Kanako Murakami wins 1st senior title

Updated: November 14, 2010, 10:10 PM ET
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Japan's Kanako Murakami stepped off the dais after fielding questions about her gold medal-winning performance at Skate America and was confronted by a gaggle of photographers and photo flashes.

By the way the 16-year-old sprite charmed the crowd at the Grand Prix event in Portland, she's going to have to get used to those cameras.

With a victory in Skate America, the world junior champion earned a trip to the Grand Prix final in Beijing in early December.

"I wasn't even expecting to be here," she said. "And I didn't expect to be in the final of the Grand Prix, so I'm very shocked and surprised."

It was the first senior Grand Prix title for Murakami, who delighted the fans with her rock-and-roll short program the day before. While she struggled with one jump and later fell, Murakami's final score of 164.93 put her in front of American Rachael Flatt (162.86).

Italy's Carolina Kostner, who led Murakami going into the free skate but also had a hard spill on a triple loop, finished third at 154.87.

Flatt, with a striking red costume, wowed with her flapper-esque routine, nailing all her jumps for a standing ovation from the Rose Garden crowd. Afterward, coach Tom Zakrajsek was forced to do pushups in the kiss and cry area, settling a bet for her clean performance.

And she did it despite a calf injury that she sustained in Japan at the NHK Trophy last month that she said had settled into her foot.

"This is the first time in a while I've had to compete hurt, so it wasn't ideal for me," Flatt said.

Kostner, who won the gold in Tokyo, was also dealing with an injury to her left knee which may require surgery. But she will wait until after the Grand Prix final to decide.

"I was happy to be finished at the end," Kostner said.

Flatt went into the free skate in fourth, putting pressure on Sweden's Joshi Helgesson, who sold her program with a broad smile and even a quick fist pump after her last combination jump. But her score of 146.90 wasn't enough to get her on the podium.

It was an afternoon marked by tumbles.

Canadian Amelie LaCoste fell on a triple toeloop near the end of her program to Sheherazade for a final score of 146.68. American Caroline Zhang spilled after popping her triple lutz.

Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson, Joshi's sister, opened the free skate and gave the best performance in the opening group. She was one of the cleanest skaters of the field until Flatt.

American Alex Gilles, stunning in purple and skating to a Queen medley, had a particularly rough time, as did Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili. French skater Mae Berenice Meite shrugged after her free skate.

Earlier, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White tangoed their way to the gold medal in the ice dance competition.

The duo, silver medalists at the Vancouver Olympics, both fell during complicated footwork in the free skate but earned a final overall score of 156.68.

"We didn't want to get off the ice and say we didn't put everything out there," White said.

Canadians Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier took the silver, skating to a haunting rendition of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," but Poirier fell to spoil the overall performance. Afterward, Crone put her hand on his head in consolation as he embraced her.

Poirier characterized the mistake as "just a small loss in concentration."

Alex Shibutani and sister Maia charmed with their program, earning a final score of 144.81, a season-best. Their score put them ahead of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada, who finished with a score of 142.34 after their program to a medley from "Moulin Rouge."

Russian ice dancer Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko were cheered after their free skate to a fan waving a banner that read "Sochi 2014," in anticipation of the next Winter Games.

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi overcame a fall and some shaky landings but still edged countryman Nobunari Oda in the men's free skate on Saturday night for the gold. American Armin Mahbanoozadeh landed two triple axels to music from "Avatar" for the bronze.

Fellow American Adam Rippon, who had high hopes going into the competition with Vancouver gold medalist Evan Lysacek sitting out the Grand Prix season, finished off the podium in fourth.

In the pairs competition, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany nailed the opening throw of their free skate and skated toward the gold medal from there.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch skated to music from "Les Miserables" for the silver, and energetic Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China earned the bronze.

The event at the Rose Garden, home of the NBA's Trail Blazers, was the fourth of six Grand Prix events.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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