The final Grand Prix event (other than the final!), the NHK Trophy, is underway in Tokyo, Japan. Day One of competition has been completed and here is a brief recap of the top performers.
Japanese World Champion Mao Asada is back and regained short program confidence with this effort. She was however, downgraded on her combination, as her technical score was actually lower at 34.40 than second place Ashley Wagner of the U.S., who received a 35.60 for the technical mark. I actually much preferred Wagner's presentation to Asada's, but looks like the judges did not, as Asada ended the day with a 64.64 and Wagner had a 61.52. Still, for Wagner to be that close to the current world champion has to be regarded as a major victory for her. She looked just as strong, if not stronger, than she did in Cup of China.
Some other top ladies had some major jumping issues. U.S. National Champion Mirai Nagasu popped her opening combination jump and Japan's Yukari Nakano doubled hers, leaving them in 8th and 5th place, respectively. Finland's Laura Lepisto, who I feel hits so many shaky, unattractive poses, sits in third place with a 59.14. And Japan's Akiko Suzuki is in a bit of a surprising 4th place with a 55.56.
For me, the fact that Asada is in first place is not surprising, but the real stories of the day may be Nakano's fall and Wagner's rise. The ladies are all still fairly close together around the top so I'm excited to see what happens in the free skate.
The Japanese crowd was surely excited to watch their next big thing, Nobunari Oda, rise to the top today with a clean program and an 81.63. He had a very good program, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, although it was no cyber swan. The U.S.'s Johnny Weir is in second place at 78.15, with no major errors, although he two-footed his triple toe loop. Apparently Weir is battling a cold here, but hopefully it won't affect his free skate, although he says he is not doing the quad due to the cold and blade problems (hmm) according to Icenetwork. France's Yannick Ponsero once again came out strong in the short program, landing a quad (with a hand down on the ice) and scoring a 74.39. America's Stephen Carriere was not as steady on his jumps as he was at Cup of China; he finds himself in fifth place at 68.99 behind Japan's Takahito Mura who scored 69.70. Carriere had an opportunity to play a spoiler here so we'll see if he can regroup.
Yikes. The fact that China's Pang and Tong are in first place despite a fall tells you about this field. They scored a 63.10, and while the rest of the program was very good there was still a fall. However, their elements (other than the fall) were heads and tails better than the U.S.'s clean Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, who just do not have the stuff to compete with the top pairs. However, the key word was "clean," and thus they sit in second place with a 57.60. Slightly behind them, with a 55.24, are Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, who also weathered a fall along with other errors and just did not appear to have any confidence.
I couldn't watch the compulsories on Icenetwork for some reason, but I saw the Original Dance. I absolutely love the program that U.S.'s Samuelson and Bates do, and Samuelson had a bit of a stumble today in the twizzles and perhaps at another point, so unfortunately they sit in fourth place. I mention them first, however, because I really didn't love the other dances.
Italy's Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali had a fall (hers) but still maintained their lead. They scored 53.78, which was second for the original dance but they kept their lead. I really wish she would shut her mouth at some point during the dance, but I guess that's my problem. France's Pechalat and Bourzat sit in second place, despite winning the OD. Ice Dancers tend to have a lot of cleavage, and I am very cool with that, but I think I could see her bra and it was distracting me throughout the beginning of the dance. I mean, there was a LOT of cleavage. I also hate hate hate this dance. I'm sure it's very difficult, etc., but I just hate the slow start and kind of fast finish and the choppy music. When I see this dance I feel like I'm watching a tape that the VCR is in the middle of chewing up or something. Sorry! I had to share. Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov of Russia snuck in and snagged the third place slot with a 51.80. It was a good dance; they are sooo close to Samuelson and Bates though (83.34 to 83.10), and Faiella and Scali are quite close to Pechalat and Bourzat as well (89.39 and 87.47), so the freek skate competition is going to be great.