Takahashi Sits on Top of the World

The World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi not only smashed his own personal best score of 247.93 points (NHK 2006), but also trounced the two-year-old record of 258.33 points set by Russian Evgeny Plushenko at the 2006 Olympic Games. Until now, Plushenko’s record stood as the highest score in men’s figure skating since the advent of the “New Judging System”- which was put in place after the judging scandal at the 2002 Olympic Games.

You couldn’t take your eyes off him in his passionate free skate to “Romeo and Juliet” – which earned him a total of 175.84 points. That when combined with his short program score of 88.57 points it gave him a grand total score of 264.41 points – exceeding Plushenko’s record by 6.08 points.

“The judges acknowledged my skills,” Takahashi stated on setting the new standard. “I got a great score, and it gives me confidence.”

The Grand Prix silver medalist, 21, from Okayama, Japan, was near-perfect when he landed two quads and seven triple jumps – two of which were in combination.

His opening quad toe was solid as was the quad toe/double toe combination. His triple Axels were stellar one of which had a double toe/double loop attached. He was steady-as-a-rock on his triple flip/triple toe, and triple Salchow.

His only error came, when he touched down and turned out of a solo triple loop, but quickly recovered and a well-done triple Lutz.

“I missed the triple loop, but I landed two quads. I did two quads for the first time in ISU competition,” the Japanese told the press.

He was like the Eveready Energizer Bunny as he never stopped going – twisting, turning and dancing on the ice. The three-time Japanese Champion has taken a hiatus from this event the last two seasons – after winning the bronze in 2005.

Takahashi, who could not put a step wrong on his level three steps, delivered four solid spins which displayed nice positions.

The packed house was on its feet as the program came to a close. One fan holding a banner displaying a life-size picture of Daisuke.

“I am so happy that I got my best result (score),” Takahashi said with excitement. When I skated this time, everything was soft and smooth – the jumps, the spins, the steps, and I felt comfortable. I was careful and focused on each detail. This year, I set myself the goal to win in each competition.”

You could cut the tension with a knife as Canadian Jeffrey Buttle, 25, of Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario, took to the ice for his emotionally-loaded program to the “Ararat” soundtrack by Michael Danna.

The Olympic bronze medalist, who returned to last season’s program, opened with a good triple Axel but then managed only a double toe after (rather than the planned triple). He attacked his triple flip and added an unplanned triple toe on the back end for good measure.

“At first it was really difficult,” Jeffrey said about switching back to his old programs. I really loved the new programs, but they were just not competing well. These programs just put me in a comfort zone. I am really able to connect to them. The intensity of the other programs may be a departure, and it is not something I am going to avoid altogether, because I want to try every different type of program. But obviously these are working much better.”

The three-time Canadian Champion then ran into some trouble when he doubled the second triple Axel, put his hand down on triple Lutz/double toe/double loop, hopped out on the landing on a triple loop and fell on his final triple Lutz.

His footwork was outstanding. It was as if his body was the bow and the music his violin as the two worked synonymously together to express the story of the music.

“The first step sequence is the battle and that’s why it’s so intense and in the second I’m victorious and that’s why it’s so light-hearted and free,” the Canadian explained.

His choreography was exquisite and his level-three footwork looked effortless.

“Just working with David (Wilson – choreographer) he has a knack for putting together a program like that.” Jeffrey explained. “I feel he knows down the road what it will look like. When you first get a program it doesn’t look fantastic, because its still knew and it’s still developing. I just trust he knows what he is doing and I just love to skate to his programs.”

It rained on his parade – stuffed animals that is, as the ice was covered when the Canadian skated off the ice at the end of his program.

The 2005 World silver medalist edged his way past Lysacek into second place with a season best score of 150.17 points for his free program and an event total of 234.02 points.

Lysacek left his best skate behind him when the American fell to third place after falling on his opening quad combination and put a hand down on his second triple Axel.

“My quad has actually been really consistent, so to go down on it in the program is kind of strange,” Evan said mystified. “But something that I’ll obviously go home and analyze and see what went wrong and where I need to make more improvements before Worlds.”

He managed only one combination a nice triple flip, but the triple toe on the back end looked slightly cheated. He delivered six triple jumps in all in his dramatic program skated to “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini.

“It was pretty bad. I think I’ve been training really well, but this was much below what I’ve been doing in training,” Lysacek told the press. So, I was pretty disappointed in that, but at least I know it can’t get very much worse than that going into Worlds.”

He highlighted his program with two level three step sequences (but the second seemed to lack his usual emotion) and three level four spins that were low, fast and well-centered.

“As athletes we’re all used to having to adapt to whatever the circumstances on the night,” Evan explained when asked how skating first in the final flight affected his program. “It’s the first time in a while that I’ve been skating first in the long. The preparation was just a little bit different. I was trying to get ready earlier to have the time to calm down before the program.”

“It was a good experience to put under my belt this season. I think going into Worlds, I’m just going to put this completely out of my head and move forward, because I’ve been training hard at home and training a lot better than that. I’ll stay on the same path that I’m on and go to Sweden with a lot of confidence.”

Stephen Carriere looked sleek and sassy in his solid free program to “Hollywood Nocturne” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

The eighteen-year-old continued his stellar season placing fifth in the free skate but fourth overall.

The 2007 World Junior Champion placed fourth at Skate America and third at NHK in his first year on the senior circuit. He spent time in Minneapolis in January where he won his first senior medal at the U. S. Championships – capturing the bronze medal.

Carriere opened his program but popped the first triple Axel. He recovered quickly with the triple toe/double toe/double toe combination that followed. One-by-one he ticked off each jump – a triple Lutz, a triple flip, a triple Axel/double toe, triple Lutz/double toe, triple loop and then a triple Salchow.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Stephen. “I haven’t popped in a program in forever, so doing that single Axel at the beginning of the program was kind of weird. But, I re-centered myself and I was thinking in my head “you’ve gotta get more points now.” After that single Axel I thought “you know what, I’ve gotta start racking up those points again.”

Demonstrating strong basic skating and solid technique the American received positive GOE’s on every element. The only person to do so in this event.

Carriere gathered a seasons best score of 144.22 points for his free skate and a grand total event score of 218.30 points – a new personal best by 13.32 points.

” It was an amazing skate. It was a really good experience,” Carriere shared. “Coming off of Nationals for a week and a half – I’ve never had that before. Now I’m just getting ready for Worlds. I’m planning on lots of practice. It’s going to be ‘pedal to the metal’, full-out for Worlds because I want to be the best of the best, so I’m definitely pushing harder than I’ve ever pushed before because I know it will be the last competition (of the season).”

It was a fist pump at the end, for comeback kid Jeremy Abbott, who gave a remarkable performance landing a gorgeous quad toe in competition for the first time. Finishing a disappointing ninth in the short program the 2007 Four Continents bronze medalist clawed his way back with a free skate worth 145.33 points. Asia is good for the American who blew past his previous personal best score by 16.04 (NHK 2007, at Sendai, Japan.)

“This is my second Four Continents. Last year was at home, so coming to Asia is quite a bit different,” Abbott explained. “This is my third trip to Asia this year, and I love it. (Abbott competed in NHK Trophy where he finished 4th and USA vs. Japan Countermatch). The arena is full, so that’s really nice.”

Abbott, who trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado not only gives it all on the ice but also gives back to the sport. At Nationals in 2005, the then nineteen-year-old told his family, “I will win Nationals when pigs fly.” Much to his surprise the teen won his first major title and became the 2005 U.S. Junior Men’s Champion. In May of that year Jeremy started a foundation to assist other young men at the rink he began his skating career – The Aspen Figure Skating Club in Aspen, Colorado. They currently sell “Pigs can fly” pins to help raise money.”

Well, if “Pigs Can Fly” so can Jeremy as the now twenty-two-year-old flew across the ice with abandon on his power-packed free skate to a variety of selections.

His circular steps were explosive as the audience clapped along with each and every beat.

Jeremy landed on two feet in his first triple Axel eliminating the triple toe that followed. However, when he landed the second triple Axel he continued and added a triple toe – but stepped out on the landing. He singled the Lutz but continued with a triple toe stumbling on the exit of his second combination.

The American was steady on his triple flip, triple loop and triple Salchow/double toe.

His spins were stellar as he spun like a top.

“The fans here are incredible,” Jeremy told the press. “They’re just so appreciative of everything you do. It’s really gratifying that good, bad or indifferent, no matter how I skate, to know that that support is there and they really appreciate what I did is just so cool.”

Abbott finished fourth in the free skate but fifth overall with an event total of 206.40 points – a new personal best.

“Incredible;” Jeremy stated as he shook his head in amazement. “It’s probably the last time I’m going to do that program and to end it the way it did, I’m just very pleased. I felt that I really stayed in the program the whole time. I mean, I had mistakes, but I really felt that it couldn’t have gone any better. I did exactly what I came here to do and I’m proud of what I did.”

Chengiang Li of China, placed fifth in the short program but ninth in the free and sixth place overall. His free skate to “Seven Swords” was uninspiring. It looked like the twenty-eight-year-old struggled throughout.

His opening quad toe was low, but then he managed a triple Axel/triple toe/double toe. He then fell on a downgraded triple Lutz. The Chinese Champion also had problems on the triple loop, triple toe, and his final change foot combination spin.

His score of 125.73 for his free skate and 197.98 points fell short of his abilities and the Chinese slipped to sixth place.

Vaughn Chipeur, of Canada, slipped from sixth to seventh place overall, after he took off from the wrong edge on a triple flip and popped the back end of the combination into a single. Once again he popped a planned triple into a single Axel/single toe then followed with a single Salchow.

Despite the mistakes he received a season best score of 125.74 points for his free skate and 197.96 points overall.

Shawn Sawyer of Canada rose to ninth place overall after entering the free skate in tenth place and gathered a free program score of 126.39 points. His total competition score was 187.18 points.

Pang and Tong Take Third Four Continents Crown

It seems even numbers work for the newly crowned Four Continents Champions, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, as the duo captured their third Four Continents Crown on their seventh attempt in eight years. The pair who skipped the event in 2006 won in 2002, 2004 and now 2008. In 2001 they placed fourth, in 2003, 2005 and 2007 the Chinese Champs took second.

They eclipsed their countrymen Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang for the gold medal when they (the Zhangs) fell short of expectations and slipped to the second spot. US bronze medalists Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski pulled ahead of teammates US silver medalists Rena Inoue and John Baldwin to capture the bronze.

World Silver Medalists Qing Pang and Jian Tong delivered a romantic skate to the music from the “Romeo and Juliet” soundtrack by Nina Rota.

Pang and Tong highlighted their program with a gorgeous throw triple Salchow, a side-by-side double Axel + double Axel sequence, three effortless lifts and displayed solid level three steps. The Chinese Champions were elegant and maintained speed throughout their performance.

“These championships are an important test for our programs. We like to come to Korea and feel comfortable here,” Tong stated.

However, their program was not without problems as their opening triple toes were two-footed and downgraded, and they touched down on the throw triple loop. They earned a segment score of 119.63 points and a total event score of 187.33 points to claim the gold.

“We skated quite well today and had only two smaller errors. We are getting better and better and hopefully we’ll be at our best at Worlds,” Tong told the press. “Now we have one month before the World Championships and we hope that we can prepare well without any health problems for Worlds. We wish the same also to the other competitors,” he added.

Overnight leaders Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (who are not related) slipped to second spot in their marred free skate to “The Myth” soundtrack. Dan doubled the back end of a planned double Axel/triple toe combination and then again doubled their side-by-side Salchows.

The 2008 Grand Prix silver medalists return to the Four Continents after a hiatus of two years. They won the event in 2005, claimed silver in 2004, and bronze in 2002 and 2003.

Their throw triple Salchow was sensational, but the pair touched down on the throw triple loop and struggled on a change of edge in the death spiral dropping the level – to level one. The throw triple twist was powerful and their lifts were strong.

The Olympic silver medalists gathered 111.39 points and a grand total of 181.84 points to clinch the silver medal.

“Today’s performance wasn’t good. We had some problems, especially with the jumps and made several errors. For us it was pretty bad,” Dan Zhang explained. “Hopefully we’ll be able to overcome our problems until the next competition, and that we’ll be able to skate much better at Worlds. We’ll work hard and train all our elements.”

Americans Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski were shocked when they realized that they had leapt over teammates Rena Inoue and John Baldwin – and stole the bronze medal.

In their tender free skate to “Sheherazade” by Nickolai Rimski-Korsakov the duo gathered 103.55 points.

The 2007 American Champions missed the entire Grand Prix season since Brooke has been injured.

“I pretty much lost my entire summer and early fall. Just one injury after the other. Mainly my jumps have been affected, and that’s what I need to fight for. In the next few weeks I need really mentally get myself doing them better,” Castile explained.

Ranking twelfth at the World Championships this striking pair highlighted their program with a high triple twist, a superb throw triple Salchow, three nice lifts and two high level spins.

“I was pleasantly surprised, and I thought it was pretty good,” Ben said with relief. “We aren’t as well trained as we would like to be, so I’m happy the way the performance went, despite being a little bit tired. We have worked really hard on it and I thought it was really much better than last year.”

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They ran into problems when Brooke singled the Axel and two-footed the throw triple loop.

“I’ve been struggling with my jumps a little bit this week,” Brooke said of the missed double Axel. “Something just didn’t click in my head and I pulled out. Sometimes it just happens.”

Their lifts were strong as was their final backward inside death spiral. They earned an event total of 159.99 points narrowly missing a personal best score by 0.05 points (Four Continents 2007 where they finished fifth).

“We are very pleased with our placement, not extremely happy with our skate,” Brooke stated. “We need to skate much better at Worlds and we’re going to take the next four weeks to work out some kinks. We’ll fight to do well at Worlds this year.”

Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, of Santa Monica, California, fell one spot to fourth with an overall event score of 156.00 points.

The duo skipped the entire Grand Prix Season as the long-time competitors claimed they needed a break. The duo lacked preparation time. They began preparing in January and then spent a week at the National Championships – where they finished in second place.

The Americans struggled in their free skate to “Pompei” by E. S. Posthumous. John doubled a planned triple toe and Rena popped their signature move – the throw triple Axel.

According to Coach Phillip Mills, Rena is injured with a strained adductor muscle in her right leg.

They executed a double Axel/double toe combination, a throw triple loop, and three solid lifts. Their free skate accrued 98.60 points.

Jessica Miller and Ian Moram finished fifth with an event total of 156.00 points. Their free program to “Il Postino” by Luis Bacalor featured a big throw triple loop, three level four lifts and a courageous attempt at the throw quad Salchow – but Jessica stumbled and put her hand down to prevent her from falling.

“We are really happy with the way we skated today,” Jessica stated. (On the error on the quad throw Salchow) “We’re happy we didn’t get the fall deduction. I was determined I was not going to go down on it like I did at Nationals. I was going to fight.”

Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatal, of Canada, finished the competition in seventh place after they fell on their triple toe combination and singled their Axels.

Americans Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent also dared an attempt on a throw quad Salchow – but Tiffany fell. They also took off from the wrong edge on their double Lutz/double toe combination and fell on the throw triple loop. They finished the event in eighth place.

Takahashi Tips the Scales in his Favour

World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi, of Okayama, Japan, gave a sensational performance which gathered him a new personal best score of 88.57 points. He skated to a modernized version of “Swan Lake” which was specially arranged for the Olympian by Alec Golstein.

The NHK and Skate America Champion who is coached by Utako Nagamitsu and Nickolai Morozov opened his program with a light and effortless triple flip/triple toe combination, then followed with a huge triple Axel and a rock-solid triple Lutz.

The 2002 Junior World Champion set his standards high trying to model his idols – Olympians Alexei Yagudin, Evgeny Plushenko and Japan’s Takashi Honda.

The reigning Grand Prix Silver Medalist put it into high gear and incorporated his movements within the music on his complicated step sequences gathering points as he danced, hip-hopped, twisted and turned on the ice.

Daisuke, who spent time in New York to learn the hip-hop dance, has done a amazing job translating the dance to the ice.

“The highlight of the program is the footwork for me, because I feel like a true dancer when I’m doing it,” the Japanese explained.

The roar of the crowd was deafening as the marks came up for the Japanese placing him in first place.

“It’s all about the audience,” Takahashi said with excitement. They make me go faster, they are excited, and I’m feeding off their energy.”

After feeling disappointed with the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final the twenty-one-year-old was all smiles when he stepped off the ice.

“The short program was good for me. For the free skating, I hope to do two quads. I usually don’t watch the other skaters. I’m just thinking that I have to do my job. I hope to land everything,” Daisuke told the media.

“I think I don’t do quad in the short (this season),” Daisuke stated. “But next year, I want to try the quad (in the short).

The only defending Four Continents Champion on hand in Korea is Evan Lysacek, of Naperville, Illinois. He skated a powerful short program to music from the soundtracks “The Legend of Zorro and Mask of Zorro.”

“Well, I’ve made a lot of improvements since nationals,” Evan told the media about preparation for this event. “I went home and trained in a more relaxed environment. At nationals I knew there was a lot riding on it and there was a lot of stress on me, so to come here and just have a more chill environment is just kind of a pleasure for me.”

The two-time World bronze medalist (2005, 2006), who is coached by Frank Carroll, delivered a steady-as-a-rock quad toe/triple toe, a triple Axel and triple Lutz in the first part of his program.

Lysacek, who began skating at the age of eight, executed two level four spins and a change foot combination spin that seemed a bit off balance and was judged level three.

The twenty-two-year-old who highlights his programs with intense and complicated step sequences, seemed to have lacked a bit of zing in his steps tonight. The American received a level three instead of the recent level four that he had been receiving on his straight line steps after having what appeared to be a slight slip.

The two-time American Champion has won this competition twice before in 2005 and 2007.

Finishing third at this year’s Grand Prix Final this tough-as-nails competitor exceeded his personal best score from Cup of China of 81.55 by 2.01 points earning a segment score of 84.06 points.

Evan explained, “I felt a lot better tonight, and I think I was kind of able to go on muscle memory and not try and make it happen quite so much.”

It rained stuffed animals on the ice in Goyang City, as Olympic bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle, of Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario completed his short program.

“The fans here are amazing. I have had great success here as I won my first Four Continents here (in Korea) and my first quad combination was in Asia also, so I guess I have an affinity for the area,” Buttle said jokingly.

This twenty-six-year-old who is coached by Rafael Artunian and Lee Barkell, splits his training time between Barrie, Ontario and Lake Arrowhead, California.

Skating to “Adios Nonino” by Astor Piazzolla the 2005 World silver medalist skated a brilliant program – which was highlighted by his smooth transitions and outstanding musicality.

The three-time Canadian champion (2005, 2006, 2007) who previously practiced ice dancing with his sister Meghan, opened his program with a pillow-soft triple flip/triple toe then followed it up with a great triple Axel.

Jeff, who is a three-time Four Continents medalist (gold in 2002 and 2004 and silver in 2007), barely hung on to the triple Lutz but fought hard for the landing.

The Canadian who bares his soul for all to see – mesmerized the audience with his emotionally-packed steps. His (level four) spins were first-rate as was his interpretation of the music. He earned a personal best score of 83.85 points and will enter the free skate in third place.

Stephen Carriere, of Wakefield, Massachusetts, executed a solid short program to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin sitting him at a distant fourth place with 74.08 points.

In his first senior international season, the 2007 Junior World Champion came out with a splash. The reigning Junior World Champion surprised everyone, but especially himself, when he placed fourth at Skate America and third at NHK in his first year skating internationally as a senior.

Currently training at the Skating Club of Boston, he is coached by World competitor’s Mark Mitchell (USA) and Peter Johansson (Sweden).

His consistency is remarkable, but he lacks the experience and maturity of the men above him.

The eighteen-year-old became inspired to skate at the age of five after watching Nancy Kerrigan, who is from his local area in Massachusetts, compete at the 1984 Olympic Games.

The newly crowned American bronze medalist produced an energetic program but turned out of his triple Axel. He quickly recovered and performed a triple flip/triple toe combination and a stellar triple Lutz. He delivered all level four spins but only level three steps.

“It was kind of weird – it was like, I didn’t feel I was in my body – it was like, I was just kind of there doing it. It was just kind of weird today,” explained Carriere. I feel good – but I think the time change may be part of it. I took a nap earlier today, and it was one of those naps that when you get up you don’t really feel any better.”

[On preparation for the free program] “I have two more days to prepare, so it’s ok. I have my routine and do the same stuff I always do and then go out there and do it.” Steven jokend, “But no napping!”

Chinese Champion Chengjiang Li returns to Four Continents for the fourth time. Li made Chinese history as he was the first Chinese to win an ISU Championship when he won Four Continents in 2001.

The four-time Chinese Champion (2001, 2002, 2004, and 2007) started skating at the age of five when he watched Lu Chen (who was later to become World Champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist).

This twenty-eight-year-old who is coached by Haijun Gao and trains twenty hours a week in his hometown of Beijing gathered 72.25 points and currently sits fifth.

Skating to “The Yellow River” the Chinese delivered a steadfast quad toe/double toe combination, a huge triple Axel and a triple loop out of steps.

“It was the best performance of the season. My other short programs this year didn’t go well. It didn’t feel too hard to skate tonight. However, I’m feeling not so comfortable in general. I just want this to be over and go home,” Li told the press.

Alberta boy, Vaughn Chipeur, 23, of Edmonton, Canada, skated an entertaining program to “Street Music” by Russo which featured charming choreography by Tom Dickson.

It is his first Four Continents and Vaughn told the media, “It was nice to keep my season going after Nationals. I’m here with everything to gain and nothing to lose. It was a little hard to keep going after Nationals, because usually that’s it and my season is over. But, I knew I was coming here and that was exciting and that motivated me to keep training. I feel ready to be here. ”

Vaughn Chipeur vaulted to sixth place when he reeled off a triple Axel, triple flip/double toe and a beautiful triple Lutz. The forth ranked Canadian who is coached by U.S. Champion Scott Davis accrued a personal best score 70.83 points.

“I feel pretty good about my performance. Obviously, I would have liked to have the triple/triple (combination). It was probably the last time I performed this program so I went out there trying to make the most of it.”

2006 World Junior Champion Takahiko Kozuka, 18, of Toyota City, Japan, narrowly missed his personal best of 67.95 points in his short program skated to the music “Caravan” performed by the Ventures.

He fell on the triple Axel but managed a solid triple Lutz/triple toe combination and a good triple flip. His spins were low, fast and well centered and he earned positive GOE’s on those elements. He received a segment score of 67.48 and is in seventh place.

“ I’m very sad about missing my triple Axel,” lamented Kozuka.” I felt tight on the jumps, but it was better afterwards. The combination 9triple Lutz/triple toe) was very good, so I was very happy about that. I made a little error in my footwork. I won’t try the quad in my free skating, but I want to do my triple/triple combinations and my goal is to land all my jumps successfully.”

China’s Jialang Wu landed himself eighth after he executed a triple Lutz/ triple toe combination and a well-done triple Axel. The two-time National bronze medalist had a wrong edge take-off on his triple flip and managed only level two on his footwork. His segment score of 65.35 points fell short of his personal best of 67.70 points, but exceeded his seasons best of 58.38 points.

Return Four Continents bronze medalist, Jeremy Abbott of the USA, was disappointed and currently sits ninth after falling on his opening quad toe combination and on a downgraded triple Lutz.

However, the twenty-two-year-old did not let the falls rattle him and the he delivered three well-done level four spins and a musical level three step sequence. He gathered a segment score of 60.67 points.

“I am extremely disappointed,” stated Jeremy. “I’ve been training really well. I had somewhat of a breakthrough on my program at Nationals. As anybody who’s been following my season knows I kind of had disastrous short programs all season, and I had to claw my way back.”

(On going into the long program) The long is a whole other program and a whole other day. I love my short program. I love it to death – it’s so much fun, but I feel I have an easier time connecting with my long.”

Canadian Shawn Sawyer is tenth with 60.79 points after he turned out and two-footed the triple Axel and he fell on the triple Lutz.

Canadians Virtue and Moir Edge Their Way to Early Lead

There were few surprises in the compulsory dance event. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, edged out training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the USA by 0.86 points. Americans Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre grabbed the third spot ahead of fellow teammates Jennifer Wester, and Daniil Barantsev, by 3.41 points. Two Canadian teams follow Kaitlin Weaver, and Andrew Poje, sit fifth with 30.94 points and Allie Hann-McCurdy, 20, and Michael Coreno, 23, follow in sixth place with 29.73 points.

The reigning Canadian Champions Tessa Virtue, 18, and Scott Moir, 20, of Ontario, Canada, earned 38.22 points in their well-timed compulsory dance. They displayed speed and velvety-smooth transitions during their Yankee Polka which went off without a hitch.

“It’s a different feeling. I suppose, we had that a little bit at Nationals,” Virtue stated [when asked how it felt to enter this event as the favourites]. “There is always pressure, the teams are amazing, and we know that we have to skate well and have to lay down three solid performances. It’s certainly not a comfortable position, and we are well aware who is coming up behind us. We’re just trying to do our best and skate like we’ve been training.”

World Junior bronze medalists Meryl Davis, 18, and Charlie White, 20, of Michigan, delivered a joyful polka displaying deep edges and wonderful flow. The duo currently train under Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva in Canton, Michigan and placed seventh last season at their first Senior World Championships. They enter the original dance in second place with 37.36 points.

“I don’t think it was actually our seasons best. I think we could do a better Polka, but it felt pretty good,” Davis explained. “(We can improve) our unison and being much more together, and I think that we can make it much more powerful. We want to get as much experience as we can in the season going into Worlds. Four Continents is a great place to get out there one last time before you compete at Worlds.”

Americans Kimberly Navarro, 26, and Brent Bommentre, 23, currently train in Philadelphia, PA, and Newark, Delaware, under the tutelage of Robbie Kaine and Cheryl Demkowski Snyder. Both work part-time as coaches to help support their skating. The dancers Polkaed their way to third place when they blew through their previous personal best score of 29.37 demonstrating improved speed and ice coverage. They earned a segment score of 34.36 points.

“This being the last Polka of the year, we wanted to do the best Polka ever. It was a lot better than it was two weeks ago (at Nationals),” Navarro told the media. “It will be sad not to do it (the Polka) again this year. This is the first dance we competed at Nationals together a couple of seasons ago, so it’s fun to do it again as we have some history with it. We got to work with Ron Ludington (one of the creators of the dance) on it in Delaware, that’s always fun. He has all sorts of special advice and secret tricks.”

Husband and wife team, Jennifer Wester, 22, and Daniil Barantsev, 25, joined forces in 2003 after Daniil split with his previous partner Natalia Romaniuta, (with whom he won two World Junior Championships in 2000 and 2001 for Russia).

“It’s nice to come back and to see all the people I know,” Daniil said of his six year absence. “A lot of people remember me from when I was skating for Russia. It’s just a lot of fun to be at the big championships, and I forgot how much fun it was in the past six years.”

The partnership worked well and the two were married in 2006. The couple was darling and executed well-matched steps in their high-energy Polka. They accrued 30.95 points and held onto fourth place by a mere .01 points.

“I felt a bit more nervous this time, but it was good. I’m happy with how we performed. Nationals were rough, so here we were both happy after the first sequence when there were no uncharacteristic errors,” Jennifer said with excitement. (at Nationals) we had a very uncharacteristic slip on one of the pieces. There was no fall but a slip that we knew we shouldn’t have made. This is my first big international (competition). It was a lot of fun. I was more nervous, but it was a nice change of pace.”

A thread out of fourth place the U.S. /Canadian match-up of Kaitlyn Weaver, 18, and Andrew Poje, 20, in 2006 seemed magical when they won a bronze medal at Canadians after only five months. The two-some then captured another bronze medal a few months later at the Junior World Championships in 2007. The classy skaters took to the ice and displayed a lively dance with good expression and gathered 30.94 points.

“We worked a lot on this compulsory dance just trying to make it more mature and get a new feeling on it,” Andrew stated. “I think we improved it a lot. It was a challenge, because we weren’t skating together, just fighting to get through.”

“We’ve worked al lot on unison, edges, and the technical aspects as well as showmanship. We’re proud of how far we’ve come this year,” Kaitlyn added.

Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno donned in neon yellow and pink were charming in their fun-loving Yankee Polka which accumulated them 29.73 points. The duo placed eighth at Canadians last season then took a huge leap this season winning the bronze medal last month in Vancouver.

“We like to attract attention,” Allie explained about the costumes. “I think the neon yellow does that and that lovely pink centre,” she added (referring to her brightly colored dress.)

The duo displayed improved speed edging them selves firmly into sixth place.

“We had the opportunity to do this dance at Skate Canada and Canadian Nationals and that’s the best we’ve skated,” explained Coreno. “The marks kind of reflects that. We’ve never been to Four Continents. This is our first year on the World team.”

The dance event continues on Friday with the free dance event.

Oda Claims Victory at NHK

Nobunari Oda, 21, of Takatsuki City, Japan, returned to the Grand Prix series after a one year absence and performed like a Champion. The Japanese skater clenched the Championship over American Johnny Weir, 24, who took silver and Yannick Ponsero, 22, of France who captured bronze.

Oda, the seventeenth descendant of the Japanese war lord Nobunaga Oda, fought with his soul to win Gold at the 30th NHK Trophy. Nobunari was banned by the Japanese Federation from all ISU Championships last season after a he was convicted of a drunk driving charge.

The crowd was deafening and the Japanese seemed more determined than ever as he stepped on the ice at Yoyogi Stadium, in Tokyo.

With the absence of Daisuke Takahashi, who had surgery last week and will miss the entire season, the door was open for the 2006 World Junior Champion to become the number one man in Japan.

Oda performed with abandon in his “Waltz Masquerade” short program. He nailed his opening triple Axel then followed it with a sensational triple Lutz/triple toe combination and a solo triple flip. The jumps were textbook and gathered thirteen +2 GOE’s. His jumps appeared effortless and his flow across the ice was outstanding. The Nebelhorn Champion’s two step sequences were well choreographed and highlighted the nuances of the music. They were rated by the technical panel as level three. He posted a sensational score of 81. 63 points but missed his personal best of 83.55 set at NHK Trophy in 2006.

The 2006 Four Continents Champion received top honors on the technical score (45.78/41.70), but were edged on the components (35.85/36.45) by World Bronze medalist — Johnny Weir.

In his free skate Nobunari was not as strong. He had a turnout and a low landing on his opening quad jump then two-footed the triple Axel. The Winner of Karl Schaeffer Memorial began changing his elements — never a good sign at a Championship. He landed five additional clean triples, but fell on the back end of a triple flip/double toe/double loop combination.

“I am delighted to have won.” Nobu told the press. There was one thing I wanted to challenge myself with, and that was to do a clean quad. I didn’t do it today, but I hope to be able to do it in my next competition.

“There have not been a lot of changes to my programs since I left Lee Barkell,” the Japanese responded about the coaching change from Lee Barkell to Nickolai Morosov. “Lee is a great coach I just felt I needed a change.”

A sick Johnny Weir was seen on the sidelines doing a breathing treatment before he stepped on the ice. The three-time American Champion (2004-2006) was running a temperature and had a bad cold. His ills were evident on his opening jump and he looked tentative and two-footed the landing of the triple Lutz/triple toe combination and took off from the wrong edge on the triple flip. The rest of his short program was great — landing a wonderful triple Axel and exhibiting great spins and footwork. The American picked up 78.15 points and sat solidly in second place.

The free skate was a bit more of a challenge and he wondered if he could get through his four-and-one-half-minute program set to the “Notre Dame de Paris” soundtrack. The emotionally-packed program was strong. The program was highlighted by exceptional choreography and interpretation.

“I am very happy with the way today went, Johnny stated. “I’ve been so sick all week and I was so nervous to go on the ice and not know if I would able to breathe from the beginning to the end of the program, but I did somehow find the strength to go through this and I’m very happy that I ended up on the podium. I’m disappointed of course with the mistakes I made at the end of the program.

“Tomorrow I will have a massage and then I will train here in Japan for the Final. I am not sure exactly where yet. I have the fax in my room, but I have not looked at it yet, as I wanted to focus on the competition here and not think about the Final.”

Weir took the silver medal with an event score of 234.42 points.

Yannick Ponsero, who has often been inconsistent, put all his pieces of the puzzle together Sunday at NHK and got the first Grand Prix Medal of his career. Bronze was the color of the day and the Frenchmen beamed from ear to ear. It certainly was not a repeat of Skate Canada where the French silver medalist won the short program only to tumble to fourth after his messy free skate.

Ponsero produced a high energy program to “Ice Five” by Maxime Marecaux which featured a quad toe/double toe combination — but he placed a hand down to keep from falling. The triple Axel and triple Lutz were solid; as were his spins and footwork. The French grabbed the third spot with 74.39 points.

In the free program Yannick skated with speed and power and attacked his opening quad toe with a vengeance. It was a beauty – maybe the best of his career. The rest of his program was also well-done and included a triple Axel, triple Lutz, and a triple Salchow/double toe/double toe combination. His only errors were a touchdown on the back end of a triple toe + triple Salchow sequence and doubling a planned triple loop. The 22-year-old from Annecy smashed his previous personal best of 208.97 points and walked away with the bronze medal. His event total was 217.24 points.

“I am very happy because this is my first medal on the Grand Prix,” Yannick said with excitement. “I want to continue like this and I want to become better and better. I did a lot of intensive preparation to achieve this result. I hired a mental coach and a physical preparation coach and worked with my team. This result shows that the work has paid off.”

Jumping bean Kevin Reynolds had a stellar start to his Armenian Folk Music program with a strong quad Salchow/triple toe combination earning the 18-year-old 14.30 points for that element. He then two-footed and stumbled on the triple Axel. The rest of the program was clean, but the Canadian lacks the sophistication and flow of the top skaters. His short program earned 67.51 points and he entered the free skate in sixth place.

Reynolds pulled up two spots and placed a distant fourth overall with an event total of 199.74 points. He landed two clean quads, but under-rotated three triple jumps.

Takahiko Mura, 17, had a breakthrough performance in his “The Feeling Begins” short program. Mura electrified the audience with his opening triple Axel which gathered 9.80 points for that element. His triple Lutz/triple toe combination was also quite good earning an additional 11.00 points. Unfortunately, he then took off from the wrong edge on the triple flip but recovered nicely with strong spins and level two footwork. The teen sat in fourth place with 69.70 points. The Japanese out did his personal best by more than eight points.

In the free skate he was eclipsed by Reynolds and ended the event in fifth place with 198.07 points. He bettered his own personal best score of 171.46 points by almost twenty-seven points. The audience roared when Mura landed his triple Axel/triple toe combination and nailed the triple toe/double toe that followed. He then had a wrong edge take-off on the triple flip, singled an Axel and under-rotated the Lutz. His non-jumping elements were strong but were lower levels then the top skaters.

The only other man besides Johnny Weir, who could have grabbed a spot in the final — crumbled under the pressure. The 2007 World Junior Champion Stephen Carriere seemed uninspired and completed the event in sixth place overall with 192.20 points.

Johnny Weir was the only addition to the Grand Prix final as Nobunari Oda only skated one event in the series and does not have enough points to qualify. Stephen Carriere missed his Final spot with a disappointing NHK Championship. Weir will be joined by teammate Jeremy Abbott, European Champion Tomas Verner, Canadian Patrick Chan, 2007 World Champion Brian Joubert and Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka in Goyang City.

Rochette Remains Queen of the Ice

During an early Sunday morning, Joannie Rochette, proved she was still the queen of Canadian ice, and put an end to a streak of newly crowned champions. It was the fourth Canadian crown for the twenty-one-year-old who trains at Saint –Leonard CPA in Quebec. Hometown teen Mira Leung, of Vancouver, B.C. once again played bridesmaid and Cynthia Phaneuf, now 19, returned to the podium from which she has been absent since 2005.

“I am not a morning person,” Rochette told the media. “But, I was still able to come here with a smile this morning. My coach was impressed with that. It’s good practice. You have to be ready to do your job any time, any hour of the day.”

Rochette took to the ice in Vancouver, and skated with flair during her dramatic presentation to “Concerto No. 1” by P. Tchaikovski. The 2007 Four Continents bronze medalist opened with a light and easy double Axel, but then fell on the downgraded triple flip/triple toe which followed. Her triple Lutz was well-done as was her level three spins that were low, fast and well-centered. Joannie earned 59.32 points and entered the free skate in first place.

“It is never easy for me to skate last because you have to wait and you have to warm-up a bit on the ice and as you can see I had a little trouble with my feet. Overall I felt really good, I attacked the performance and I felt inspired to try the triple/triple,” Rochette explained.

Winning the bronze medal at Skate Canada and again at Cup of Russia in November gave the reigning champion confidence. She delivered a lovely lyrical program to “N’as tu pas Honte, Un Grand Homme est Mort, and Aimer” from Don Juan by Felix Gray earning 116.44 points.

Screams filled the arena when Joannie landed a solid opening triple Lutz/ double toe/ double loop, but she then struggled on the landing of the triple flip and fell on the triple Lutz. She rebounded quickly with steps into a triple loop, a triple Salchow and a triple toe + triple Salchow sequence.

She wobbled on her upright spin but delivered footwork with great flow. The twenty-two-year-old received a free skate total of 115.44 points and an event total of 175.76 points.

“I came here to do my own personal best. In the Grand Prix’s I did better but this was still good,” stated Rochette. “I did six triples out of my seven and my training made the difference. Even though I had mistakes, I was able to come back and do my combination at the end of the program.”

“I really liked what Jeff said. That it’s better to come second with a good performance than to come first with a bad one,” Rochette stated. “Even though this wasn’t my best, I still felt it was a good program. That’s all that matters.”

“It feels good to keep the title,” Rochette said smiling. First you just want to make it to worlds but inside it is emotional. I think that’s why I want to skate my best here for the exhibition.”

Rochette hopes to land a triple/triple at Four Continents and the World Championships. The Quebec skater has a bet going with coach Mannon Perron where she gets one-hundred dollars each time she lands her triple/triple jump. On the other hand, Joannie must pay Mannon if she does not do it.

“I want to land the triple/triple in the short at Four Continents and Worlds, and then I can go shopping (referring to the bet with coach Mannon Perron),” Rochette said laughing. “ Right now we are even, so no shopping just yet.”

The hometown fans were on hand to support local gal, Mira Leung, on her quest for her illusive first Canadian title. The two-time silver medalist got an unusual Christmas present this year – a new short program. When most were at home by the fire on Christmas eve, sipping hot toddies with family and friends; the eighteen-year-old laced up her skates and took to the ice to learn her new short program.

Leung showed a new more genteel approach in her short program which featured a solid triple flip/double loop combination, then followed with a triple flip and a well-executed double Axel. Finishing fifth at both her Grand Prix events –Skate America and Skate Canada, the jumping bean gathered 58.24 points and is currently in second place.

“I changed my program on Christmas Eve,” Leung stated. Actually, I am glad we made the change because everything has worked so well,” she added. “I was really happy I got to skate in front of my home crowd.”

Skating to “Piano Concerto No.2 and Piano Concerto No. 3” by Sergei Rachmaninov, the Olympian delivered a technically difficult program which featured five triples but fell on the flip. Leung, who trains at the BC Center of Excellence under Joanne McLeod, received a level 4 on three of her spins but the layback was judged a level three.

Stuffed animals rained down on the ice as her free skate score of 103.86 points posted on the jumbotron and reflected an event total of 162.10 points placing the teen in second place.

“I am very disappointed I made those mistakes – especially on the second flip.” Mira said with disappointment in her voice. “I was probably to close to the boards. I am happy with the rest of my program, and I know what I have to work on for worlds.”

When asked to elaborate Mira explained, “That flip I’m always having trouble with it, I need to take out some steps into the 0flip so I am not so close to the boards.”

Elegance oozed from return medalist Cynthia Phaneuf as she stepped on the ice. The 2004 Canadian Champion who finished fourth last season, returns to Canadians with a new-found confidence. The twenty-year-old skated a gorgeous program to “You’re So Beautiful” by Carol Hugo Van de Kerchhove. Cynthia nailed her opening double Axel and followed it with a strong triple Lutz/ double toe combination. Phaneuf, ran into problems when she singled the flip and struggled with her flying sit spin. The two-time medalist accrued 53.49 points and is currently in third place.

Her free skate to” Claire De Lune” by Angele Dubeau was exquisitely choreographed by famed choreographer, David Wilson. Her gentle presentation was highlighted by her exquisite line and flow on the ice. Phaneuf, skated with determination and fought for the landing on each and every jump. The 5’ 6” beauty lost her fight and put hands down on the double Axel and also put a hand down on the triple toe. The two-time Canadian medalist (2004-1st and 2005-2nd) earned 104.61 points for their free skate and achieved a personal best score of 158.10 points and captured the bronze medal.

“I am very happy to be back on ice,” said Phaneuf, 20, from Contrecoeur, Que. “This year, I was a lot stronger. I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year.”

Leslie Hawker, reigning Canadian bronze medalist, gave a lyrical performance to “Moon River” by Liberace, but had problems on the triple Lutz/ double loop then fell on a double flip. The Ontario based skater accrued 48.20 points and entered the free skate in seventh place.

Hawker, 26, gave a spectacular performance in the free skate, to “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams. Hawker rose to fourth place overall with an event total of 155.61 points – the second best of the day. The tears flowed freely at the end of her feat.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” reported the twenty-six-year-old who trains in Michigan under Richard Callaghan. “This skating thing is stressful.”

“I take it one day at a time because I’m practically in the geriatric ward,” joked Hawker when asked about her age. “I train with Todd Eldredge who didn’t land his first quad till he was thirty and well Elvis, he was over thirty and contending for a World Championship. I really don’t think age is an issue at all.”

Myriane Samson had a stellar short program to “Within” earning a personal best score of 54.88 points which landed her in third place. The 2004 Junior Canadian Champion delivered powerful jumps which included a strong double Axel, triple Lutz/double loop and a triple flip.

The fifth place finisher at last years Canadians, plummeted to fifth place overall after placing fifth in the free skate with 88.30 points. The nineteen-year-old skated a disappointing program to selections from “Memoir Of A Geisha.” Things seemed to go awry for the teen when she doubled many of her jumps and fell on the triple Lutz/ double loop.

Jessica Dube, of Varennes, Quebec rebounded from her eighteenth place finish at Canadians last season finishing sixth here in Vancouver with a competition total of 131.62 points.

We Wanted to do it With the Fans

In a heartfelt ceremony Olympic Champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were inducted into The Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame. The honors took place during the 2008 Canadian Figure Skating Championships on Sunday, January 20, with thousands of fans, fellow skaters, coaches and officials present.

Sale and Pelletier were presented with a replica of a picture that will be hung at the main headquarters of Skate Canada. The outstanding presentation was made by Skate Canada’s Director of Marketing and Sponsorship – Debbie Wilkes.

A video was shown recapping the career of the charismatic couple. Tears welled up in their eyes as the two spoke of their career and thanked all those who willingly helped, inspired and supported them “in so many ways” throughout the years.

Sale spoke first and shared, “When we are at home and watching an induction or retirement; we always say ‘why are they crying?’ it’s supposed to be a happy occasion. We had a great career, and you don’t think it is an emotional thing but in that moment it really is powerful when they mention our names and people focus on you, and it’s all about you. We get it now.”

Jamie thanked their family and friends. She spoke of people like Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, World Champion Kurt Browning, Olympic silver medalist Debbie Wilkes, Olympic bronze medalist Tracy Wilson and the late Rob McCall, amongst others.

Then she moved to their coaches Richard Gauthier, and Jan Ulmark (who Jamie admits she thinks of like a dad). She thanked Skate Canada CEO William Thompson and then moved to Skate Canada President Benoit Lavoie. As Jamie spoke of Benoit tears filled his eyes and the two embraced.

“You saw us as people first and not just skaters, and we really want to thank you for that,” said the Olympic gold medalist.

Then it was Pelletier’s turn. He thanked his first coach and shared how he wanted to quit skating, but it was his coach’s charisma that kept bringing him back to the rink.

“I had fun with him and that kept me coming back,” shared Pelletier. He spoke of how the two got together. “Jamie called me in 1996 and asked me to skate with her, but I turned her down,” Pelletier shared.

“Jamie went and did singles and then two years later she called me again. This time I said yes. It is with Jamie’s perseverance, we got together, and I thank her for that. And without each other, there would have been none of this,” he told Jamie. David hushed Jamie stating, “It’s my turn, and I am not finished.

The crowd laughed. David continued,”The Canadian fans are the best in the world.” The crowd cheered. “We want to thank you most of all because without you, there would be no skating.”

Jamie again took control and realized she had not thanked her life-long partner.

“The best is that I was being inducted with David,” Sale shared during the press conference that followed. “I am just so grateful that I’ve had the career I’ve had with David. He’s been a great partner, he’s a great husband and a great father.”

“Skate Canada asked us where we wanted the ceremony and several venues were discussed. For us there was never a question as to where the celebration should be held. We want to do it with the fans, for without them; there would be no skating,” reemphasized Pelletier.

Chan Clips Buttle’s Wings

With amazing grace seventeen-year-old prodigy Patrick Chan took to the ice at the Pacific Coliseum Saturday, and became one of the youngest Canadian Senior Men’s Champions in the history of Canadian skating. It was originally thought Chan was the youngest but this has since been contested. Charles Snelling who was a six-time national champion reportedly claimed his first title in 1954 at the age of 16.

When Patrick was told of his feat his first comment was, “Holy Schmolly I didn’t know that!”

The 2007 World junior silver medalist edged out three-time Canadian Champion Jeffrey Buttle but the unpretentious teenager plays down any rivalry between the Canadian skaters.

“Jeffrey is my teammate, and I consider him a friend. He is an remarkable skater, and I can learn a lot from him” Patrick stated. “I did not come here to beat Jeff, I came here to get a spot on the World team, Chan emphasized.

Patrick who now has a complete set of Canadian medals – winning pre-novice in 2003, novice in 2004, juniors in 2005 and now seniors in 2008. The Toronto based teen is now coached by Don Laws and Ellen Burka but attributes his superb basic skating skills and sportsmanship attitude to his late coach Osbourne Colson who passed away in 2006 – at the age of 90.

Unbeknownst to many, Chan, who has not only excelled in ice skating, but is quite accomplished as a concert pianist and plays a mean game of tennis.

The highly musical skater gave a thumbs up performance to “Le Quattro Stagioni” by Vivaldi.

The 2007 Trophee Bompard Champion displayed a beautiful array of elements which reflected the nuances in the music.

Chan’s jumps were solid. He opened with a triple Axel with a pillow-soft landing, then followed it with a great triple flip/triple toe. His triple Lutz was stellar as was his double Axel and solo triple flip. He completed two additional combinations – a triple Lutz/double toe/double loop and a triple Salchow/double toe.

Patrick told the media, “Once I landed my opening triple Axel. I was on cruising after that.”

The youngster who gains power and speed with each stroke on the ice, highlighted his program with intricate patterns on his level thee steps.

The roar of the audience was deafening, as the crowd rose to its feet at the end of Patrick’s awe-inspiring free skate. The highly charismatic young phenomenon received a personal best score of 159.26 points and gathered a combined total of 232.68 points to capture his first senior title.

“I want to bring (Canada) three spots home for worlds next year,” Chan said with excitement. “This is my goal. We’ve got so many good Canadian guys.”

Buttle was no slouch in his free skate to “Ararat” by Michael Danna, but the overnight leader slid one spot when he was unable to match Chan’s magical performance.

The Olympic bronze medalist returned to his former program after having lackluster results earlier this season. The three-time Canadian Champion delivered a beautiful program which included six clean triple jumps.

However, his program was not without errors as the 2007 World silver medalist fell on his solo triple Axel and doubled the Lutz. His intricate footwork was impressive and his top-like spins superb.

“I’d rather be second with a good skate than to have a bad skate and win,” said Buttle. “The energy in the arena was awesome. I know they were cheering for Patrick’s marks, but it got me fired up. Before the music started, I told myself I’m not going to give up without a fight.”

The twenty-five-year-old earned a segment score of 149.05 points. Buttle edged Chan on the components receiving the highest of the competition(79.26/77.60 points) but came up short on the technical. His event total of 229.85 points held him steadily in second place winning the silver medal by over thirty-two points.

“I knew as soon as the technical marks went up,” said Buttle. “I was really disappointed that I didn’t get my fourth title. My training is going really well, and I will go into Four Continents with more confidence.”

Sawyer was all smiles and had a superior skate jumping his way onto the podium with his flexibility and style.

Skating a lyrical program to “Moments in Love” by Art of Noise the twenty-two-year-old returns to the podium after placing third in 2005 and 2006 but managed only fourth place last season.

Sawyer opened his program with an outstanding level four change foot combination spin into a solid triple flip/triple toe. The twelfth place finisher at the 2006 Olympic Games, danced has way to the triple Axel but landed on two feet and then managed only level one on his circular steps.

Sawyer highlighted his program with a steady triple loop + triple loop sequence followed by triple Salchow/double toe/double loop combination. The Canadian, who trains under Annie Barabe in Quebec, received positive GOE’s for his sensational spins and straight line steps. He gathered 133.48 points for his free skate and a competition total of 197.48 points – a new personal best.

The Alberta boy, Vaughn Chipeur, from Edmonton, rose to the fourth spot despite a sixth place

free skate to the soundtracks from “Dances with Wolves, Out of Africa, and Zulu” by John Barry.

Probably, the most consistent triple Axel man on the Canadian team failed on both attempts this evening. Chipeur put his hands down on the first and popped the second into a single.

The twenty-three-year-old offered a marred triple flip/ double toe yet managed a strong triple Lutz. He later doubled the loop and landed on two feet.

The 2004 Junior Canadian Champion regained his form landing a nice triple Salchow and followed it with a stellar triple Lutz/double toe/double toe. He delivered four solid spins but his footwork was a mere level two. However, it was good enough to pull up to fourth place with an event total 191.36 points.

Dropping like a stone to fifth place overall was Christopher Mabee of Tillsonburg, Ontario with a free program worth 120.18 points.

The 2006 Four Continents silver medalist produced an error prone program to “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Bob Fosse which seemed elusive of the twenty-two-year olds usual charm.

Placing only seventh in the free skate the 2007 Canadian silver medalist struggled on his opening triple flip, went hands down on the first triple Axel and popped the second to a single. He managed five clean triples including a Lutz, loop, Salchow, Lutz/ double toe combination and wrapped it up with a solo triple toe.

Chris earned an event total of 190.64 points.

Kevin Reynolds placed sixth and made it to the history books with the first quad toe/triple toe/ triple loop ever landed at Canadians. Only the second man worldwide to accomplish this feat he placed fifth in the free program with 122.48 points.

His technical score was second only to Chan but the seventeen-year-old jumping bean suffered on the components and received only 52.46 points. His overall point total of 182.58 earned the teen a spot at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

Twenty-one-year-old Ken Rose gave a high-energy performance to “Sing! Sing! Sing!” by Louis Prima which lifted the 2003 Canadian Junior Champion to seventh spot overall after placing fourth in the free with 122.48 points. His total event score was 181.69 points – a new personal best.

The much talked about return of Fedor Andreev fell short of expectations when Fedor finished eleventh in his “Tango Concerto” by Astor Piazzolla.

The Russian born skater who has been out of competition due to a back injury, earned the third highest component scores behind Chan and Buttle. However, the Senior Challenge Champion was unable to produce the technical content of the top men and tumbled to eighth place overall with 178.80 points.