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Takahashi, Wagner tip main rivals at Japan Open

Olympic bronze medalist downs Chan, Plushenko; U.S. champ bests Leonova, locals Asada, Suzuki

Ashley Wagner outperformed standouts Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki and Alena Leonova in Saitama.
Ashley Wagner outperformed standouts Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki and Alena Leonova in Saitama. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(10/06/2012) - Daisuke Takahashi of Japan finished first in the men's competition at the Japan Open with 172.06 points, ahead of Patrick Chan of Canada (137.42) and Evgeni Plushenko of Russia (156.21). His teammate, Takahiko Kozuka, finished second (165.08) and Canadian veteran Jeffrey Buttle took third place (160.86).

Plushenko and Chan failed in their free skates: Plushenko made several serious errors, including a fall on the Axel, while Chan fell four times during his performance.

"I'm 50-50 happy because it's still too early [in the new season]," Plushenko said to AFP. "I look forward to competing much better, of course, with two quadruples in a clean program."

The main outcome of Plushenko's performance at the Japan Open is that the 2006 Olympic champion for the first time in seven years executed two quads in one program, Alexei Mishin, his coach, told R-Sport agency.

"The main thing for me is that Evgeni did two quads in one program since 2005," Mishin said. "As for the mistakes on the Axel, it was because of the absence of competitive events. Evgeni didn't compete for 10 months. Also, we didn't have enough time to work on the whole program.

"Having two quad jumps in free skating program is necessary to fight for the top places, so we pay maximal attention to this factor in training."

The Russian coach noted very good performances by Takahashi and Kozuka.

"They left very good impressions. In general, the level of opponents in this tournament seemed to me middle. So we don't have [to] panic. We have to work on our free skating program."

In the ladies, reigning U.S. champion Ashley Wagner did not hide her joy about her well-executed program, which landed her in first place in the ladies competition.

"So excited with a first place start to the season. The program is a work in progress but a great start!" she wrote on Twitter.

Alena Leonova of Russia, the 2012 world silver medalist, ended up in fourth place but said she was pleased with all the components of her program, except spins. She got 107.94 points, conceding to Wagner (123.57 points), Japan's Mao Asada (122.04) and Akiko Suzuki (110.07), also from Japan.

"In general, I evaluate my performance as a good one. I'm not so upset [about] my non-executed jumps as of today's terrible spins," Leonova told the press. "But I'm happy that I landed a flip at the end of the program. Also, I'm glad with my triple toe-triple toe combination."

Leonova also noted that her performance was affected by acclimatization.

"Today, I hardly slept all night," she said. "Now everything is OK, but I'm really very sleepy. I very much loved the Japanese audience, which supported [every skater very warmly]."