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Kozuka wins men's title at Skate America

Kozuka wins men's title at Skate America

Japan's Takahiko Kozuka leapfrogged the favorites in the free skate to win the Skate America men's title on Saturday.
Kozuka _ whose previous major accomplishments had been major junior titles in 2006 _ was in third place after the short program, but took advantage of mistakes by Americans Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, who entered the free skate less than a point apart.
Kozuka finished with an overall score of 226.8, while Weir wound up second with 225.2 and Lysacek was third with 223.21.
Earlier in the day, Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolokowy, the defending world champions, and rising American stars Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker took advantage of mistakes by the leading Russian pair to finish 1-2 in the pairs competition.
Also, South Korea's Kim Yu-Na led a strong field after the ladies' short program, ahead of 2007 world champion Miki Ando and her Japanese compatriot Yukai Nakano.
World champion French pair Isabell Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder maintained the lead in the ice dance after the original dance portion, ahead of Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
The ladies free skate and pairs free dance were scheduled for Sunday.
Kozuka, 19, put himself in the hunt for the title with a strong short program. He trailed leader Lysacek by 1.2 points going into the free skate. He fell flat on his opening quadruple toe loop and put a hand down on a triple axel. But he got extra credit for four triples late in his program.
"I'm glad I didn't give up and was able to skate to the end," Kozuka said through a translator. "Even more important than the title, it mean a lot that I showed a good performance. I'm extremely happy."
Weir, skating next, stepped out of a planned quadruple toe loop on his opening jump and dropped the third jump in a combination.
"It was just me being stupid and being cautious on what I was supposed to do in the second half of the program," Weir said. "I was really happy I was able to perform today and focus."
Lysacek, skating last, fell on his quad toe loop and under-rotated a triple axel on a three-jump combination. He tried to make up points by substituting a triple jump for a double axel at the end.
Lysacek said he was more disappointed by the crowd booing of the results than by his gold-turned-bronze. With confusion over skating's relatively new scoring system, "we're trying to get people back in the building," he said.
The 18-year-old Kim earned 69.50 points despite touching down with her hand on a double axel midway through her program. However, no one skated a mistake-free program. Ando, who under-rotated a triple loop and inexplicably fell on a relatively simple step sequence, was second with 57.80 and Nakano was third with 57.46.
The rest of Kim's program was solid, showcasing her jumping ability. Ando is returning to form after injuries nearly drove her to retirement last season.
Savchenko and Szolokowy, skating next to last in the pairs free skate, rallied from second to top Russia's surprise leaders, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, by posting an overall score of 180.77.
McLaughlin and Brubaker, the 2008 national champions, were third going into the free skate, and they climbed to second with 172.69 points.
No one skated clean in the pairs, either. Savchenko and Szolokowy were out of synch on a triple salchow and subsequent spin, and Savchenko had a rough landing on a throw. But the pair, the first German world champions since 1997, showed poise and creativity, especially with their lifts.
Mukhortova and Trankov wound up third with 167.67 points. Silver-medalists at last season's European Championships, the pair is hoping to extend a remarkable Russian era of dominance in the sport. Russia has won every Olympic gold medal in pairs since 1964, including a tie for the title in 2002.
Delobel and Schoenfelder, the reigning world champions currently in their 19th season together, were first overall after two of three segments of the ice dancing with 96.75 points. Belbin and Agosto had 95.10 points, and Great Britain's Sinead and John Kerr were third with 92.11.


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:32 GMT+08:00