Kozuka finishes second to book spot in Grand Prix Final

Kyodo, AP

Takahiko Kozuka had to settle for second behind two-time world champion Patrick Chan at the Cup of Russia on Saturday but booked a spot in the Grand Prix Final.

Kozuka, winner of the season-opening Skate America, collected a total of 229.99 points after the free skate in the fourth event of the Grand Prix series, giving him enough to secure a spot in December’s final in Sochi where the top six skaters will compete. It will be his first final in two seasons.

Kozuka was unable to properly land his two quad jumps, falling on the second, and was third in both the free and short programs. He was able to compensate for his lack of technique with crisp steps and mesmerizing spins.

“My quads weren’t that bad, but I’m disappointed I got low technical marks,” Kozuka said. “But I was able to secure a spot in the final, so I have been given another opportunity to redeem myself.”

Canadian Chan blew away the competition with a top score of 262.35, while Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic was third with 224.56.

Chan said his good showing in Moscow was thanks to his chagrin at placing second before a home-country crowd at Skate Canada.

“It kind of sparked something in me,” he said. His disappointment spurred him to practice intensively and “I didn’t leave any chance for mistakes.”

Chan was the only one of the men to land two quads, both of them strong enough to look almost relaxed.

Brezina started the free program in sixth place and ended with bronze, benefiting from the mistakes that plagued Russia’s Konstantin Menshov, who was in second after the short program.

Kozuka’s compatriot Nobunari Oda placed second in the free skate for a total of 217.92, only good enough for fifth overall.

In the women’s competition, Kanako Murakami managed a fourth-place finish with a score of 166.34, moving up from sixth in the short program after her third-place finish in the free skate.

Finland’s Kiira Korpi came from behind to win the women’s singles with a total of 177.19. Americans Gracie Gold and Agnes Zawadzki were second and third, respectively.

Skating to the dramatic music from “Once Upon a Time in America,” Korpi opened with four strong triples — two toeloops, a lutz and a flip — then doubled her fifth attempt, a loop. After recovering for a triple-double-double cascade, she fell on what was to be another triple loop.

Korpi said she was feeling the effects of having competed far away just a week ago at the Cup of China, where she won bronze.

“There were a few mistakes in my easiest jump, the loop,” Korpi said. “This was the hardest two weeks.”

Gold opened strongly with a speedy triple lutz-triple toe, but she scratched two of three jumps in the cascade that was to follow and doubled two subsequent triples.

But at age 17 and medaling in only her second Grand Prix, she took it all in stride.

“It had a lot of flaws, but that’s just more room to improve in,” said Gold, who led after the short program on Friday. “I was happy with it, but I know I can do so much more.”

Zawadzki, who was seventh in Moscow a year ago, also notched her first Grand Prix medal with the bronze.

Korpi said her back-to-back medals vindicated the soul-searching she went through after being troubled by injuries last season.

“I’m already pretty old for a skater,” the 24-year-old Korpi said.

First place in pairs went to Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Fellow Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov won silver and Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin took bronze.

Trankov said the pair had been concentrating on fixing problems in their lift and “this is maybe the reason we made mistakes.”