BEIJING — Canada’s Patrick Chan capitalized on a meltdown in the free skate by Nobunari Oda and reigning world champion Daisuke Takahashi to win the Grand Prix Final in Beijing on Saturday.
The largest ever number of Japanese competitors came to the Chinese capital with high hopes of sweeping the podium, but the country’s female skaters also came up short in their quest for gold, teenage hope Kanako Murakami taking the bronze medal behind winner Alissa Czisny of the United States and Italy’s Carolina Kostner.
Performing to “Phantasia” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Chan delivered a near-perfect skate, rallying to beat Oda, who led after a fabulous short program but fell twice in his free routine and had to make do with second place.
“It’s always been kind of a dream for me to do well here,” said Chan. “The last two times weren’t really the best as I (finished) fifth twice. That wasn’t the performance I wanted so I am very happy to do two good skates here. It’s a big step in my training process and preparing for the worlds (in Tokyo in March).”
Chan had a winning total of 259.75 points while Oda, who also squandered the lead after the short program in both of his events on the GP circuit this term — Skate Canada and Skate America — had 242.81.
Takahiko Kozuka, who along with Oda and Takahashi was looking to give Japan its first men’s GP Final gold medal, was third with 237.79 while Takahashi placed fourth 219.77.
While Chan enjoyed a solid skate, Oda, Takahashi and Kozuka all erred on their opening quads.
Oda also fell on a double axel and admitted that the pressure of not blowing the lead again had gotten the better of him.
“I’m so disappointed with my performance tonight because I fell twice in the free skate and musically I was so late,” said Oda. “I was trying not to repeat the same mistakes (at Skate Canada and Skate America) and I ended up thinking too much.”
Takahashi had a performance to forget, the Olympic bronze medalist under-rotating a quad toeloop and falling twice on triple combination jumps to finish last in the free skate with 137.20.
Kozuka, winner of the Cup of China and Trophee Bompard and the top qualifier here, also under-rotated his opening quad toeloop but had an otherwise error-free skate.
Silver medalist at the 2008 GP Final, Kozuka blamed himself for Takahashi’s performance, believing their accidental collision in training earlier in the week had led to his sub-par performance.
“I am happy to be on the podium at the Grand Prix final again but I feel I messed things up for Takahashi,” said Kozuka. “I apologized to him and he said not to worry about it. I will have to take a bit more care in the future.”
Takahashi said, “That was my worst performance of the season. I didn’t practice enough and my legs really felt it. I couldn’t control anything and now I have to really work hard as there is not a lot of time between now and the national championships.”
In the women’s program, 2009 U.S. champion Czisny held on to her overnight lead to take the gold, an enchanting free skate earning her a total of 180.75 points.
“I dreamed it, winning it, and it happened,” said Czisny. “I had to fight my way through that program. I am happy with the outcome and it just feels good to be back and be able to get close to reach my potential.”
Three-time European champion Kostner had 178.60 to finish just ahead of Murakami, who scored 178.59 for third on her debut in the GP Final.
“Despite my mistake I had a good result,” said Murakami, whose only error came when she singled a triple flip. “It is an honor to stand on the podium at the Grand Prix Final, especially as this is the first year for me to compete on the Grand Prix circuit.”
Akiko Suzuki was fourth while Miki Ando, who came to Beijing as the gold medal favorite but struggled in the short program, landed all of her jumps and was fifth.
“After the disappointment of the short program I could regain my concentration and I could show my best performance today,” said Ando.
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