Quads lift Murakami to gold at Ondrej Nepela

Japanese skater lands quad in each program to earn first senior international gold medal

Daisuke Murakami defeated some of Europe's best to win gold in Slovakia.
Daisuke Murakami defeated some of Europe's best to win gold in Slovakia. (Getty Images)


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By Renee Felton and Kristin Zinsmeister, special to
(10/01/2011) - Skaters from France, Japan, Russia and Germany topped the podiums at the 2011 Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Less than two points separated gold from bronze as France's Mae Berenice Meite began her second senior international season with a gold medal in Bratislava. Her score of 136.58 points was just one more than that of silver medalist Shoko Ishikawa of Japan. Rounding out the top three was Meite's teammate, Lena Marrocco, with 134.78 points.

Both the gold and silver medalists incorporated triple toe-triple toe combinations into their short programs. Meite also added a triple Lutz, two level three spins and an addition level four spin, whereas all of Ishikawa's spins were scored level threes.

Marrocco, who sat in fourth place after the short, easily won the free skate by executing an array of difficult jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe combination and an additional triple Lutz. Her program elements score was also significantly higher than those of her competitors. She was the only skater to break the 90-point mark for the segment, with 93.29 points.

Japan's Daisuke Murakami won the short program and placed third in the free skate to hang for a two-point win over Belgium's Kevin van der Perren, who won his fourth medal at this event. Grabbing the bronze with a first-place free skate was Italy's Samuel Contesti.

Murakami opened his short program, set to Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins," with a clean quad Salchow-double toe combination, helping him jump out to a four-point lead over Grant Hochstein, who placed second in the short. In his Gladiator free skate, Murakami landed another quad Salchow, to go along with six clean triples, good for a segment score of 140.18 points. He finished with a competition total of 213.37.

Van der Perren sat third after the short, and he delivered a clean free skate, which included an opening quad toe and a triple Salchow-triple toe-triple toe combo, an element that netted him 14.34 points. He finished a little more than two points behind Murakami, with a competition total of 211.08. This is the third silver medal van der Perren has won at this event in his career, to go along with one gold.

Contesti pulled up from sixth after the short -- a segment in which he fell on his triple flip -- to land on the podium. He had some scratchy landings on several of his jumps in the second half of his program, but his free skate score of 146.29 points was easily enough to place him third overall.

American Jonathan Cassar took fourth, while Hochstein finished just seventh in the free skate and fell to fifth.

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have two gold medals in two weeks, as they followed their win at Nebelhorn Trophy with a triumph in Slovakia. The reigning world silver medalists jumped out to a quick lead with a short program that included side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple flip and solidified the victory by winning the second segment by more than 14 points. Their free skate included more difficult side-by-side triple Salchows and a group five lift scored as a level three.

Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek of Italy won the silver followed by Russia's Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze.

Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir started their season with a fourth-place showing.

Ice Dancing
Germany's Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi danced to an 18-point victory, while Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi of Italy won silver and Azerbaijan's Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov took bronze.

The Germans, who were silver medalists last week at Nebelhorn, won the event comfortably, easily taking both segments of the competition. Their free dance featured eight elements that each earned positive grades of execution. They scored 142.10 points to set a personal best.

Americans Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, the 2011 U.S. junior bronze medalists, began their senior international careers with a fifth-place showing.