Oda wins to cap return

by Jim Armstrong

The Associated Press

Nobunari Oda capped a successful return to competitive skating on Sunday with a victory at the NHK Trophy.

Oda, who was in first place after Friday’s short program, overcame several mistakes in his free skate to finish with 236.18 points, ahead of American Johnny Weir who was second with 224.42 points. France’s Yannick Ponsero placed third with 217.24 points.

“I made a few mistakes today so was a bit surprised to get the win,” said Oda, who was making a return to the Grand Prix series after a one-year suspension following an arrest for drunk driving.

Weir, who was second after the short program, picked up 13 points for Sunday’s second-place finish to qualify for the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix finals in South Korea in December.

Oda opened with a quadruple toeloop but stumbled on the landing. He touched down after a triple flip, triple toeloop combination but the rest of his program was error free.

“I was nervous before the routine, my mind was blank,” said Oda, who won the NHK in 2005. “But I got a lot of support from the fans here and that was a tremendous help.”

World bronze-medalist Weir, who battled a cold since arriving in Japan, hit all his jumps until late in his routine when he could only manage a double lutz instead of a triple. His following element, a triple flip, was a single.

“I was very sick all week,” said Weir, who won silver at Skate America. “To get through the long program was a huge victory for me.”

Weir will compete in GP finals along with Takahiko Kozuka and Canada’s Patrick Chan. France’s Brian Joubert, American Jeremy Abbot and Thomas Verner of the Czech Republic also qualified.

Mao Asada won the women’s event Saturday to complete a sweep of the podium for the host nation.

The NHK Trophy is the final of the ISU’s six Grand Prix events.