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Gedevanishvili edges Osmond in short in Windsor

Top six skaters separated by less than six points; Zhang, Gold sit eighth, ninth

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia has never so much as medaled at a Grand Prix event.
Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia has never so much as medaled at a Grand Prix event. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/26/2012) - It's still anyone's ballgame for ladies gold at Skate Canada, as just 5.70 points separate the top six skaters.

Even U.S. junior champion Gracie Gold, who made two jumping mistakes, including a fall on a double Axel, isn't out of it. Although she lies ninth, she is just 6.37 points out of bronze-medal position.

But tomorrow, they will all chase Elene Gedevanishvili, the two-time European bronze medalist training in Toronto under Brian Orser. The 22-year-old Georgian, who has slimmed down considerably the last few seasons, had one of her finest short programs ever, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe and a triple Salchow in a sensitive routine choreographed by David Wilson to music from Schindler's List. (The triple toe was judged under-rotated.)

Superb steps and solid spins, including a closing camel combination that gained a series of +2 grades of execution (GOEs), added to her score, and she will take 60.80 points into the free skate.

"The music and the program are very special to me," Gedevanishvili said. "My goal for the season was to be able to transmit the emotions I'm feeling while skating to the music, and I feel like I accomplished that here.

"Of course, another goal was to land all my jumps, but to deliver the program choreographically, like David choreographed it, was also challenging. It's a different style than I'm used to. I was happy skating it, and happy I enjoyed it as much as I did today."

Orser, who is also coaching Spain's Javier Fernandez here, admitted that Gedevanishvili didn't have any easy summer.

"It was a process. It took a long time to get the right vehicle for her," he said. "We had some ideas throughout the summer and she turned them down, which was good, because it shows she knows what is going to be the right vehicle.

"So she found this music, and she was passionate about it, and we really didn't do it until September, so it was a bit late.

"And then she just transformed her body; we had had a rough summer, because she was just not motivated. As much as any of us can do, she's a veteran, so when she's ready, she'll do it. She just turned the corner; it was almost overnight."

Gedevanishvili, long known as a fine short program skater, knows the larger challenge remains.

"We're not even halfway [done]," she said. "I feel like the short program shows how prepared I am emotionally. The free program shows how prepared I am physically, so tomorrow is going to be a hard day."

Canadian bronze medalist Kaetlyn Osmond, who opened her international campaign with a win at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September, attacked her short to a Latin medley with speed and confidence, hitting a solid triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple flip, as well as a lovely Level 4 layback spin. She earned 60.56, a personal best, and trails Gedevanishvili by just 0.24.

"It was a great experience -- my personal best, a great way to start the season," said Osmond, who trains under Ravi Walia. "In practice, things have been going really well, and at competitions my adrenaline tends to kick in extra, and it makes everything so much better."

The 17-year-old, considered by many Canada's best ladies prospect since Joannie Rochette, seems to be taking her good press and expectations in stride.

"I don't think too much about [being Canada's top lady]. I just try to keep skating the same way in competition as I do in practice," she said. "I do think I'm mentally tough; I try to stay focused."

Ksenia Makarova served notice -- in this short program, at least -- that although the crowd of young Russian wunderkinds has been getting most of the accolades, at age 19, she's not done yet.

The statuesque skater turned in a polished program to Ahram's "Maria and the Violin's String," opening with a triple toe-triple toe and a triple flip before popping her double Axel -- which was attempted from a difficult spiral entrance -- into a single. Still, she sits third with 58.56 points.

"Hopefully, I will skate with as much passion and control tomorrow in the long as I had today," said Makarova, who like Gedevanishvili often performs better short programs than free skates.

Some big names -- including Japan's Kanako Murakami, the 2010 world junior champion; reigning Japanese world silver medalist Akiko Suzuki; and Russian youngster Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who won this event last season -- sit in fourth through sixth place, just a solid free skate away from a medal.

Canadian champion Amélie Lacoste fell on a downgraded triple flip but is still just 6.99 points behind Gedevanishvili.

Caroline Zhang, fourth in the U.S. last season, had a solid skate to "Rushing Wings of Dawn," including an opening triple loop-double toe. The judging panel was split on the quality of her triple flip, with an unusual range of GOE from +1 down to -3, and she earned 52.97 points.

"It's a pretty good program for the first Grand Prix of the season," Zhang said. "There are obviously things I want to improve, but it's a good start."

"This morning, I was still doing the triple loop-triple loop, but [my coach, Peter Oppegard, and I] wanted to get back out there and get back into competition mode, and then start adding the more difficult elements back in."

The short was a step up from Zhang's performance at Nebelhorn, where she placed 12th.

"I'm definitely in better shape than I was at Nebelhorn," Zhang said. "I had a couple of small injuries, but now everything is great and I'm hoping to improve and do better performances."

Gold, the U.S. junior champion and world junior silver medalist, impressed in practices here but faltered on two of her jump elements, turning out of the second jump of her opening triple flip-triple toe combination and falling on her double Axel.

She is ninth with 52.19 points.

"I think it was a little bit of nerves; practice is very different than competition," Gold, 17, said. "But I'm glad I had strong practices, to show everyone I am capable of being a really good skater. I just got a bit nervous today, and that will just go away over time."

This is Gold's first senior Grand Prix, and the teen admitted lack of experience might have been a factor.

"I haven't had any international experience as a senior lady and only twice as a junior, and it's different going from junior to senior, and especially nationally to internationally," said Gold, who did compete as a member of Team USA at the 2012 World Team Trophy. "It will improve as I get more experience. I know that I'm supposed to be part of this and I am at this level and we're all equal, and it's just who has the best skate."