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Murakami holds off Flatt for ladies gold

Flatt pulls up for silver; Kostner settles for bronze

Kanako Murakami took second in the free skate and took the gold at Skate America.
Kanako Murakami took second in the free skate and took the gold at Skate America. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/14/2010) - She didn't win the short program or free skate, but second-place finishes in both added up to a big win for Kanako Murakami.

Although troubled by an injury to her right foot, Rachael Flatt toughed out a solid program to win the free and climb from fourth after the short to second overall. Overnight leader Carolina Kostner missed several jumps in an already technically sparse free skate but hung on for bronze.

It's likely all three medalists here have qualified for the Grand Prix Final, to be held in Beijing next month.

"It was a good performance for me, under the circumstances," Flatt said. "Obviously, I want to go home, get healthy and get back down to training so I can do more. I still want to do my triple-triple."

Skating to "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," Flatt was near-clean; her only major errors were under rotating the second jump in her opening double Axel, triple toe loop combination, as well as a triple Lutz. She earned 111.84, several points higher than at her silver-medal performance at NHK, and ended with 162.86 points.

"It certainly still hurts a lot, but I was just blocking out the pain and focusing on what I needed to do to get the job done," Flatt said. "It got worse by the end of the program. I just had to push through it.

"Mainly the pain is in my front tendon, it starts on the bottom of my foot and goes all the way up to my knee, so it's pretty uncomfortable."

Since then, she's pursued treatment including "icing, ultra-sound, rest and elevation...it's been an interesting process here.

"I knew I trained really solid programs at home and I knew I needed to rely on my training, which is something I didn't do in the short. Today, I focused on getting into the choreography and getting into the ice."

Murakami hit a solid opening triple toe, triple toe combination in her free to music from Mask of Zorro and went on to land four more triples, although her triple loop was judged under rotated by the technical panel. She earned 110.18, well above her 94.06 at NHK Trophy, and took gold with 164.93.

"Today's program I skated very well, and I would like to do better for the next competition," said the 16-year-old. "I thought some jumps would be downgraded, so I was very surprised to get 110. I was so surprised to get the gold; at first, I wasn't even sure that was true."

The normally speedy Kostner looked a bit sluggish in her free to Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," although she had some lovely moments, including an intricate step sequence on one foot.

Italy's European champion, who has not included the triple Lutz or flip in her programs this season, missed even her simpler jumps, including a double Axel and two intended triple loops. Although she placed just sixth in the free, her lead after the short was enough to give her the bronze.

"Today was a tough long for me; I felt a little bit not right on my feet after the fall on the loop," Kostner said. "I lost control; I was tripping on my skates. I was happy to get to the end."

Kostner, who was diagnosed with left knee problems this summer, will push on through the Grand Prix Final before deciding whether or not to have surgery.

"I haven't been able to do flip and Lutz because of the toe pick," she said. "I have an injury in my left knee. During the summer I didn't skate for six or seven weeks, and found out the main problem was my flip and Lutz. I decided to do the Grand Prix season without them."

It was another frustrating free skate for 2009 U.S. bronze medalist Caroline Zhang, who has been re-working her jump technique with new coach Tammy Gambill. Zhang fell on one of her triple Lutz attempts, popped a triple flip and had several other errors to place ninth.

2008 U.S. junior champion Alexe Gilles was 12th.