Kozuka leads men in close contest

Amodio second, Mroz third; Joubert falters again

Takahiko Kozuka has a slim lead over the men after the short program.
Takahiko Kozuka has a slim lead over the men after the short program. (Getty Images)


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(11/26/2010) - It's still wide open in Paris, where several men will battle for the sixth and final Grand Prix title of the season in tomorrow's free skate.

In a close short program contest, Takahiko Kozuka stepped out to a 1.02-point lead over Florent Amodio. Brandon Mroz is third, another 3.16 points behind.

Kozuka, Japan's bronze medalist, won Cup of China over a strong field earlier this season. Today, he was solid but not stellar; although he landed a strong triple flip, triple toe loop combination, he had to fight for the landing of his triple Axel.

While his technical marks ranked third, his program component score was the highest of the event, and he takes 77.64 points in to the free skate tomorrow.

Charismatic French champion Amodio, who took bronze at Japan's NHK Trophy, skated a clean short to music from Once Upon a Time in Mexico including a triple Lutz, triple toe combination and triple Axel. He earned 75.62, good enough for second.

Mroz, who won silver at Cup of China and can qualify for the Grand Prix Final with another silver here, had slightly shaky landings on his quad toe and triple Axel, but fought through and stays in the hunt with 72.46 points. Although his technical score, 40.53, ranked second, he lagged behind the top finishers in program components.

In a surprise, Chafik Besseghier, fifth in France last season, is fourth with 70.33 points. The 21-year-old landed a quad toe, triple toe combination and triple Axel to rack up the highest technical score (40.59) of the event.

Brian Joubert, who has won this event only once (in 2006), continued his tradition of sub-par skating at the French Grand Prix.

The 2007 world champion, who like countryman Amodio skated to music from Once Upon a Time in Mexico, had trouble landing his quad toe, then singled the second jump of the intended quad-triple combination; a few moments later, he turned out of the landing of his triple Axel. Joubert sits fifth with 66.95.

Canadian Kevin Reynolds, who made history at Skate Canada by becoming the first skater to complete two quads in a short program (a toe loop and Salchow), was unable to duplicate the feat here, falling on the quad toe. He scored 66.13 and sits seventh entering the free skate.