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Abbott poised for first Paris figure skating gold

PARIS (AFP) –

Jeremy Abbott performs his routine during the mens short program

American Jeremy Abbott performs his routine during the mens short program of the Trophee Eric Bompard, the fifth in the six-round ISU Grand Prix figure skating series at Paris-Bercy.

US champion Jeremy Abbott stole the show with a cloak and dagger spy routine to lead the men’s short programme Friday at the Trophee Bompard, the fifth in the six-leg ISU Grand Prix figure skating series.

Abbott put the back problems which saw him struggle to fifth in Skate America behind him as his error-free performance to Nathan Lanier’s “Spy” gave him a comfortable 4.53-point lead on Japan’s Takahito Mura.

Home hope Brian Joubert is third going into Saturday’s free skating final.

“After Skate America I’m very happy to be in this position,” said 22-year-old Abbott, who opened with a triple flip-triple toeloop combination and nailed all his elements including four triples to score 81.18.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle because of my back. We decided to scale it back and not try the quad to just put out a clean performance.

“It’s my first time in Paris and I want to show the Parisian audience a great performance,” he added, as he bids to become the first American since Johnny Weir in 2004 to win here.

As many of the favourites stumbled and fell, Mura set himself up for his first Grand Prix medal.

The 21-year-old scored 76.65 for his routine “Malaguena” by Ernesto Lacuona, as 2007 world champion Joubert held on despite a stumble on his opening quadruple jump to score 75.46.

“I’m surprised to be sitting in second place,” admitted Mura.

“I landed the quad and triple axel so I think I’ve learned a lot from Skate Canada,” added the Japanese skater, who finished just eighth in Canada.

Joubert, 28, was also struggling to get back to form after pulling out of the Cup of China with stomach problems.

“The last two weeks have been very difficult for me, but I’m very happy because I fought on the ice and gave 100percent today which was my goal.

“It makes me confident for tomorrow and the future.”

China’s Song Nan, last year’s silver medallist, dropped to sixth after a fall as did former European champions Florent Amodio of France and Tomas Verner who placed seventh and ninth respectively.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia perform in their pairs short program

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia perform in their pairs short program during the Eric Bompard 2012 trophy figure skating event at the Bercy Palais-Omnisport in Paris. Kavaguti and Smirnov moved closer to a spot in the ISU Grand Prix final in 2014 Winter Olympic host city Sochi next month after leading the pairs short programme.

Earlier Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov moved closer to a spot in the ISU Grand Prix final in 2014 Winter Olympic host city Sochi next month after leading the pairs short programme.

Japanese-born Kavaguti and Smirnov, already runners-up in the Cup of China, scored 66.78 points.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, also in the running for the Grand Prix final after their silver in Skate Canada, are second on 62.28 despite Duhamel falling on a throw triple lutz.

“Eric and I are very disappointed with the way we skated. Tomorrow will be something else,” warned 26-year-old Duhamel.

China’s Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao third on 59.92.

Zhang, 28, and his 15-year-old partner Peng are hoping to win their first medal together after teaming up this year.

Zhang won an Olympic silver medal in 2006 and world medals with previous partner Dan Zhang who was forced to retire because of injuries.

“We didn’t really expect today’s result,” said Zhang. “We’re still a very new team. Tomorrow’s performance we hope to do even better than today.”

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