi's third Skate America title; he also won in 2005 and 2007.

"Tonight I couldn't skate well, but I thought my presentation was better than at NHK," Takahashi said.

"I was went for the quad toe loop and then I popped out of the take off. I have successfully landed [the quad] twice this season twice, and I will continue to try it."

With two wins, Takahashi qualifies for the Grand Prix Final, to be held in Beijing next month. The Japanese champion thinks he can make many improvements before then.

"I need to get into even better physical condition," he said. "I also need to work on the spins. I am very happy I got that Level 4 in footwork, so I will continue to work on that."

Oda, who placed second to Patrick Chan at Skate Canada, also likely qualified for the Final, but would have notched a win here had he not done two solo triple Axels. Doing so cost him any points he would have earned with his final combination, a triple Salchow, double toe, double loop.

Besides that error, Oda also fell on an opening quad, and under rotated the second jump of his triple Lutz, triple toe combination. On the plus side, he hit a solid triple flip, triple toe and skated with good speed and attack.

He scored 146.81, well under his free skate score at Skate Canada, and ended with 226.09.

"I am very disappointed with my performance tonight," Oda said. "I did silly mistakes on spins and steps. But speed wise, it was much better than at Skate Canada.

"[On the triple Axel] I was thinking I have to do a combo, but I didn't realize how many [Axels] I did, I just did too much."

Repeating jumps and jump combinations has cost Oda before, most notably at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships.

"I repeat things so many times; I can't say anything more about it," he said. "I won't do it again."

Skating to music from Avatar Mahbanoozadeh had the most exciting program of the night, and one of the cleanest. His triple Axels, including one in combination in double toe, gained +1's and +2's from all nine judges, and his steps and spins rated Levels 3 and 4.

Mahbanoozadeh earned 143.56 points for his free and 211.17 overall.

"I am thrilled beyond works, to be honest," he said. "I felt very confident going in to today. The long program has been training well; it went better than I could have hoped for. I'm just ecstatic right now, it hasn't sunken in yet. Hopefully it will soon."

The skater, who trains in Wilmington, Del., under Priscilla, did not attend U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp this summer and does not currently have a second Grand Prix assignment.

"I can pack my bags for Russia right now, if there is an opportunity," he joked. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity I had here."

Rippon, whose triple Axel has been hit-and-miss in practice here, popped his first attempt at the jump and turned out of his second. He also under rotated two jumps, a triple toe and triple Salchow.

On the plus side, two of his spins, including his closing combination, gained Level 4. He was seventh in the free and scored 203.12 overall.

"I never skate like that, ever, in practice," Rippon said. "I don't really know what happened. The only thing I can say is that it was an out-of-body experience.

"I'm glad it happened here, and not later in the year, at an even more important competition."

The third U.S. skater, Stephen Carriere, placed eighth in the free skate and ninth overall, with 184.20 points.