Mao stumbles into 6th place

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

MOSCOW — Miki Ando took third place but compatriot Mao Asada delivered a subpar performance and was a distant sixth after the women’s short program at the Rostelecom Cup on Friday night.

Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen, the 2004 European champion, earned 57.94 points to take a narrow lead over American Alissa Czisny. Czisny scored 57.64, with Ando following in third in her Grand Prix season debut with 57.18.

Skating to Mozart’s “Requiem,” Ando attempted a triple lutz-triple loop combination in her new program but underrotated and stumbled on the loop.

The 2007 world champion also cheated a triple flip that was downgraded as well, but came back to hit a double axel. She picked up a level four for the flying sit and the combination spin and a level three for the layback spin and the footwork.

“I am a little disappointed,” said Ando. “I knew that I would miss the combination because I had less speed than in practice. But I’m happy that I got a level four for my flying sit spin for the first time in my life. I also got good component scores in spite of my mistakes.”

Mao, meanwhile, stumbled on her opening triple axel, committed other minor errors and was awarded 51.94 points, her worst-ever score at a senior international event.

“I am not tired at all so I guess there is something wrong mentally,” said Mao, who finished second at last week’s season-opening Trophee Bompard.

“My performance concerns me more than the points. I hope I can get my most important jumps right tomorrow,” added the 2008 world champion.

In the men’s short program, Russia’s Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko marked his return to international competition with a stunning skate to lead Takahiko Kozuka with 82.25 points.

Kozuka scored 75.50 and American Johnny Weir was third with 72.57.

“I skated well and I’m very happy with my performance,” Kozuka said. “I didn’t expect that I would ever compete against Evgeni Plushenko. I watched the (Turin) Olympic Games on TV and wanted to be there. Now I feel honored to be in this competition together with Evgeni Plushenko and Johnny Weir.”

Kozuka didn’t try a quad in his speedy, stylish and loud program to the feedback-drenched guitar music of Jimi Hendrix. But his landings were as precise as Plushenko’s and the calculated audacity of his music choice underlined how the once-punky Plushenko has become, at 26, almost a sedate elder.

After finishing second at the Salt Lake City Games, Plushenko dominated figure skating for the next four years. He won two more world titles — he has three total — and claimed the top spot at every competition he entered in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

“Somebody had asked me why I was coming back because I already had everything. I have money, I am famous . . . maybe I keep wanting to think I am very young,” Plushenko said.

In the pairs competition, former world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China opened a solid lead over Russia’s Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov and Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker.

In ice dance, American champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a commanding lead after winning both the compulsory and original dances.