Ashley Wagner of U.S. wins gold
PARIS -- Ashley Wagner of the United States and Takahito Mura of Japan had strong free programs to win the Trophee Bompard on Saturday.
Both rallied past the overnight leaders. Wagner nailed her jumps to overtake 14-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia, while Mura beat American Jeremy Abbott.
Wagner has added extra resilience to the extra confidence she gained at Skate America last month, overcoming illness and stress this time.
"I think from this I'm going to be able to take the focus that I had today, because going into it I was honestly worried because I felt horrible," Wagner said. "As soon as the music turned on I got focused."
Wagner said she put her "Almost Girl" tag behind her by winning at Skate America, and she thinks the last few weeks have been a psychological breakthrough in her career.
"I definitely think it is," she said. "That definitely gives me a bit more confidence."
Lipnitskaia finished third behind 15-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the Russian defending champion.
Wagner qualified for the season-ending Grand Prix finals next month in Sochi, Russia. She also battled a head cold.
"Today was a huge accomplishment for me," Wagner said. "To be able to accomplish that program not at my best was great to mentally show myself that I don't always have to be at the top of my game."
Wagner feels confident she can do well in Sochi providing she gets her "spin levels up."
Tuktamysheva, who drew a standing ovation from the crowd at the Bercy arena, was tearful at the end of her program and fell into the arms of her coach.
"I was really overwhelmed by my emotions," she said. "I was in shock and I was just ecstatic."
Mura, who finished eighth at Skate Canada last month, was second overnight and started his free skate confidently with clean landings on his quad toeloop and his triple lutz-triple toeloop.
"A year ago I couldn't even imagine I could win the competition here. I'm very surprised," said Mura, whose parents were competitive figure skaters. "The challenge for me is to keep the consistency and keep at a certain level. Even if I fail on the quad, I have to nail the triple axel for sure ... keep the quality high overall."
Although Mura pulled out of a triple flip toward the end of his program he scored enough to beat Abbott, 230.68 points to 227.63. The American expressed reservations on Friday about how well his sore back would react to the longer free exercise. He appeared to be slightly restricted in his movement.
"I had a couple of mistakes and some issues with spin levels, and that cost me first place," Abbott said. "But I love this program and I love skating in it. I'm happy that I'm done and I'm in one piece."
A technically strong free skate by Frenchman Florent Amodio produced the best score of 154.12 in the free and moved him from seventh overnight to third place.
"My goal was to fight like I do every day in practice," Amodio said. "It shows me that everything is possible and you should never give up, anytime, anywhere. I'm proud of myself."
Brian Joubert, third overnight, dropped to fifth.
Joubert fell backward on his first jump, a quad toeloop-double toeloop, and stumbled late in his program when he attempted a triple axel. The former world champion skated without much punch to the low-key "Inception" by Hans Zimmer.
Earlier, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia resisted stiff competition to win the pairs, doing just enough to hold off a strong performance from Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
After falling on a triple lutz in Friday's short program, Duhamel made good on their promise to make amends, posting the best score of 124.43 in the free skate.
"It's very bittersweet," Duhamel said. "When you look at the points and you see how close it was you start thinking 'If only my lutz was like that yesterday.'"
Their performance was not enough to topple overnight leaders Kavaguti and Smirnov, who scored 121.21 for an overall tally of 187.99 compared to 186.71 for the Canadians, who secured a spot for Sochi.
Italian pair Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek improved from fourth overnight to take the bronze medal, but were far behind overall.
Also, European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France won the ice dance to book their tickets to Sochi.
They finished ahead of Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, with Russian duo Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko in third.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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