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Originally published October 20, 2012 at 10:28 PM | Page modified October 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM

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Japanese sweep men's singles at Skate America

It was a tough start of the 2012-13 skating season for U.S.men's singles champion Jeremy Abbott. In third place after Friday's short program...

Special to The Seattle Times

At a glance

Skate America is the first of six stops on the International Skating Union Grand Prix series. Subsequent events will be in Canada, China, Russia, France and Japan. Skaters can compete in two of the six events. The six highest scorers in each category qualify for Grand Prix final, Dec. 6-9, in Sochi, Russia.

Sunday: 11:45 a.m., ladies' freestyle program, ice dancing freestyle program; 6 p.m., exhibition, featuring top five skaters in each discipline.

Where: ShoWare Center, Kent.

Tickets: $15-$40.

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KENT — It was a tough start of the 2012-13 skating season for U.S.men's singles champion Jeremy Abbott.

In third place after Friday's short program, Abbott fell twice during his 4 ½-minute long program Saturday night at the ShoWare Center and dropped to fifth as three Japanese skaters claimed the medal positions in men's singles at Skate America, the first stage of the six-round ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating.

Takahiko Kozuka jumped from second to first as 17-year-old phenom Yuzuru Hanyu, tops in the short program, faltered with three falls during his long program. Kozuka, the silver medalist at the 2011 World Championships, won with 251.44 points, followed by Hanyu (243.34) and Tatsuki Machida (229.95).

Abbott, a 2010 Olympian and U.S. men's singles champ in three of the past four years, appeared crestfallen as he acknowledged the crowd after his skate. When his score (211.35) was announced, he put his head in his hands.

"That was awful," the 27-year-old Abbott said. "We retooled the way I was training, physically, mentally, and there's still a disconnect somewhere. We really have to re-evaluate, again."

Skating to "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables," Abbott fell during an attempted quadruple jump and a subsequent flip early in his program.

"That was the hardest long program I've ever done physically," he said. "About halfway through my body just shut down. I was doing everything I could to stay up on my feet.

"The weird thing is that I've been training, and at home I can get through this program (like it's a) piece of cake. So my conditioning's there, but something's missing. I don't know what it is. I need to go home and look at this with my whole team."

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, silver medalists at the 2012 and 2011 Worlds, won the pairs gold (195.07), followed by Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China (185.16) and Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (178.22). It was the first medal victory for Denney and Coughlin in their second season as skating partners. Coughlin pumped his fist at the end of their routine.

"If either of us could have picked where we did it, we wanted to do it in America," he said. "It was exciting."

In Saturday's afternoon session, U.S. champion Ashley Wagner placed first in ladies short program, skating an imperfect but clean program for 60.61 points, ahead of Russia's Adelina Sotnikova (58.93) and American Christina Gao (56.63).

Wagner, who spent a few childhood years in Tacoma and Vancouver, Wash., while growing up in a military family, had hoped for more from her short program.

"The triple loop was not exactly the quality I was looking for, and I'm so bummed because I think it's one of my strongest jumps," said Wagner, 21, whose grandfather lives in Seabeck, where she often spends summers.

"That was my first short program out under the spotlight and the crowd, so I'm pleased with how it went. First time out I always get nervous, and this season I have a little more pressure," said the reigning U.S. champion. "But that's not really what I was nervous about. It was about getting my feet wet. I was a little rusty out there, but it's been seven months since my last real competition."

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White were tops among seven ice-dancing teams, scoring 71.39 to lead Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada (65.79) and Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (62.91).

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