Skater Onda Wins at Nation’s Cup
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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) _ Japan’s Yoshie Onda nearly landed a triple axel Saturday in winning the women’s event at the Nation’s Cup, and Olympic silver medalist Evgeny Plushenko put an artistic touch on his new short program.
Bulgarian ice dancers Albena Denkova and Maxim Stayivski captured their first major victory.
The competition is the third Grand Prix event using an interim scoring system while officials fine-tune a cumulative system. The judging changes were introduced after the pairs scandal at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
At this event, nine judges are chosen randomly before the competition out of a panel of 12. No one _ not even the judges _ knows which votes count.
Onda almost pulled off a triple axel jump, two weeks after two other women became the first to land it after a lapse of 10 years.
The 19-year-old Onda came down on one foot but referee Hely Abbondati of the International Skating Union did not ratify it as completing a full 3 1/2 rotations in the air.
``I do realize I was a little short of the rotations but I was determined to land it on one foot,″ Onda said. ``In practice I have landed it very, very few times.″
Yukari Nakano of Japan and Ludmila Nelidina of Russia landed triple axels at Skate America two weeks ago after Japan’s Midori Ito did one at the Albertville Olympics.
Still, Onda landed five other clean triple jumps to vault ahead of Japanese compatriot Fumie Sugari, who led after the free program but fell twice in the free.
Onda had marks of 5.3 to 5.8 for technical merit and 5.2 to 5.7 for presentation. Sugari was second and Susanna Poykio of Finland third.
In the men’s event, Plushenko had high marks _ only two were 5.7s and the rest 5.8s and 5.9s. He skated to ``Adagio,″ which was choreographed by Kyrill Simonov, a star of the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia.
``It is something new for me. I have great people working with me,″ Plushenko said. ``I just feel new again.″
The 20-year-old Russian has long been criticized for his artistry. So he is working on his presentation to go with his top jumping. He easily completed a quad-triple combination but his arm movements in his step work were different.
His major rival, Alexei Yagudin, is sidelined with a hip injury. Yagudin beat Plushenko for the Olympic gold medal and the two have been rivals for the past four years at the European and world championships.
``I don’t compete against anybody. I just want to compete for myself and do well,″ Plushenko said. ``It was what I did in the past and will continue to do in the future.″
Second went to Russia’s Alexander Abt, who nearly beat Yagudin at the European competition last January. China’s Li Chengjiang was third.
The men’s free skating ends the competition Sunday.
Denkova and Staviyski had an Egyptian-themed program that gained them first place in the free dance. They had marks that ranged from 5.2 to 5.8 for technique and 5.3 to 5.8 for presentation.
``A few years ago we won our first medal in a Grand Prix competition here, and now we have won our first Grand Prix competition here,″ Denkova said.
Second went to Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Saknovski. They have lost to four different couples this season whom they beat at the world championships last March where they gained a disputed third.
``We are making changes, we have changed coaches, we are working on a lot of new things we haven’t done before,″ Chait said. ``We are making more technical programs, things that are a little bit more difficult for us.″
Third went to Germans Kati Winkler and Rene Lohse.