Defending champion Stephane Lambiel missed his first jump and sprawled on the ice. Japan's top duo crumpled under the pressure before home...
TOKYO — Defending champion Stephane Lambiel missed his first jump and sprawled on the ice. Japan’s top duo crumpled under the pressure before home fans. Former U.S. champion Johnny Weir said he was so out of breath even his costume was tired.
Then European champion Brian Joubert of France showed them how it’s done.
Landing a quad-triple combination and skating a clean performance to a James Bond theme song, Joubert swept to the top of the standings Wednesday after the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.
In pairs, China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo displayed a stunning performance to take the first gold of the championships, with reigning world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian taking the silver.
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“I did great,” Joubert said after putting himself in a commanding lead going into today’s medal-deciding free skate. “I have had a great season. I won all of my competitions so far this year. Now, I am well on my way to win this one.”
Joubert, dressed in a black “007” outfit and skating to the theme music from “Die Another Day,” started strongly with the quad-triple and marked the highest technical scores of the day, despite once touching his hand to the ice.
He scored 83.64 points to have a solid but not insurmountable margin over Jeff Buttle of Canada, second with 79.90 points. In third was Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, with 74.51, and behind him Weir, at 74.26.
“I forgot to breathe a little bit. It was basically just nerves,” Weir said. “I’ve been having some trouble adjusting here. My costume is even tired.”
Lambiel, a two-time world champion and silver medalist at the Turin Olympics, was the biggest disappointment. Taking several deep breaths before he started, the Swiss immediately hit the skids, falling on his first jump. He then did a simple, triple-double combination to drop further behind.
“My triple axel was not there tonight,” he said. “In the air, I felt very good. I don’t know what happened.”
He goes into today’s free skate in sixth position. Japan’s Nobunari Oda, despite the loud support of the 6,000 Japanese fans at the Tokyo National Gymnasium, also missed his first jump and slipped to 14th.
For the United States, all three American men fell or stumbled. And Rena Inoue hit the ice three times in her performance with John Baldwin in pairs.
Ryan Bradley was the first American to compete in the men’s short program. He went to the ice on a triple-axel jump and placed 19th.
Evan Lysacek, the American champion for the first time, soon followed. He put his hand on the ice on his quad attempt and lost points for the combination when he waited too long for the second jump. He ended up fifth but was almost 11 points behind Joubert.
“What I feel proud of is that I put the quad out there under the pressure of the world championships,” Lysacek said. “I knew I had to take the risk.”
Weir started with a smooth triple axel and a triple-triple combination but then stumbled on a triple flip and finished fourth entering the free skate.
Inoue and Baldwin were eighth after a trio of miscues.
“My tailbone hurts,” she said.