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No Lutz, no problem for victorious Kostner

Italian takes gold by 7.72 points; injured Czisny places fifth

Carolina Kostner added a gold to her silver and two bronzes from the Grand Prix Final.
Carolina Kostner added a gold to her silver and two bronzes from the Grand Prix Final. (AFP)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/10/2011) - Carolina Kostner used maturity and elegance to overcome a relative lack of jumping power and win Saturday's free skate and her first-ever Grand Prix Final on her fourth try.

"I am so happy that I did not have major mistakes, but I have the feeling that I could have done better," Kostner said.

Although the 24-year-old Italian singled an intended double Axel and faltered slightly on the landings of two triples, her superior skating skills and sophisticated choreography to Mozart selections -- plus three solid combinations, including a double Axel-triple toe in the second half of the program -- gave her a season's best 121.05. Overall, she earned 187.48, some 7.72 points more than Japan's Akiko Suzuki.

Russian Alena Leonova won bronze, while an injured Alissa Czisny struggled with her jumps and placed fifth.

Part of Kostner's unease stems from the absence of a triple Lutz from her programs. The skater has done the jump in previous seasons but abandoned it last season, after a knee injury limited her training time in the summer of 2010.

"Honestly, when I came into this competition, I felt not as good as everyone else because I don't have it in my program," she said. "It's just not so sure at the moment, and I feel with the new judging system, I still have some technical things to work on, and I want to stabilize what I can do before I go into a program with a full head and lose myself.

"I look forward to the moment I can add it again."

Suzuki opened her "Die Fledermaus" free with a triple Lutz so big, she had trouble controlling the landing. She hit a triple loop and double Axel-triple toe combination but faltered on the landings of two other jumps before hitting a triple flip and triple Salchow. Her 118.46 points put her third in the free and gave her silver.

"This is the best place ever for me in the Grand Prix Final [she won bronze in 2009 and was fourth last season], and I am happy, but the program could have been better," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I did not skate my best, and I am not happy about the content tonight."

Reflecting on the death of her teammate Mao Asada's mother, Kyoko, at age 48, Suzuki added, "I am grateful to be on the ice."

Leonova captured bronze with a marred, but still dynamic, performance that included a blazing opening triple toe-triple toe and fine triple flip and triple Salchow combinations. She placed fourth in the free and ended with 176.42 points.

"I am very happy with my first medal at the Grand Prix Final," Leonova said. "I don't have many emotions right now because I can't quite grasp it. I am very happy to place third."

Suzuki and Leonova are fortunate that Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the Russian phenom who turns 15 on Dec. 17, had a disappointing short and could climb only to fourth overall. The teen placed second to Kostner in the free, opening her Latin number with a stunning triple Lutz-triple toe combination worth 11.30 points and hitting three other clean triples, plus a slightly marred double Axel-triple toe combination. Tuktamisheva's technical mark, 63.86 points, was 8.03 higher than Kostner's, but her PCS lagged behind and rightly so. Her program did not cover much of the ice; she skated in a tight circle in the middle of the rink.

Almost every jump in her "Valse Triste" program was a struggle for Czisny, who fell on a triple toe and double Axel and had rough landings on several other jumps. The two-time U.S. champion ended with 156.97 points.

After the event, Czisny and her coach, Jason Dungjen, revealed that the skater tweaked her lower left leg (calf) in practice in Quebec City (read story here), and would take a week off from training upon her return to Detroit.