Alissa Czisny takes lead at GP final
BEIJING -- Americans dominated the opening day of the Grand Prix final, with Alissa Czisny taking the lead Friday in the women's short program and Meryl Davis and Charlie White waltzing their way to the top of the pack in ice dancing.
Czisny, the 23-year-old Bowling Green student who won this year's Skate Canada and the 2009 U.S. title, took the lead with a performance that featured graceful combination spins. She finished with 63.76 points despite an off-balance trip flip.
"After last season, I took a hard look at my skating and made a lot of changes," Czisny said. "I'm very happy with my performance today ... my main focus for tomorrow is to skate well and not to worry about the outcome."
Despite an ongoing left knee injury, Carolina Kostner of Italy was second with 62.13 points. Kanako Murakami of Japan was third with 61.47 in her first senior Grand Prix final since moving up from juniors.
Davis and White, the Olympic silver medalists, opened their performance with a sleek synchronized twizzle to music from "La Boheme" and finished off on music from "La Traviata" to score 68.64 points.
"Overall, the excitement was better but the twizzles weren't perfect," White said. "Right now, we're just concentrating on the free dance."
The Skate America champions finished ahead of French pair Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who had their season's best score of 65.66 points. Hungarian duo Nora Hoffman and Maxim Zavozin were third with 55.98 points in their first Grand Prix final.
"We're in shock right now and we're very happy with today's performance," Hoffman said. "It's still a very close competition ... anything can happen tomorrow."
Nobunari Oda of Japan dominated the men's short program with 86.59 points, skating to "Storm" by the Yoshida Brothers and jump-starting his performance with his first quad in a short program, a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.
Oda finished well above countrymen Daisuke Takahashi, the reigning world champion who was third with 82.57 points, and Grand Prix favorite Takahiko Kozuka, who scored 77.96 points.
"I'm very happy to be in first place while landing my quad," Oda said. "I decided to incorporate the quad into my short program because I had been landing it during practice."
World silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada was second with his season's best of 85.59 points.
The top six skaters in the regular-season standings qualify for the Grand Prix final.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the lead after the pairs short program with 68.63, beating out favorites Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China, who had 74.40. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia was third.
The pairs short program was held later Friday. The men's and women's free skate and dance programs will be held on Saturday.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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