Johnny Weir had doubts when he stepped on to the ice for his short program at the Rostelecom Cup. About nine months removed from his last competition, the 2009 U.S. Championships where he finished fifth, the same uncertainty he had in Cleveland showed in Moscow, Russia as he skated his new “I Love You, I Hate You” program.
Weir, who is in third place, was shaky on two jumping passes. He opened his program with a triple lutz-double toe combination that was supposed to be a triple-triple. After putting his hand down on the triple Axel, he recovered with a solid triple flip that complimented his two Level 4 spins.
“I am very disappointed with the jumps and today’s performance, but I think for the first competition, it’s OK,” said Weir, the three-time U.S. Champion who has a dedicated fan base in Russia. “I think I can step over this and tomorrow I can be free and trust my training.”
Weir also received Level 3s for his circular and straight line step sequences, which brought the sassy rumba themed program to life. He had the second highest program component scores, 35.85 points, behind short program winner Evgeni Plushenko of Russia.
Plushenko, who returned to competition for the first time since winning the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, had a valiant comeback effort, scoring 82.25 points. He landed a quadruple toe-triple toe and a triple Axel. Even though he doubled his triple lutz, he still scored 43.80 for technical elements, three points higher than Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka.
“I didn’t expect that I’d ever compete against Evgeni Plushenko,” Kozuka said. “I watched the Torino Olympic Games on TV and wanted to be there. Now I feel honored to be in this competition and at this press conference together with Evgeni Plushenko and Johnny Weir.”
Kozuka, who defeated Weir and Evan Lysacek to win Skate America last season, is in second place with 75.50. Weir (72.57) nudged Russian’s Artem Borodulin (72.07), one of the country’s top skaters in the absence of Plushenko, for third place by a half-point.
U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz, who finished ninth in his first World Championship appearance last season, turned in the lowest scoring short program of the day. He was expected to contend for his first Grand Prix medal in Moscow but is instead in 11th.
Known for his technical prowess, it was two failed jumps — the planned quad toe and the intended triple axel —that lead him to 54.50 points, about 20 off his personal best. After falling on his opening quad toe, which was downgraded, he singled a planned triple axel.
He landed a triple lutz-double toe near the end of his tango themed performance but it was not enough to move him out of 11th place. Because of his short program standing, he will skate first in the short program Saturday.
The men’s free skate is Saturday at 2:45 p.m. local time.
Still to come Friday at Rostelecom Cup, the pairs short program, the ladies short program and the original dance.
After the compulsory dance, the first of three dances, U.S. Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie have a commanding lead over the competition after a passionate performance to the Tango Romantica. They carry 37.87 points into the original dance, the last event on Friday, while Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have 32.73. Russians Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer are third with 30.33.
Rostelecom Cup is the second event of the 2009 International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit. The series, now in its 15th season, consists of six international events in a cumulative, point-scoring format. The top six scoring athletes in each discipline move onto the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 3-6, in Tokyo, Japan, which will be combined with the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final for the second consecutive season.
The six Grand Prix events are Trophee Eric Bompard, Oct. 15-18, in Paris, France; Rostelecom Cup, Oct. 22-25, in Moscow Russia; Cup of China, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, in Beijing, China; NHK Trophy, Nov. 5-8, in Nagano, Japan; Skate America, Nov. 12-15, in Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Skate Canada, Nov. 19-22, in Kitchener, Canada.
The points toward the Grand Prix Final that are awarded for each place are 15 points for first; 13 points for second; 11 points for third; nine points for fourth; seven points for fifth; five points for sixth place; four points for seventh place; and three points for eighth. In pair skating, only the top six receive points.
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