U.S. skaters stumble through day to forget


TOKYO -- All three U.S. men fell or stumbled. Rena Inoue hit the ice three times in her performance with John Baldwin. The U.S. pairs champions looked, well, sick.

It was that kind of day for the United States at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Ryan Bradley was the first American to compete Wednesday in the men's short program. He went to the ice on a triple axel jump and placed 19th.

"It just wasn't in the cards today," he said. "It's my first worlds, and I guess it happens."

Evan Lysacek, the U.S. champion, soon followed. He put his hand on the ice on his quad attempt and lost points for the combination when he waited too long for the second jump. He ended up fifth but almost 11 points behind the leader Brian Joubert of France.

"What I feel proud of is that I put the quad out there under the pressure of the world championships," Lysacek said. "I knew I had to take the risk."

Weir started with a smooth triple axel and a triple-triple combination, but he then stumbled on a triple flip and finished fourth entering the free skate Thursday night.

"I gave it maybe 65 percent tonight," Weir said. "I've been having some trouble adjusting here. My costume is even tired."

In the evening, China took first and second in the pairs final. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won for the third time, hinting they might retire or take time off. Pang Qing and Tong Jian, last year's world champions and likely successors, were second.

Inoue and Baldwin were eighth after a trio of miscues. First she hit the ice on a triple toe loop. Then the throw triple axel attempt ended with her on the ice. She stumbled again on another throw.

"We were really confident going into it," Baldwin said. "So, yeah, it's definitely a disappointment. Our specialty is the technical, and that fell by the wayside tonight. "

Inoue came away holding her back after hitting the ice so many times.

"My tailbone hurts," she said.

The U.S. winners, Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski, were 12th. She had been sick since arriving in Tokyo and it showed in the free routine -- she was pale throughout the skate.

"You learn a lot just from being here and seeing all the other teams and how they deal with the pressure," Okolski said. "And how they get through a world competition."

Help for the Americans may be on the way.

Kimmie Meissner, who won the world title last year in an upset, starts with teammates Emily Hughes and Alissa Czisny in the women's short program Friday. On Thursday, it's the original dance in ice dancing, with Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in contention.