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Fernandez steals Takahashi, Chan's thunder

Spaniard lands only clean quad of event; Rippon in fourth

Javier Fernandez holds a slim lead going into Saturday's free skate.
Javier Fernandez holds a slim lead going into Saturday's free skate. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford and Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(10/28/2011) - There's a new man in town.

Javier Fernandez took on the sport's two most recent world champions in the short program at 2011 Skate Canada and came away with the win, edging Daisuke Takahashi by a scant .05 points, with Patrick Chan another 1.38 back.

"I'm so happy," the Spaniard said. "The quad was so easy tonight."

The Spanish heartthrob, who was 10th at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, stole the show, hitting the only clean quad of the night to rack up 84.71 points for his short, shattering his previous personal best (71.65) by 13 points.

Takahashi, the 2010 world champion and Olympic bronze medalist from Japan, skated a clean and energetic program, earning 84.66 points. Chan, the reigning world champion from Canada, had an off night with his "Take Five" program but is still in the running after a segment score of 83.28.

The night belonged to Fernandez, who moved to Toronto during the offseason to train with two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Skating a charming program choreographed by David Wilson to a Parisian medley of "Petit Fleur" and Cole Porter's "I Love Paris in the Springtime," the 20-year-old hit a solid quad toe, followed by a crisp triple flip-triple toe combination and a high-flying triple Axel.

He looked relaxed and confident throughout a one-foot step sequence, effectively playing to the enthusiastic Canadian crowd. The program was, in Orser's words, "awesome."

Fernandez admitted holding his lead in Saturday's free skate will be difficult.

"I know they will be after me," he said. "I have to see what will happen tomorrow. They are great skaters, amazing. I have to be at the same level as them."

Takahashi, too, had a fine skate, performing a high-energy and intense program to "In the Garden of Souls," also choreographed by Wilson. The 25-year-old from Osaka hit all his jumps -- including a triple flip-triple toe, triple Axel and difficult steps into a triple Lutz -- but did not do a quad.

"I decided in the six-minute warmup not to do a quad today," Takahashi said. "I skated cleanly without the quad, so I am pretty happy. It was not so good, not so bad."

Chan, who fell three times in his short program at Skate Canada last season before climbing back to win the event, doesn't have nearly as large a deficit here.

The 20-year-old, who trains in Colorado Springs under Christy Krall, put a hand down and fell out of his opening quad, and later popped a triple Axel into a double. High program components scores, as well as many positive GOEs -- including several for the popped triple Axel -- helped keep him within striking distance of gold, as did a Level 4 camel combination spin.

"My plan [for tomorrow's free skate] is like last year: two quad toe loops but not two triple Axels, because it's been a problem," Chan said.

Later, he added, "I had trouble getting right around. I was close to the boards. With these big jumps, it's all about pattern. The ice was pretty fast. In the first practice, I was going so fast, the rink felt even smaller than hockey size."

As usual, the Canadian was forthright about his scores.

"When you are world champion, [the judges] tend to cut you a little slack, but then there's the other 5 percent where the brain starts doubting," he said. "But I've been in bigger holes and recovered. This was certainly better than last year."

American Adam Rippon, who won bronze at Skate Canada last season, opened his "Korobushka" short with his trademark "Rippon" triple Lutz, with both arms held firmly aloft. He fought for the landing of a triple Axel, and then recovered with a triple flip-triple toe combination, although the second jump was judged to be under-rotated.

The program built from there, with a series of Russian folk-inspired steps created by 2003 world ice dancing champion Shae-Lynn Bourne, and closed with a strong combination spin, including a fine layback position.

"I felt good out there considering I haven't competed since Four Continents," said Rippon, who did not take part in any summer competitions.

"My coach, Jason Dungjen, helped me a lot. I felt shaky today, and he helped me to center down."

U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner had a disappointing short, singling an intended triple Axel and turning a planned triple-triple combination into a double. He sits ninth with 60.93 points.

"I have this opportunity to learn from this event and apply it to my next Grand Prix in Japan," Miner said. "I'm anxious to learn."