Courtesy of www.isu.org

NHK Trophy continued Saturday in Miyagi, Japan with the Pairs Short Program, the Free Dance, Ladies and Men’s Free Skating. 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.

Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov (RUS) grab lead in Pairs Short Program
Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov of Russia gabbed a narrow lead in the Pairs Short Program over Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir (USA) came in third.

Performing to “Liebestraum” by Franz Liszt, Bazarova/Larionov completed a side by side triple toe, a throw triple loop and triple twist as well as a difficult lift, spin and step sequence, but the death spiral was graded a level two. The European silver medalists scored 65.61 points. “We are glad that everything worked out in our program, but unfortunately it wasn’t completely clean. There were a few smaller mistakes in some elements such as the (side by side) jump. Today we felt a bit nervous before the competition, although our training went well”, Larionov told the press.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch’s program to “Motley Crew” featured a triple toeloop, triple twist, throw triple loop and a level-four lift, footwork and side by side spin. The Canadians set a new seasons best for themselves with 65.14 points. “We were both happy with our performance today. We felt like we came out with the right attitude. We had a lot of energy and attack in our program. It wasn’t the cleanest skate for us, there are a few little things that we still need to clean up”, Moscovitch commented.

Castelli/Shnapir landed a side by side triple Salchow, triple twist and throw triple Salchow in their routine to “Stray Cat Strut” and “Pink Panther” to collect a seasons best of 61.85 points. „Simon and I are very happy with how we skated today. We’re always striving to do more and I know we can do even better“, Castelli noted. „Maybe it was a little stiff and shaky in some spots, but overall it felt like the performance was right up there with how we have been training at home. We really wanted to go out with a bang today and I think we accomplished that“, added Shnapir.

Anastasia Martiusheva/Alexei Rogonov are ranked fourth at 57.07 points and Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim (USA) placed fifth with 54.41 points.

Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) dance off with gold
Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) danced off with the gold medal. Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov of Russia claimed the silver and Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) settled for the bronze.

Davis/White turned in a strong performance to “Notre Dame de Paris”, completing intricate footwork and innovative lifts. The 2011 World Champions picked up a level four for the spin, the lifts and twizzles, while step sequences merited a level three and two. The reigning World silver medalists scored a seasons best of 108.62 points which added up to 178.48 points overall. “Charlie and I were very pleased with our performance today. It was our second competition of the year and we felt it was like a huge step up from the first competition”, Davis said.

Ilinykh/Katsalapov’s routine to “Ghost” featured level-four twizzles, lifts and a level-four spin and the footwork was a level three and two. The reigning European bronze medalists achieved a new seasons best as well with 95.66 points and moved up one spot to second at 156.62 points. “Today was a tough day. Lena suffered from a kind of (food) poisoning. I found out about it just shortly before we skated. It was a shock for the whole team, and everybody tried to help her, and me, too”, Katsalapov revealed.

Shibutani/Shibutani danced to “Memoirs of a Geisha” and produced five level-four elements . The brother-and-sister team earned 93.72 points, another seasons best, and totaled 154.56 points. „We feel like we’ve made so much improvements since Russia. We know what we have to do when we get back home, but for today skating in front of such an amazing audience was such an honor for us. We really enjoyed ourselves“, Maia Shibutani said. „Maia and I put in a lot of hard work last week in preparation for this competition and we really feel like it went well. We find ourselves on our ability to really buckle down and focus on the details. Heading into our National Championships, this is the main focus“, her brother continued.

Davis/White and Ilinykh/Katsalapov advance to the Grand Prix Final.

Nicole Orford/Thomas Williams (CAN) placed fourth with 130.10 points and Cathy Reed/Chris Reed (JPN) ranked fifth at 124.46 points.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) strikes gold
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan struck gold in the Men’s event. Teammate Daisuke Takahashi earned the silver medal and Ross Miner (USA) captured the bronze.

Performing to “Notre Dame de Paris”, Hanyu nailed a quad toe and six triple jumps including two Axels and earned a level four for two spins. However, the 17-year-old stepped out of the quad Salchow and missed a triple Lutz and the combination spin. The World bronze medalist posted a new seasons best of 165.71 points and racked up 261.03 points overall. “Even with the mistakes I was able to surpass a 160 points, that has given me confidence. I think that it was thank to the hard training I have been doing that I was able to win this NHK Trophy”, Hanyu noted.

Takahashi opened his routine to “Pagliacchi” with a quad toe, but two-footed and underrotated the second quad toe. He went on to land six clean triples and his spins were rated a level four. The World silver medalist scored 164.04 points, a new seasons best and remained in second place at 251.51 points. “In the free program, I was able to land one quad toe, but for the second one and the Axel, there was a mistake. I really felt bad about that. I felt what I need to work on, what my weaknesses were. In training and joining the actual competition with the younger skaters I feel that Men’s figure skating is at a very high level now and it is continuing to go higher”, Takahashi shared.

Miner turned in a strong performance to “Captain Blood”, reeling off a quadruple Salchow and seven triple jumps. The 2011 NHK Trophy bronze medalist collected 161.96 points, which was a new seasons best and moved up from fourth to third at 235.37 points overall. „I had a short program I was not happy with, because I did a double Salchow. This is the first time that I had landed the quad Salchow in my program. I was happy with that and I was also very pleased with myself that I was able to keep my focus all the way through my program after having done the quad“, the reigning Four Continents bronze medalist said.

Javier Fernandez (ESP) slipped from third to fourth at 232.78 points. Richard Dornbush (USA) came fifth with 217.56 points.

Hanyu, Takahashi and Fernandez qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Mao Asada (JPN) clinches gold
Mao Asada of Japan clinched the gold over teammate Akiko Suzuki by just 0.05 points. Mirai Nagasu (USA) claimed the bronze.

Skating to „Swan Lake“, Asada produced a double Axel-triple toe combination, a triple flip and level-four spins and footwork, but doubled a few jumps. With 117.32 points, the two-time World Champion was ranked second in the Free Skating but held on to first place at 185.27 points overall. “Based on the result I can go to the Grand Prix Final. That is good, but today in my programs I didn’t do many things that I had worked on and I am disappointed about that”, Asada commented. “At the Grand Prix Final, I would like to make sure not to repate the same mistakes. There is not so much time, but I will prepare”, she continued.

Suzuki pulled off a double Axel-triple toe as well as five more triple jumps and picked up a level four for her spins in her routine to “O” from Cirque du Soleil. The World bronze medalist won the Free Skating portion with a seasons best score of 126.62 and moved up from fifth to second at 185.22 points. “I was able to put out everything I am capable of in the free skating today. However, the short program was felt in the result. Having gone through two Grand Prix events, there was a certain pattern to be observed. I do a disappointing short program and make up for it in the long program. This is not a good trend”, the skater from Nagoya offered.

Nagasu landed four triples and earned a level four for the combination and layback spin, but underrotated two triple loops. The 19-year-old received 115.50 points and dropped to third at 176.68 points. „I was happy to take part in this competition. Compared to the Cup of China, I felt I skated better and I also got a better score. Now I have to go home and work hard for U.S. Nationals“, Nagasu said.

Asada and Suzuki qualified for the Grand Prix Final. Nagasu is second substitute.

Zijun Li (CHN) slipped from third to fourth with 174.11 points while Agnes Zawadzki (USA) pulled up from seventh to fifth (160.37 points). Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) placed sixth.

For full results please see http://www.isu.org. NHK Trophy concludes Sunday with the Pairs Free Skating and the Exhibition Gala.