BEIJING — Nobunari Oda’s decision to incorporate a quad in his short program for the first time this season paid rich dividends Friday, giving him the lead over Canada’s Patrick Chan at the Grand Prix Final.
Japan’s female skaters did not fare quite as well, however, Miki Ando, bidding for her first GP Final win in six attempts, enduring an error-strewn performance to sit in fifth place in the short program won by American Alissa Czisny.
A beaming Oda pumped his fists in delight after completing a program highlighted by a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and worth a season-best score of 86.59 points at Beijing’s Capital Gymnasium.
Chan scored 85.59 while reigning world champion Daisuke Takahashi was third with 82.57.
Skating to “Storm” by Yoshida Brothers, Oda, the only one of three Japanese men here not to have won on the GP circuit this season, drew thunderous applause for his opening combo and also earned high points for his triple axel and had level fours for his spins.
“I’m very happy to be in first place,” said Oda, who led after the short program at both Skate Canada and Skate America, only to finish runnerup to Chan and Takahashi, respectively.
“It was first time for me to do the quad in my short program and I was really focused on it. After I landed it I got a good feeling for the rest of my program. I wasn’t good with my transitions but (overall) think I did a good job.”
Chan underrotated his opening quad combination and had it downgraded to a triple-triple, while Takahashi, shimmering in sequin-studded black costume, delighted the crowd with his dance-like routine to a selection of Latin music.
Takahashi seemed generally pleased with his skate event though was disappointed with making errors on his step sequence.
“Today I think my jumps and spins were OK. Although I wasn’t able to get level fours on my spins it felt pretty good to me,” said Takahashi. “My only regret was to make a mistake on the step sequence. It really didn’t help to build the program.”
Takahiko Kozuka, who was the top qualifier, hit the advertising boards during his routine and was in fourth place with 77.90.
Japan has its largest ever contingent of six skaters in the singles here. Ando came here as the favorite but had a nightmare start, under-rotating her opening triple combination, before falling on a triple flip to earn just 50.45 points.
Czisny went top with a clean skate worth 63.76 points and was followed in second by three-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy (62.13).
It was not all bad news for Japan’s women though, 16-year-old GP Final debutante Kanako Murakami putting on an energetic performance to “Jumping Jack” for 61.47 points and third place. Akiko Suzuki was fourth with 58.26.
“I think I was a little bit too relaxed and didn’t have the right sense of urgency that I have in the short program in the Grand Prix series events,” said Ando.
Skate America winner Murakami, last season’s junior world champion, blew kisses to the crowd in a near-perfect skate to rock music, and said she was just pleased to be gaining valuable learning experience.
“I have just come up from the junior level and everything is a learning experience,” said Murakami.
“In the beginning I was very nervous but I think I am getting calmer learning from each competition and I was able to perform well here.”
She added: “I did well in the short program but there is still tomorrow and I hope I can have a good skate.”
Earlier, Olympic and world silver medal-winning ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White topped the short dance, the American defending champions scoring a season-best 68.64 points to lead French couple Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who scored 65.66. Hungary’s Nora Hoffman and Maxim Zavozin were in third place with 55.98.
Also Friday, Risa Shoji narrowly missed out on a place on the podium, finishing fourth in her debut in the women’s junior event.
Fourth after the short program, the 14-year-old Shoji and China’s Li Zijun both finished with a total of 149.82 points. But Li took the bronze medal after placing fourth with a better score in the free skate, one position higher than Shoji.
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