It was a good night for rivals and U.S. Champs Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir at the Men's short program at Skate America on Friday. Lysacek is in a much-deserved first place with an 81.30, while Weir trails by less than a point with 80.55. Japan's Takahiko Kozuka was a very impressive third place at 80.10. Canadian Kevin Reynolds is quite far behind in fourth place.
Lysacek, skating to Bolero, had some nice jumps. I felt like he slightly underrotated his triple axel, but that might just have been my angle. It was also obvious that he was just trying to remember which step went next throughout much of the program; Lysacek appeared to call himself out on this as well during the interviews. He admitted that he was "concentrating hard" and he said it would get more and more natural as the season went on.
So, was the new and improved Lysacek really new and improved? And how clear was the Tatiana Tarasova contribution? By about halfway through the program, I was thinking I couldn't see the change at all. Then, during the footwork, I started to see it. A bit more grace, a bit cleaner. It started out well but got a little awkward in certain areas. I think it just needs some more work, overall I liked the program and when he becomes comfortable enough to sell it, he should score even higher. He should be really happy with that performance.
Weir looked very good, but I believe he two-footed his triple flip. He didn't have as much energy as Lysacek did until the last step sequence, which I very much enjoyed. He didn't appear that happy with the effort but we'll see if he can shake that off tomorrow, he is so close to the leader, there is really nothing to be too disappointed about.
I was VERY impressed by Kozuka. First of all, he was super smooth, skating out there to Take Five and he definitely sold it to me. His jumps were the best of the night (and that was reflected in his 44.70 technical score, the highest one of all the men). I was not loving the footwork so much, which is too bad, because up until then the program was so very promising. Still, he's right in there with Weir and Lysacek, so tomorrow should be very exciting!
Junior World Champion Adam Rippon (who appears to be a graduate of the Johnny Weir school of skating costumes) is making his senior Grand Prix debut this season, and he was not ready this evening. He fell on his triple axel, had a stiff landing off his combination, and looked extremely sloppy throughout the program. He had a 59.60 and ended the night in 8th place.
I have to say, I'm loving the Universal Sports Channel. It was kind of cool to watch all the programs as they were happening. It was weird that there was no commentary, but it made me work harder so I liked it. Looking forward to tomorrow!