Golden Skate

Kim decimates ladies’ field at Skate America

South Korea's Yu-Na Kim easily won the Long Program after her routine to Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

The ladies took to the stage for the final competition of Skate America yesterday afternoon. It turned out to be a contest for the silver medal, as South Korea’s Yu-Na Kim ran away with the title – outscoring her nearest competition by 20 points.

“I’m satisfied with both of my programs,” said a humble Kim. “I am happy to win the gold medal, but there is still so much to work on.”

Kim opened her Scheherazade program with a huge triple flip-triple toe loop combination that earned the Worlds bronze medalist a whopping total of 10.50 points. Immediately after that, however, Kim popped a planned triple loop into a single, but landed four more triple jumps to score a total of 193.45 points overall.

“I try not to think about the score when I am skating,” said Kim. “I only think about the skating and what I have to do. I want to do the best that I can, and so I just concentrate on the skating. The scores will follow once you are able to do that.”

Last year’s Grand Prix Final Champion is trained in Toronto by Olympian Brian Orser, and works with Canadian David Wilson on choreography. Kim’s command of the ice is immediately evident, and she was rewarded with the highest program component scores of the evening.

In second place was, Yukari Nakano, the first of two Japanese skaters on the podium, who skated to music from the ballet Giselle. The 23-year-old skated an artistic masterpiece of a program full of balletic moves strewn in between difficult technical moves.

“I decided that I wanted to do this program right after Worlds last year,” admitted Nakano. “So we put this program together, and I really believe in the character. It is so easy and fun for me to play.”

Nakano, who narrowly missed the World’s podium last season, landed five triple jumps, but chose not to add in her trademark triple Axel to start the program.

“I didn’t do my triple-triple or triple axel today,” said the Japanese bronze medalist. “My coach told me that it was too early in the season to risk trying the combination, but he told me that he would let me decide to do the triple Axel or not. I didn’t feel comfortable enough today, so I decided not to try it.”

Nakano earned a total of 172.53 points, edging out the other Giselle and teammate Miki Ando, who accrued a total of 168.42 points.

Ando started out seemingly well by landing a triple toe loop-triple loop combination, but the technical called the second jump as short of rotation.

“I am so happy with my triple-triple” said Ando. “I think that it is good even though the technical caller said that I underrotated the second jump. I have to look at it like I landed it so that I can continue to improve mentally.”

Ando’s Giselle was in stark contrast to her teammate’s balletic turn. Instead, the 20-year-old rather went for a more modern look for her interpretation.

“Yukari and I learned that we were both skating to the same music at a press conference in Japan back in July,” giggled Ando. “We both laughed about it, but we were both very committed to using the music. I think that we both bring something completely different to the character. For me, I am motivated to do better because I want to be the better Giselle, and I think that Yukari probably wants the same.”

Ando did land six triple jumps, two of which were in combination, but suffered from low levels on her combination spin and spiral sequence.

“I made mistakes on the spin and the spiral, and that cost me some points,” said the Japanese silver medalist thoughtfully. “I probably lost about five points on that, but I know that I can improve these elements.”

In fourth place was the reigning Junior World Champion, Rachael Flatt, who was competing in her first senior Grand Prix Event. Flatt opened with a nice double Axel, and quickly moved into a triple flip-double loop combination that was planned as a triple-triple.

“I am a little disappointed because I didn’t do the triple-triple in the program,” lamented Flatt. “But I have no regrets because I have learned so much about how to compete with the World’s best. I’ll take all of this information home and process it, and then I will go to my next event even more prepared.”

The American silver medalist doubled a planned triple salchow and popped her double Axel in the middle of her program, but did manage to land four clean triple jumps. Flatt’s competition score of 155.73 points easily outdistanced her teammate and reigning U.S. Champion Mirai Nagasu’s score of 142.90.

Nagasu has struggled with an ankle injury and a growth spurt recently, but was determined to compete here in Everett.

“I had an MRI and I was diagnosed with a pre-stress fracture,” shared Nagasu. “So I have been limiting my jumps so that I am able to stay healthy and compete. I don’t think that it was a mistake in coming here because I learned so much.”

Nagasu opened strong with a nice triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, but was unable to land a clean triple jump after that. In fact, the only jumps that the Californian got full credit for after her opening combination was a double Axel and a double toe at the end of one of her combinations.

“I am a very disappointed that I got called for so many underrotated jumps,” admitted the 15-year-old. “I have just started landing my triples again, but I have been better than this. I can do better.”

Still, the World Junior bronze medalist showed great speed and flow in her Caprice Fantastique program, and used superior component scores to hold off the rest of the field.

Finland’s Susanna Pöykiö moved up from eighth with a strong freeskate to finish in sixth overall, moving ahead of USA’s Kimmie Meissner who had a disastrous skate and finished eighth. Canada’s Mira Leung finished just ahead of Meissner in seventh place.

Skate Canada, the next event Grand Prix event, will be held in Ottawa, Ont. on Oct 31-Nov 2, 2008.

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