Japanese Teen Asada Leads Short Program

Associated Press
Saturday, December 17, 2005

Japanese teenager Mao Asada took advantage of a mistake by world champion Irina Slutskaya and grabbed the lead yesterday in the women's short program at the Grand Prix skating final in Tokyo.

In the men's event, world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland scored a personal best to take the lead.

Slutskaya has won the GP final four times and was unbeaten last season, which culminated in a brilliant performance in her native Moscow to win the world championship for the second time.

But she did just a double flip yesterday instead of a planned triple and even landed awkwardly.

"I don't know what happened. I just didn't feel good today," said Slutskaya, who also complained of dizziness which she later described as jet lag.

Alissa Czisny of the United States finished sixth after missing two jumps. She was the only American entered after injuries took their toll this season.

Five time-world champion Michelle Kwan bypassed the entire series with a hip injury and only recently returned to competition. Sasha Cohen, the other top American, skated in just one GP meet.

Asada, who won everything in the junior ranks last year, hit a triple flip-triple toe loop securely to music from "Carmen." She scored 64.38 points. Slutskaya lost almost five points on the botched jump and was at 58.90.

MEN'S DOWNHILL: Bode Miller finished eighth in a World Cup Super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, and lost his short-lived lead in the overall standings.

Hans Grugger of Austria won his first career Super-G, and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finished fifth to regain the lead he lost to Miller a week ago. Miller, though, trails by just two points.

Miller has won only one race this season, a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., earlier this month. Last season, Miller won the first three races and four of the first five en route to becoming the first American to win the overall title in 22 years.

"If Bode had all the points now that he had at this point last season, I would be way behind," Svindal said, adding that he never thought he'd be in contention for the overall title.

Miller had great split times, but did not finish strong at the end of his run.

"I'm not sure what went wrong, but Bode got smoked on the bottom of the course," U.S. speed coach John McBride said. "We'll have to go over the video and see what he did wrong."

Svindal raced with bruised ribs and shoulder pain following a fall in downhill training Wednesday. He also holds an 11-point lead over yesterday's runner-up Erik Guay atop the Super-G standings.

LUGE: Silke Kraushaar gave Germany its 61st straight victory in women's luge, winning her third World Cup event this season in snowy, slow conditions on Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y.

In men's doubles, the American team of Christian Niccum and Patrick Quinn finished fourth and forced a race-off next week with Preston Griffall and Dan Joye for the second and final doubles berth on the U.S. Olympic team.

"That's the most pressure I've ever felt in my athletic career," said Quinn, a 39-year-old sports agent and former speedskater. "This was our time."

Defending Olympic champions Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch of Germany, won the event in 1 minute 29.167 seconds. Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber of Italy were second (1:29.692), followed by Italians Gerhard Plankensteiner and Oswald Haselrieder (1:29.726).

Two-time Olympic medalists Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin secured the first U.S. team berth with a win last week in Calgary.

BOBSLED: Points leader Sandra Kiriasis of Germany got her fourth straight victory in a women's World Cup race in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

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