SOCHI, December 8 (R-Sport, James Ellingworth) - Japanese skaters Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada made powerful statements of intent for the 2014 Olympics at the future Games figure skating venue with victories at the Grand Prix Finals, which ended Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin looked on for much of the action in the first international test event at the Olympic Park, the cluster of facilities on the balmy Black Sea coast.
Off the ice, the skaters were full of praise for the Olympic venue, with Canadian star Patrick Chan effusive about the quality of the surface, but there were also worries as thousands seats went unfilled every day despite promises of a sellout.
On it, former world champion Takahashi produced the standout performance to win the finals at the seventh attempt as Chan managed only third place behind Yuzuru Hanyu, his worst result for almost three years.
Takahashi triumphed after a dramatic free skate in which he tumbled early on before staging an immediate recovery by executing one of the sport's toughest jumps.
"I'm really happy after this result but my skating was not good today," said Takahashi, the Vancouver bronze medalist and 2010 world champion.
His compatriot Hanyu went some way to shedding his reputation as a specialist the short program, where he holds the world record, by stealing second from Chan in the free skate.
There was also a star turn for Spaniard Javier Fernandez as he landed three quads in the day's best free skate, but could not rise higher than fourth thanks to a poor showing Friday.
Takahashi's success in the men's event was matched by his fellow Japanese skater Mao Asada's triumph in the women's after a near-flawless free skate.
"There were no major mistakes so that's a great takeaway from today," Asada said with characteristic modesty after a win by the vast margin of almost 15 points.
Californian Ashley Wagner had been in the running for victory after the short program but tumbled twice, the second fall being what she called a "freak fall" on a routine double axel that ruled her out of Sunday's exhibition gala and left her sporting a large ice pack at the media conference.
Pairs skating ensured the crowd that turned up left happy after a Russian one-two in the last event.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov fell three times but clung onto their first place in a contentious decision, with Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov second.
Ice dance saw the only North American victory, when Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fourth finals title, and the third of them with Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in second place.
The two teams train together and remained upbeat after the result was announced.
Russians swept the board in juniors.
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