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Nobunari Oda wins short program

11/13/2010

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Japan's Nobunari Oda skated cleanly to edge spirited countryman Daisuke Takahashi in the men's short program at Skate America on Friday night.

Oda, who is a new father, fist-pumped and smiled broadly after his routine -- which featured a triple flip-triple toe loop combination -- to the majestic composition "Storm."

"I was nervous, but I didn't make any major mistakes on the jumps," he said afterward, adding that he did feel he erred slightly going into a spin.

Takahashi, wearing a bright red shirt and skating to a selection of Latin music, made a few sloppy mistakes but won the crowd over on the sheer strength of his personality. The reigning world champion and bronze medalist in the Vancouver Olympics scored a season's-best 78.12, but it wasn't enough to hold up against Oda's 79.28.

Fans at the Rose Garden, usually home to the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, waved Japanese flags for both skaters.

Skating to music from the Romeo and Juliet Overture, American Adam Rippon fell on a triple axel to open his program but was solid the rest of the way. Exuding emotion, Rippon grasped at his chest in heartache at the finish. He was third with a score of 73.94.

"You know, mistakes happen," Rippon said. "I think that I can take this performance, learn from it and move forward."

Two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy led the field after the pairs short program earlier Friday night.

The Germans, bronze medalists at the Vancouver Olympics, were elegant in red but a bit rough on side-by-side jumps and spins. Still, the favorites in the Grand Prix event finished in front of Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch.

Skating to "Korobushko" by the string quartet Bond, Savchenko doubled a triple toe loop.

"We are glad we survived our first program in competition this year," said Szolkowy, who smirked when asked to describe the couple's performance.

The crowd favorites were Americans Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, who performed an elegant routine in black and white costumes to the Love Theme from Cousins. They concluded their program with a breathtaking lift before a warm embrace.

Savchenko and Szolkowy finished with a 63.99, followed by Moore-Towers and Moscovitch with a season-best 61.64, and Denney and Barrett at 58.49.

"We still have some work to do on it, and I think by nationals it will be looking pretty good," Barrett said about the couple's new routine.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch won the silver at Skate Canada last month.

China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong skated to a country-inspired routine complete with fiddle-laden music that had the crowd clapping along. Known for their energy, they didn't disappoint with an enthusiastic throw triple flip. The routine, which lacked some polish, earned the world junior champions a 57.53.

Skate America is the fourth of six international Grand Prix events. The event continues Saturday with the free skate for the men and pair, ice dancing and the women's short program.