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Japan's Takahashi wins men's Skate America

Japan's Takahashi wins men's Skate America

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi was outpointed in the free skate Saturday by U.S. champion Evan Lysacek, yet still won Skate America thanks to his overwhelming margin from the short program.
Takahashi fell twice and also tired toward the end of the routine. But his lead of more than 12 points from Friday was enough to hold off Lysacek.
The world silver medalist looked spent at the conclusion of his performance to "Romeo and Juliet." Unlike Shakespeare's tragic hero, though, Takahashi survived, winning 228.97 to 220.08.
"I was definitely not expecting a great mark," he said. "I definitely will be practicing in my run-throughs to pay attention to details."
Lysacek was at his most expressive in a program to "Tosca" that was exhausting to watch, let alone skate. Although he two-footed the quadruple toe loop (barely) on his first element, he nailed everything else with an energy that built throughout the 4 1/2 minutes. When he was done and the crowd was on its feet, Lysacek held his pose _ arm fully extended like the pirate he was portraying wielding a sword _ for nearly 10 seconds.
In all, Lysacek landed eight triples, but it was the emotion he put into the show that charged the arena.
Takahashi couldn't come close to his stunning short program 24 hours earlier, falling on a triple axel and a lutz. He left the ice shaking his head slowly, but in the end he was wearing the gold.
Earlier, in a matchup of world champions, it was a 14-year-old newcomer who stole the spotlight.
While 2006 world winner Kimmie Meissner was beating current world champ Miki Ando in the short program Saturday night, junior high schooler Caroline Zhang wowed everyone in her debut as a senior skater.
Meissner was no slouch, of course, and her array of jumps and a strong opening spiral sequence _ rare in figure skating _ earned her 59.24 points for a solid lead over her Japanese rival.
"I'm really happy with how I skated today," said Zhang, the world junior champion. "It could have been better: I didn't hold the combination spin enough and I could've performed better. But it's my first Grand Prix and I'm happy to be here and it's so much fun.
"Junior worlds is a really big competition for me. I came here, everybody was really tall and I was wondering if they were going to jump over my head."
Zhang's jumping was reminiscent of an equally young Tara Lipinski a decade ago. And her long, flowing spirals recalled Michelle Kwan at her best.
Neither, though, could pull off the kind of layback spin that topped off Zhang's breakthrough performance. The top half of her body was almost perpendicular to the ice as she twirled and twirled, with the crowd standing and cheering.
Skating to Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins," Meissner's routine came alive to the pulsing drumbeats, and she gave a fist pump as she finished.
"I'm very pleased with it," the 18-year-old Meissner said. "First time out and it felt great."
Ando, skating with an injured right shoulder, made a silly mistake that cost her. Although Ando probably wouldn't have caught Meissner, she stumbled during footwork late in her routine.
Otherwise, her jumps were solid and her spins were precise. But the program, to "Samson and Delilah," lacked spark, and Ando has some work to do in Sunday's free skate.
Indeed, she might need to look behind her at Zhang as much as ahead to Meissner.
Earlier Saturday, Canada's Jessice Dube and Bryce Davison upset China's 2006 world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian in an uninspiring pairs event. Dube and Davison scored their first significant international win _ they are four-time Canadian champions _ by besting their top score in the free skate, getting 112.46 points despite some bobbles.
"All we knew was their points, which were on the big screen and the speakers," Davison said of the Chinese, who skated just before the Canadians. "We were going out there for us, and this afternoon, that works."
U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto won the original dance with their bluegrass hoedown routine. Although the Olympic silver medalists skated a bit slowly for the rapid pace of their music, they still easily outdistanced second-place Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France.
"I think speed is a huge thing we have to work on," Belbin said. "It's good when the music is natural to you and you've grown up around it."