Tomas Verner wins Cup of Russia

MOSCOW -- Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic took advantage of mistakes by the top two leaders and won the Cup of Russia Grand Prix figure skating competition Saturday.

Patrick Chan of Canada and American Jeremy Abbott were ahead of Verner heading into Saturday's free skate. But both fell repeatedly, and neither managed a quadruple jump.

Miki Ando of Japan gritted her way through serious back pain to win the women's gold, soaring past four challengers who were ahead of her after the short program. They included her countrywoman Akiko Suzuki, who took silver, and American Ashley Wagner, who finished third.

In pairs, Russia's Yuko Kavagut and Alexander Smirnov easily won the gold with tightly synchronized spins and long throws. Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran took silver, and Americans Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig were third.

Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won the ice dancing, followed by Nora Hoffman and Maxim Zavozin of Hungary and Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

Verner didn't even try a quad, but he stayed on his feet, although he stepped out of two axels. His crowd-pleasing program to Michael Jackson music was marked by a soaring open triple lutz and a fast triple-double-double cascade late in the program.

It was Verner's first Grand Prix, and combined with the bronze he won at the Cup of China, it will take him to the Grand Prix Final in Beijing in December.

"I'm surprised ... I wasn't expecting to go there," said Verner, who switched coaches and moved to Canada for training this summer.

Those disruptions had dissuaded him from attempting quads this season, but "now I'm ready to put it in the program" for the Grand Prix Final, he said.

Chan, who got gold at Skate Canada, also gets a berth in the final. But the Moscow free skate, in which he fell on his quad attempt and on two tries for triples, appeared to leave him perplexed. His short program on Friday was solid, including a confident quad.

In the warmup room, "I did what I did off the ice, and it felt good. Sometimes jumps just don't come," he said.

Abbott, who fell twice, said part of the problem was that his training has been sporadic because of boot problems. Although disappointed that he may have missed his chance to reach the final, he tried his best to brush off the performance.

"The ice is slippery, sometimes we fall," he said.

Ando pulled some back muscles in a practice collision with another skater this week, and Saturday, her bandages showed through the gauze back of her black outfit. But her free program was elegant and clean, opeing with a precise triple lutz-double loop.

"My back is really hurting ... I just tried, for each element, to do it," she said. "My skating wasn't great but I didn't make any big mistakes."

Suzuki was first after the short program and opened strongly with a delicately landed triple lutz. But she then singled a triple lutz that was to open a triple-double-double cascade and singled a loop in her attempt to add the missed jumps later.

Wagner, despite a late fall that undermined her earlier vivid jumps, said her performance exceeded her expectations.

"I came to Russia with the plan of both programs being learning experiences," she said. "Everything was one-footed for me today -- and that was huge."