Tatsuki Machida wins Skate America men's short program
American Jason Brown finishes 2nd
Japan's Tatsuki Machida won the Skate America short program Friday night, outpacing Americans Jason Brown and Adam Rippon at Joe Louis Arena.
Machida scored 91.18 points to open the men's competition in the first ISU Grand Prix event of the season. Brown was second at 83.78, and Rippon third at 80.26.
Six of eight skaters fell on quad jump attempts in the mistake-filled session. Only Brown and Machida were able to execute their short programs without a serious error. Falls felled favourites such as 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi and defending Skate America winner Takahiko Kozuka.
"I was quite happy to skate a program without major mistakes," Machida said through a translator.
"I know there are many Japanese skaters with higher reputations than I have up to this present point. I am in the furthest position from being a favourite for the Olympic team. We only have three spots. It is going to be a very tough fight, but I have the determination."
In ice dance, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily won the short competition that featured the foxtrot and quickstep. They outclassed the field with their speed and technical precision, scoring 75.70 points.
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy were second at 69.88, and the American brother-sister team of Maia and Alex Shibutani followed at 61.26.
The men's long program and ice dance free skate will be Saturday.
Skate America marked Brown's senior-level Grand Prix debut. He made quite a thematic statement, skating to Prince's "The Question of U" and wearing a black, purple and silver-sequined outfit.
Brown skated cleanly, showing showmanship, strong spins, and a good connection to the guitar-driven rock song. Brown was the only competitor in the field who does not attempt a quad, but did achieve strong height on his triple axel and triple flip-triple toe combinations.
"My main goal was to get experience, and grow," Brown said. "I'm really excited, a little bit shocked. I am so excited for the long (program)."
Rippon wasn't sure if he'd be able compete in the short program, after breaking his boot during Thursday's practice session. He had the boot repaired, and managed to post a personal-best score.
His only mistake was touching down his right hand for balance, after an awkward landing on his opening quad lutz attempt. Rippon recovered his composure, powering through his triple axel and triple flip-triple toe loop combo cleanly and with notable height.
Rippon was clearly pleased with his skate, to a suite of strings and drums music from "Carmen," happily pumping his fists at the conclusion.
"My main goal was to go out there for the quad lutz and give it a good attempt," Rippon said. "I was a little hesitant out there throughout, but I tried not to show it. I love my short program, but I am even more comfortable with my long."
The rest of the Skate America field suffered spills and disappointment.
American Max Aaron fell on his first jumping pass, 22 seconds into his up-tempo program. He landed cross-footed on his quad salchow attempt, sealing his score to 75.91 and sixth place.
Artur Gachinski of Russia upped the ante on mistakes, falling twice on his jumping passes. He fell hard on the landing of his opening quad toe loop, failing to complete the planned triple toe loop of the combination. Gachinski went down again on his next try, falling to his hands and knees. He was last at 69.81.
The quad toe also felled Alexander Majorov of Sweden, as he destroyed the landing on his opening sequence. He scored 74.97 to land in seventh.
Kozuka tripped during his triple lutz-triple toe sequence, as he stepped out of the lutz landing and failed to complete the combination. He had strong height on his other jumps, putting him in fourth place with 77.75.
Takahashi's subpar skate was a surprise. He under-rotated his opening quad toeloop, and fell. The tone was set, and Takahashi's characteristic verve seemed sapped. He was fifth at 77.09.
There are three notable omissions from the Skate America men's field, due to withdrawals. Missing were 2007 world champion Brian Joubert of France, rising star Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, and 2010 Vancouver Olympic gold medallist Evan Lysacek of the U.S.
Ten, who finished second at the 2013 world championships, likely would have been the strongest contender of the three at Skate America. He has emerged as one of the top skaters in the world over the past year, buoyed by his evocative artistry.
Skate America is a missed opportunity for Lysacek, who at 28, is in major comeback mode. He has not competed since he won the Olympic gold, and he will skate in a qualifying event and post a minimum score to be eligible for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He withdrew from Skate America due to a torn labrum.