Courtesy of www.isu.org

NHK Trophy opened Friday in Miyagi, Japan with the Short Dance, Ladies and Men’s Short Programs. NHK Trophy is the sixth and last event in the series and thus provides the last opportunity for skaters to qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Sochi, Russia, in December.

Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) take lead in Short Dance
Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) took the lead in the Short Dance. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) and Russia’s Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov followed in second and third.

Davis/White put out a characteristic March, Waltz and Polka to the ballet “Giselle”. The 2011 World Champions earned a level four for the rotational lift and the twizzles, a level three for the side by side circular footwork and the first Polka pattern. The 2012 World silver medalists scored 69.86 points. “We went out on the ice, talking about how we really like to use this program to make the audience feel good and it makes us feel good. It’s a really enjoyable program to skate, obviously the music and choreography go so well together. It’s a lot of fun. We wanted to show that and experience it ourselves. I think we really accomplished that today”, White said. “Technically, not as strong as we like. Obviously we always want to get perfect levels across the board. So we’re going to get home and work on that.”

Shibutani/Shibutani opted for a March, Waltz and Polka to South American music and completed level-four twizzles and a level-four lift while the Polka sequences merited a level three and two. The 2011 World bronze medalists picked up a new seasons best with 60.84 points. „We are happy with our performance at this point of the season. It felt really great out there. The crowd was so supportive. Considering that we had only one week since Cup of Russia, we’ve made a lot of great changes and improvements. We feel like the performance was a lot better“, Maia Shibutani told the press.

Ilinykh/Katsalapov’s Uzbek “Andijan” Polka was highlighted by a smooth side by side circular footwork (level three) and a rotational lift, but he wobbled on the twizzles. The 2012 European bronze medalists collected 59.96 points. „We skated well today. I did a mistakes on the twizzles, but it doesn’t matter. We had fun, we smiled during the whole program“, Katsalapov commented.

Nicole Orford/Thomas Williams (CAN) came fourth with 49.76 points and Cathy Reed/Chris Reed (JPN) ware currently ranked fifth at 48.33 points.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) wins Men’s Short Program
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won the Men’s Short Program, improving his own record score on the way. Daisuke Takahashi of Japan came second and Spain’s Javier Fernandez finished third.

Performing to “Parisian Walkways” by Gary Moore, Hanyu hit a quad toeloop, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and picked up a level four for his three spins to score 95.32 points, surpassing his previous seasons best of 95.07 points. “Today I was so happy with all my jumps. I was able to perform very well in two competitions in a row and show my best”, the 17-year-old World bronze medalist noted. “I’m not used to it (setting record scores), I saw the number 95 and it still felt surreal”, he added.

Takahashi opened his Rock’n’Roll Short Program with a quad toe but stumbled out of it. The World silver medalist recovered to produced a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple Axel and level-four footwork and spins. The Japanese Champion posted a new seasons best with 87.47 points. „Technically there were some mistakes in my jumps and spins and I need to work on that more. But compared to the performance I showed in China, I have come back and I’m able to enjoy skating this program as well. I think it’s been a confidence booster“, Takahashi explained.

Fernandez’ program to “The Mask of Zorro” featured a quadruple toeloop, a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe as well as two level-four spins. The reigning Grand Prix Final bronze medalist achieved a new seasons best with 86.23 points. “I am really happy with this performance. It was a good start and a good ending, and I fought for absolutely everything in the program. I am happy, because the work we’ve done in Toronto is working”, Fernandez said.

Ross Miner (USA) placed fourth at 72.40 points and Kevin Reynolds (CAN) came fifth with 70.20 points. Richard Dornbush (USA) rounds up the top six at 70.05 points.

Daisuke Murakami (JPN) dislocated his right shoulder in a fall and withdrew due to injury.

Mao Asada (JPN) captures Ladies Short Program
Mao Asada of Japan captured the Ladies Short Program ahead of Mirai Nagasu (USA) and Zijun Li of China. All three Ladies set a new seasons best for themselves.

Performing to “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin, Asada completed a double Axel, a triple flip-double loop combination, a triple loop as well as three level-four spins and level-four footwork. The two-time World Champion earned 67.95 points. “I am very happy with my short program. Similar to my performance in China, it went very well. I think it will pave the way for another good performance tomorrow, but I want to go into the free skating with a new feeling”, Asada told the post-event news conference.

Nagasu landed a somewhat shaky triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop and double Axel in her routine to “Downhill Special” by Benny Goodman. Two spins garnered a level four and the Californian scored 61.18 points. “I am very proud of myself for landing my triple toe-triple toe today. It’s the first time that I’ve landed a triple-triple since I was 14. To 19 it is a big gap, and so is a big accomplishment for me today. This year I’ve been improving competition by competition and so I’d like to take this as a stepping stone for my next competition”, the American skater shared.

Li’s program to “Dark Eyes” was highlighted by a triple toe-triple toe combination, a double Axel and difficult spins. She earned 59.62 points. “I am very happy that I was able to skate a clean short program with all my jumps and that I landed the triple-triple combination. Hopefully I’ll be able to skate my best again in the free skating tomorrow”, Li commented.

Ksenia Makarova (RUS) is currently ranked fourth with 58.93 points, followed by Akiko Suzuki (JPN), who popped her Lutz (58.60 points) and Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) with 57.50 points.

For full results please see http://www.isu.org. NHK Trophy continues Saturday with the Pairs Short Program, the Free Dance, Men’s and Ladies Free Skating.