Saturday, December 8, 2012
Mao Asada wins Grand Prix Final
SOCHI, Russia -- Mao Asada of Japan won the Grand Prix Final on Saturday, topping American Ashley Wagner in a clean free program that ranged from sprightly to quietly refined.
Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the men's gold, despite falling on his opening quad. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won silver, edging Patrick Chan of Canada.
Wagner was just a half point behind Asada heading into the free skate, but fell twice and ended up a distant second. Akiko Suzuki of Japan was third at the Iceberg arena, which will host figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the ice dancing gold, beating Canadian world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France took bronze.
Wagner said her second fall, on a double axel in combination after a triple loop, "was a bit of a freak fall. But to have such a hard fall and then go and complete the triple flip of that quality is definitely something I can take away from this competition."
The team doctor told her she injured a hip.
"I can't tell you what that is, but I can tell you it really hurts," Wagner said. "For me, I always like to go big or go home, so when I fall I like to fall really hard."
Asada landed six triples in her program to excerpts from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," a musical choice that delighted the Russian spectators to boost Asada's spirits.
"When it began, I head some people clapping and I was happy to hear that," she said." Looking back on my performance there were no major mistakes, so that's a great takeaway."
Chan was just 0.04 points ahead of Spain's Javier Fernandez, who was the only one of the six men to land two quads. He placed first in the free program, but not by enough to overcome the deficit of a fifth-place short program.
Asada's only significant misstep was doubling what would have been her seventh triple of the program. But her presentation followed the music's emotional range, from the dreamy opening to its lively conclusion.
Takahashi recovered from his opening fall to land a quad toe-loop, but made other errors including a hand down on a triple-double. He took gold with mixed emotions.
"Of course I am the champion of the GP Final, but there's a lot to be done, there's a lot of challenges and issues that remain," he said.
Hanyu nailed his opening quad but turned the planned next one, a salchow, into a double. Chan also fell on his initial quad, which was to be a combination with a triple toe-loop.
"To be honest, I'm pretty disappointed with my performance today," Chan said. "Looking at the whole program I think there were a lot of good things also. I did the triple axel-triple loop sequence, those two jumps that I missed at Cup of Russia. So each competition I'm kind of tuning in onto every little detail of the program, which is what I like to see."
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia won pairs gold despite a spectacular collision. In the setup to a throw triple salchow, the skaters slammed together and Trankov fell on his back. He raised an arm to keep Volosozhar from stumbling over him and falling head first.
Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov skated clean, but the content marks for Volosozhar and Trankov were enough to give them the overall win. China's Pang Qing and Tong Jian got the bronze.
In the women's field, Kiira Korpi of Finland took fourth, followed by Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and American skater Christina Gao. In the men's, Japan's Takahiko Kozuka and Tatsuki Machida were in fifth and sixth.
Davis and White performed an array of complex moves, including one in which he appears to drop her but holds on with one hand while she wraps her legs around one of his. Virtue and Moir, dressed in all black, made a moving interpretation of the classic "Carmen" story.
Both duos said the ease they showed on the ice was deceptive.
"It was one of those skates when nothing really came easily, we felt like we had to fight through it but that's OK," Davis said. "It's good to have skates like that, and it's really times like that where we feel we grow the most."
Moir said it was tough.
"It was definitely a program we had to work through, but our execution was spot-on today. We had a really good, strong technical skate and we were able to bring the motion as well. So that's exciting, especially in this venue, to lay down two strong skates," Moir said.