Golden Skate

Kostner leads ladies in Sweden

Italy's Carolina Kostner, 21, performs to an instrumental version of Riders on the Storm at the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner drew the lucky straw and currently leads the field of ladies with 64.28 (36.34/27.94) points. The 2008 European champion opened her program with an excellent triple flip-triple toeloop combination, but later stepped out of triple Lutz. She was otherwise clean and confident, maintaining excellent flow throughout her routine and execution intricate connecting steps without any glitches.

Kostner gained a level 4 on her spiral sequence, a level 2 on her layback spin, and a level 3 on other non-jumping elements to post the highest technical score of the night and receive a new seasons best – an achievement she admits to being very proud of.

“I have been trying to improve my season’s best during the entire year,” said Kostner at a post-event press conference. “I worked very hard towards this goal and it was my last chance to do it, so I’m very happy.”

It is the first victory in the short program at a major championship for Kostner.

“I’m honored to be here at this position,” said the 21-year-old, referring to a small gold medal she has received before the draw for the long program. “But I’ll try to stay calm and skate well tomorrow.”

The former Italian champion, who missed this year’s nationals due to the flu, took time off after winning at Europeans to spend with her family. She then went to Canada to work her choreography and before returning to Oberstdorf to train every day.

“I felt really good here,” said Kostner. “The audience supported me throughout. I have very good memories of my Europeans debut here in Sweden, in Malmö. It all came back to me when I took the ice and I thought ‘It’s the place where I did so well’. I’m happy to skate for the Swedish people again.”

Japan’s Mao Asada is virtually tied for first place after posting a season’s best of 64.10 (35.22/28.88) points. The 2008 Four Continents champion floated through her routine to Jean-Claude Petit’s Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra, delivering a strong triple flip-triple loop combination, but her other elements weren’t as well received by the technical panel.

The Japanese champion received a deduction for using the wrong take-off edge on a triple Lutz, and failed to achieve a level 4 on any of her non-jumping elements. While her flying sit spin and step sequence were awarded a level 3, she only earned a level 1 on her spiral sequence and a level 2 on two spins.

“I haven’t watched the tape yet,” said Asada at the press-conference, “but I’ll analyze it later and I will improve on that tomorrow.”

Otherwise, the current World silver medalist was satisfied with her performance. “I felt really concentrated when I skated, but I felt that the performance was really good. I’m very glad about the scores and that I did a season’s best in this program. Now I just need to focus on the free program tomorrow.”

Asada, who was coached by Rafael Arutunian for the past few years, parted ways with him after Japanese Nationals. However, the 17-year-old is unruffled by the change. “I didn’t feel any impact being here without my coach because coaches from the Federation checked on my levels.”

Teammate Yukari Nakano is currently third with a new personal best of 61.10 (34.83/26.27) points. The 2008 Japanese bronze medalist didn’t receive any deductions, but the basic value of her program was lower as she only did a triple flip-double toe loop combination. The highlights of her program to Fantasie Impomptu were strong spins and spirals, but her awkward free leg position during the jumps prevented her from gaining bonus points for the quality of execution. Overall, the 22-year-old’s performance was soft and lyrical and she displayed a nice understated confidence throughout her routine.

“I did everything I can do,” said Nakano. “This is the best I can give. But the most important is still to come, the free skate tomorrow.”

The student from Tokyo had a long break after her last competition – Japanese Nationals in late December. “I didn’t have any competition for three months. I used this time to review every element and to work hard on my program. That gave me a good result today.”

As Nakano was the first to skate in the two strongest groups, she was unsure which place she would achieve, but at the post event press conference she said that she felt very honored to be in her current position. “I am very surprised about it as well.”

Finland’s Kiira Korpi is currently fourth with a new personal best of 60.58 (34.22/26.36) points. She landed a triple Lutz-double toe combination, a triple loop out of steps and a double Axel, but made up for the relative lack of hard jumps by gaining high levels on her non-jumping elements. Her spiral sequence and flying sit spin were awarded a level 4 while all other elements were given a level 3. Her tango routine to Piazzolla’s Triunfal was highlighted by intricate connecting steps which fit nicely into the character of her music.

“I’m very satisfied with my performance,” said the 19-year-old. “It is not easy to do a clean program at Worlds because there is a lot of pressure on me. The crowd was amazing. I heard my name everywhere, but when I started to warm-up, I tried to shut out everything and only to focus on myself and my performance. Throughout the whole program, I had to fight, but I’m very satisfied.”

South Korea’s Yu-Na Kim, one of favorites of the competition, had to settle for fifth place after she fell on a triple Lutz attempt. The 2008 Grand Prix Final champion opened her program with an effortless triple flip-triple toeloop combination and later executed a double Axel out of an Ina Bauer, but her spiral sequence only received a level 1.

Kim’s interpretation of Strauss’ waltz to Die Fledermaus was perfect, and the straightline step sequence in particular looked more like a choreographic highlight rather than a required element. The 17-year-old earned the second highest presentation score of the evening (28.14), however, the low technical score (32.71) and one point deduction for fall prevented her from reaching the 60-point mark in total. Quite a disappointment for the skater who holds the world record for a Ladies Short program with 71.95 points. With 59.85 points, the current Worlds bronze medalist is nearly five points behind the leaders, but is still within striking distance of the podium.

“I felt pain from my earlier injury (hip/back) when I did the triple-triple combination and then tried to do the Lutz,” explained Kim. “That is why I fell. But I have fallen in previous competitions so I do not think it was hard to recover, and I was not so nervous. I am not so happy about the scores and I am unsatisfied because of the fall.”

Joannie Rochette of Canada rounds up the top six. The 2008 Four Continents silver medalist opened her program with a strong double Axel, but then doubled a toeloop in a planned triple flip-triple toeloop combination. The 22-year-old also stepped out of a triple Lutz, but her strong non-jumping elements (which were all rated level 3 and 4) allowed her to get into the final flight for the long program. Although she presented one of the most intricate programs of the evening, her presentation score was one of the lowest among the leaders, and she earned 59.53 (32.99/26.54) points.

“I am satisfied,” said the 2008 Canadian champion. “Although I planned to do the triple flip-triple toeloop combination. I was not that good in the warm-up and the flip was not that solid either, so it was the better strategy today. I wanted to get closer to the top five, which I missed last time at Worlds.”

Switzerland’s Sarah Meier skated skated a clean but conservative program, opting to do only a triple Salchow as a jump out of steps, and is currently seventh with 59.59 (32.17/27.32) points.

Miki Ando from Japan is eighth after a rather lifeless performance to Scheherezade. The defending World Champion played it safe with a triple Lutz-double loop combination jump and currently has 59.21 (31.93/27.28) points.

Kimmie Meissner is currently ninth (57.25 points), followed by teammates Beatrisa Liang (52.81 points) and Ashley Wagner (51.49 points).

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