Mura wins skating gold in Paris; Abbott of US 2nd

JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer Published:

PARIS (AP) -- Takahito Mura defeated overnight leader Jeremy Abbott of the United States to win gold at the Trophee Bompard on Saturday, while Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia captured the pairs title.

The 21-year-old Mura, who finished eighth at Skate Canada last month, was second overnight and started his free program with clean landings on his quad toeloop and his triple lutz-triple toeloop.

"A year ago I couldn't even imagine I could win the competition here. I'm very surprised," said Mura, whose parents were competitive figure skaters. "The challenge for me is to keep the consistency and keep at a certain level. Even if I fail on the quad, I have to nail the triple axel for sure ... keep the quality high overall."

Although Mura pulled out of a triple flip toward the end of his program he scored enough to beat Abbott, 230.68 points to 227.63. The American expressed reservations on Friday about how well his sore back would handle the longer free exercise. He appeared slightly restricted in his movement.

"I had a couple of mistakes and some issues with spin levels, and that cost me first place," Abbott said. "But I love this program and I love skating in it. I'm happy that I'm done and I'm in one piece."

A technically strong free skate by Frenchman Florent Amodio produced the best score of 154.12 in the free, launching him from seventh overnight into third.

"My goal was to fight like I do every day in practice," Amodio said. "It shows me that everything is possible and you should never give up, anytime, anywhere. I'm proud of myself."

Brian Joubert, third overnight, dropped to fifth.

Joubert fell backward on his first jump, a quad toeloop-double toeloop, and stumbled late in his program when he attempted a triple axel. The former world champion skated without much punch to the low-key "Inception" by Hans Zimmer.

Earlier, Kavaguti and Smirnov of Russia held off a strong performance from Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.

After falling on a triple lutz in Friday's short program, Duhamel made good on their promise to make amends, posting the best score of 124.43 in the free skate.

"It's very bitter-sweet," Duhamel said. "When you look at the points and you see how close it was you start thinking 'If only my lutz was like that yesterday.'"

Their performance was not enough to topple overnight leaders Kavaguti and Smirnov, who scored 121.21 for an overall tally of 187.99 compared to 186.71 for the Canadians, who secured a spot in the season-ending Grand Prix finals next month in Sochi, Russia.

"We're really excited that we will get to go to Sochi," Duhamel said. "It will be the only time before the Olympics that we'll go there, and we want to be on the podium. So we're going to fix all the mistakes that happened here, fix everything that went wrong at Skate Canada and we'll be ready to show great skating."

Italian pair Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek improved from fourth overnight to take the bronze medal.

Later Saturday, Russian teenager Julia Lipnitskaia was defending her overnight lead in women's free program. European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France look to remain first in the ice dance.