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Mura moves up to mount first Grand Prix podium

Amodio recovers from disastrous short to earn bronze; Hendrickx withdraws with ankle injury

Takahito Mura is the third different Japanese man to win Grand Prix gold this fall.
Takahito Mura is the third different Japanese man to win Grand Prix gold this fall. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/17/2012) - Japan's Takahito Mura won his first Grand Prix gold medal Saturday at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris, beating his season's best in the free skate with 154.03 points (230.68 in total). Jeremy Abbott also beat his season's best with 146.45 in the free skate (227.63 overall) to take the silver medal. Florent Amodio of France rallied back from seventh place after the short program to take the bronze medal, winning the free program with a season's best score of 154.12 (214.25 overall).

Mura skated a powerful and energetic free program to the Shogun soundtrack. His practice session had been perfect in the morning, with quad toe, triple Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel in a row. He repeated that sequence Saturday afternoon, along with a triple Axel-double toe and two more triples in the second part of his program. His quad alone earned him 12.01, and his triple Lutz-triple toe netted 11.40 points.

"This is so unexpected," Mura expressed afterward through an interpreter. "Just like yesterday was. I had not done well at Skate Canada (where he finished eighth), and I took the time to try to understand why. I asked myself what I had been missing in order to fill the gap this time. This season, I think I am, in fact, better than what I thought."

Mura finished second for both the short and the free, and consistency paid off.

"I felt so good at this trophy," Mura added. "I thought to myself, 'If I can calm myself down, then I am convinced that I can succeed today.' This is just what I did."

Abbott offered a beautiful and emotional Les Misérables in Paris. He landed his opening triple Lutz beautifully and went on toward his quad. Even though he could not land a single one in practice, he did not hesitate and managed to not fall on it. The quad was downgraded eventually, but he went on with his program. His triple Axel brought the audience to its feet, after the intense concentration at the start of his program. He singled his subsequent triple Axel but rebounded to land his next three triples.

Yet the most important part in Abbott's skate was not his jumps. He got (of course) the best components score of the field, more than five points above Amodio's, his nearest challenger (82.7 for Abbott to 77.52 for Amodio). Abbott's skate was just a romance between his blades and the ice, between his body and the stars, between his soul and perfection -- or maybe this is simple love; call it the way you want.

As soon as he entered the ice, the audience knew that we were entering into a different register. Take the time to look. To watch. To reflect. Abbott made us realize that what counted in skating was not only what you do but also how you do it -- just like any artistic composition.

Expression and emotion do come also from the "how," not only from the "what."

"It was not my best program," Abbott said, "But at the end, I realized that my back and legs were all right. All the work we did paid off. I missed some of my spins and that cost me victory, but altogether I love this program so much that I was happy to skate it the way I did."

"I want to please my audience tomorrow, and I will," Amodio had promised after his disastrous showing in the short program (two falls, no combination). He skated a powerful, yet delightful routine to music by Cinematic Orchestra and Nuttin' But Stringz.

"I am portraying a puppet who keeps growing throughout the program," Amodio said, explaining his pantomime.

He landed his opening quad Salchow and two triple Axels but had more difficulties with his combinations, except for a powerful triple Salchow-triple toe in the second half of his program. His spins earned Level 1 and 2 only, however.

His polished body line and movement, his incredibly fast steps, his charisma on the ice and that unique way he dances to the music earned him the connection with the audience he was seeking so desperately after his short program.

"I did not want to lose anything from that program for my audience," Amodio said after he left the ice. "It was harsh this morning, with so many things running in my head after yesterday. But I am a fighter. I knew it would pay. I work every day like crazy for that kind of a result."

"I am well aware that this free program is very complex," Brian Joubert mentioned prior to the event. "It makes me improve. I am starting to make it mine now and skate it clean during practice. It still requires a lot of work, however. It may be only ready for the Olympic season."

The program, set to the music from Hans Zimmer's Inception soundtrack, goes crescendo from start to end.

"I have absolutely no time to rest!" Joubert said. "It's physically very demanding."

Joubert skated quite conservatively, to say the least, especially after he fell on his opening quad toe. He landed a triple Axel-double toe and six other triples to score 134.70 points for the free and 210.16 overall.

He had to settle for fourth place, behind Amodio.

"There is a lot of work to do," Joubert admitted, "But we're on the right way."

Maybe one day, Joubert will be ready to admit that he is skating and competing just for the fun he takes out of it. Maybe one day his fans will understand that the guy is just happy to skate and compete ... and that he does that quite well, actually.

Nan Song of China skated to Tchaikovsky's music ("Symphony No. 4" and "Romeo and Juliet Overture"). He delivered an element-packed program, with a quad toe, triple Axel-double toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe, among others. He earned 139.73 points for the free, and 205.48 overall to finish fourth.

Jinlin Guan brought Carmen back to the ice rink and beat his season's best to finish sixth.

Belgian Jorik Hendrickx, who had taken fourth place in the short, withdrew due to an ankle problem.