Road To The Olympic Games

Figure Skating

Takahashi defends men's NHK Trophy title

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi won the NHK Trophy on Sunday, finishing comfortably ahead of compatriot Takahiko Kozuka after a solid free skate.
Accompanied by second-placed Takahiko Kozuka, left, of Japan and third-placed Ross Miner, right, of the US, Japan's Daisuke Takahashi shows his gold medal during an awarding ceremony for the men's event in the NHK Trophy. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi defended his title at the NHK Trophy on Sunday, finishing comfortably ahead of compatriot Takahiko Kozuka after a solid free skate.

Takahashi, first after the short program, finished with a totalof 259.75 points, 24.73 points ahead of Kozuka. Ross Miner of the United States placed third with 212.36 points.

Skating to "Blues for Klook," Takahashi fell on his opening quadruple flip and was downgraded on two jumps late in his routine, but was strong enough overall to take the trophy for the second consecutive year.

"I had some downgrades on my jumps but I feel like I am making progress with my routine," Takahashi said. "When I won the NHK Trophy last year I felt like I might not have deserved to win, but this year there was no question in my mind."

American Brandon Mroz, who made skating history on Saturday by becoming the first skater to land a quadruple lutz in international competition, had a mistake-filled free skate and finished last with 184.83 points.

Even though he was downgraded on three jumps, Takahashi dominated his program components to win his fourth NHK Trophy in six years.

The 2010 world champion and Vancouver bronze medallist appears to have returned to form after reconstructive right knee surgery forced him to sit out the 2008-09 season. With his win here and a third-place finish at Skate Canada, Takahashi qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City next month.

Miner, who was sixth after the short program, won his first Grand Prix medal.

"It's awesome to be on the podium," the 20-year-old Miner said. "I wasn't expecting it at all. This is my first Grand Prix medal and to do it here in Japan where the fans appreciate good skating is amazing."

Kozuka, the 2011 world silver medallist , was only downgraded on one jump — his opening quadruple toeloop — but couldn't match Takahashi's technical skill.

"I watched Takahashi skate and realized I still have a long way to go," Kozuka said. "I tried too hard at certain points and my timing was off so I was a bit disappointed and will work hard to improve for the nationals."

Mroz struggled in the free skate, falling on his opening quad lutz and touching down on a triple axel.

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