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Menshov beats strong field for second NRW title

Brezina places second, Liebers third; Ge flouts vocal music ban

Konstantin Menshov has positioned himself as a serious medal contender at Europeans.
Konstantin Menshov has positioned himself as a serious medal contender at Europeans. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(12/10/2012) - While Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim was still giving TV interviews in the corridors after her winning free skate at the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, the men's free skate was already in progress, and it did not disappoint. The final warm-up group's quality was as high, or higher, than it was at some Grand Prix events this season.

Russia's Konstantin Menshov, who won this event in 2007, led by nine points after the short program and extended his lead with a free skate that included two clean quad toe loops (one of them done in combination with a triple toe) and two triple Axels. Menshov is more of a jumper than an artist, but he did interpret the modern music by René Aubry quite well and skated with good speed. He finished with 238.63 points, some 25 points over the field.

At age 29, Menshov is just one year younger than Evgeni Plushenko, who has been winning European and world medals since 1998. He is the opposite of a star and has a relatively unknown coach, Evgeni Rukavitsin. He was Russian champion in 2011 and had some good results, but he was inconsistent and often missed jumps. Therefore, the Russian skating federation did not send him to important competitions until 2010, when he competed at the Rostelecom Cup.

Now, he is in good shape and optimistic about the future.

"I am very happy with the result. This was my best program of the season," he said. "I had some problems to come here, because my flight was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, but the organizers did a good job to bring me here at the last minute.

"For me, this was a preparation competition for Russian nationals in a bit more than two weeks. My goal is to win there, and if this is not possible (Plushenko is expected to compete), at least to skate as well as I did here today."

Czech Michal Brezina, who skated his free to music from The Untouchables soundtrack, was second with 213.09 points. He began his program with a good quad Salchow, followed by two triple Axels, but in the second half fell on a triple flip, stepped out of a triple Salchow and doubled two other intended triples, in addition to hitting a clean triple Lutz.

"My goal today was to finally do a quad, and I did a quad Salchow," said Brezina, who trains in Hackensack, N.J., under Viktor Petrenko. "I made some mistakes later in the program because I was sick last week and could not do many run-throughs before coming here.

"I will compete at Czech nationals again, which are held together with Slovac and Polish nationals. I hope at Europeans in January the quad toe loop will be back in my program as well, and that my programs will [no longer] fall apart."

Germany's Peter Liebers won the bronze medal with 211.75 points. He fell on the quad toe loop at the beginning of this program but then performed seven clean triple jumps, including two triple Axels.

He has worked with Lori Nichol and Shin Amano in Toronto for three summers in order to improve his style. The judges rewarded this work, because in Dortmund he gained several 8.0 and 8.25 program components marks for the first time in his life.

France's Chafik Besseghier placed fourth with 210.75 points. After an opening combination of quad toe loop-double toe loop, he showed seven clean triples, but his program components were lower because of his lack of content between jumps.

"This was my best long program and my best competition ever," Besseghier said.

Misha Ge of Uzbekistan had the second-best free skate, placing fifth overall with 210.66 points. He landed seven clean triples, but his triple Axel was under-rotated. As usual, the highlight was an extremely energetic and fast step sequence, for which he gained four +3 grade of execution marks.

During Ge's step sequence, he uses vocal music quite clearly but doesn't seem concerned about this breaking of the ISU rules.

"It supports my style and helps raise my component [scores], more than the one-point deduction I could get," he said.

In Dortmund, the judges did not deduct for vocal music. Soon, it will no longer be an issue: Beginning in the summer of 2014, vocal music will be permitted for singles skaters and pairs, as it already is for ice dancers.