Asada recaptures World title
The Ladies long program provided a satisfactory conclusion to the long Olympic season as a number of skaters in the two final war-up groups managed to put forward very strong performances.
Japan’s Mao Asada recaptured the world title, while Yu-Na Kim (KOR) rose from seventh to win the silver. Finland’s Laura Lepistö maintained third overall to win the bronze – her first medal at the World Championships.
Kim seemed to have recovered from her poor showing in the short program. The Olympic Champion began her performance to Gershwin’s Concerto in F by railing off an airy triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a strong triple flip, and a double Axel in combination with another triple toeloop. The student of Brian Orser, however, appeared to lose her focus, falling on a triple Salchow immediately afterwards.
“My practice this morning wasn’t good and I was worried,” Kim later told the press. “I couldn’t concentrate. I was even thinking if I should skate my long program or if I should pull out. The practice was maybe too early for me and my body wasn’t able to move. I felt good in the warm-up.”
The Korean skater took a few seconds to pull herself back together and got into the program again. She continued by landing a strong triple Lutz, but faltered again on the final jump of her program – a double Axel. Nonetheless, she received 130.49 (66.45/65.04) points to win the long program, and with 190.79 points total, pulled up to second place.
“Right now I am just happy to have finished the season,” Kim confessed. “These World Championships were the hardest competition mentally. I missed the Salchow and the Axel, but overall it was ok. It was better than yesterday. Right now I just finished the season, which was a long one. Next I go to Korea to have some fun and to spend time with my family. Then I’ll decide [about the future].”
Asada performed two triple Axels in her “Bells of Moscow” routine as well as four other triples, but the technical panel downgraded the second triple Axel attempt. She did, however, land all other planned jumps without a problem. When compared to the sophisticated choreography of her main opponent, the Japanese’s routine appeared to be rather empty, but the passionate performance by the Olympic silver medalist quite made up for the difference in two programs’ layouts. The particular highlight of Asada’s performance was the final straightline step sequence. She picked up 129.50 (67.02/62.48) points, and with 197.58 points in total, won her second world title.
“I am very happy that not only Japanese men, but also Japanese women won the gold here,” said the skater in her post-event interview. “The performance by Daisuke Takahashi encouraged me to do well today. I’ve heard all the Japanese fans and all the other people who cheered for me today, and I want to thank them for their support.”
“For both the short and the long programs at the Championships my aim was to do perfect performances,” the Japanese Champion continued, “and I think overall I accomplished my task relatively well. I was already very happy at the end of my performance because of the perfection I was able to achieve, and on the top of it, I got the gold medal, so I am very pleased.”
The skater, who struggled with consistency in the beginning of the season, said that she still has not decided to whom to turn to for the assistance in the future. “Of course I think there is still a lot of things that I can improve, both in the variety of jumps and in other elements. I haven’t yet decided, but hope I will be able to find the right person to guide me.”
Meanwhile, she feels that the difficulties she experienced in the autumn made her stronger as a result. “Back then I did not think I would be sitting here as world champion at the end of the season. The problem was that my triple Axels were not consistent enough. But I continued to challenge and to press forward, and now at the end of season they are quite stable and the challenge helped to become what I am today and that’s why we are sitting here.”
“I have been competing with Yu-Na since we both were Juniors,” the 19-year-old concluded, “and I always knew that I would have to train at least as hard as she does. I think that we continue to push each other even now.”
Teammate Miki Ando did not attempt a triple-triple combination, but skated a strong program to a mixture of soundtracks, in which she portrays Cleopatra. The performance featured six triple jumps, including a triple Salchow-double Axel sequence. Her only mistakes were a shaky landing on the flying sit spin which was downgraded to level two, and a downgraded jump on a three-jump combination. The 2007 World Champion placed third in the long with a score of 122.04 (63.64/58.40), and was able to pull up from 11th to fourth place overall with a total of 177.82 points.
“I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s performance,” said the student of Nikolai Morozov, “but today I can say that I came back, thanks to the crowd’s support. Before getting out to the ice, I was quite nervous but I didn’t want to be overcome with my feelings and emotions. When I heard their encouragement I felt relaxed.”
“After the failure at 2006 Olympic Games, I really wanted to leave a good impression here in this city,” added the 22-year-old. “After the Olympic Games in Vancouver, the practice for this championships was very hard, but now I’m happy.”
Canada’s Cynthia Phaneuf, who also portrayed “Cleopatra”, skated to the soundtrack from the French movie Mission Cleopatra.
“It kind of surprised me (to be second skater in the same group using Cleopatra), because Cleopatra is not very often used,” said Phaneuf. “But I had my program for two years now. I think people like it.”
The only problems in the Canadian silver medalist’s performance were the relatively low levels of the spiral and step sequences and one of the spins, which all received level two. However, they in no way distracted from her passionate interpretation of the theme. Much like Ando, who skated earlier, the student of Annie Barabe was thrilled to be doing so well and threw herself into the step sequence at the end of her routine. She received 118.04 (61.48/56.56) to finish fourth in the long program and fifth overall (177.54), securing two spots for Canada for next year’s event.
“When I started this program in my head, I just had the same feeling as you have at home, and this is the last time I was going to do this program,” said the 22-year-old. “I wanted to do it perfect and that’s just what happened. This year I improved with every competition I did. It feels so good just to be out there.”
For next season Phaneuf simply wants to continue to improve. “I’ll just try to create this feeling again… try to have my confidence in myself for the next competition, and with this performance, I’m going to have it for sure.”
Italy’s Carolina Kostner opened the final flight of the ladies long program with a relatively successful performance. The European Champion went for her trademark triple flip-triple toeloop combination, despite promising to ‘play it safe’ in yesterday’s interview, but she stepped out of triple loop and triple Salchow landings. In addition, her triple toe later in the program was downgraded to a double. Still, the enthusiastic home crowd erupted into ovations after each of her moves, including spins and an impressive spiral sequence.
The 23-year-old finished fifth in the long with 115.11 (54.87/60.24) points and sixth overall (177.31).
“My first goal was to end well the long season,” said Kostner. “I didn’t think about the final result, just about skating the best I could. I had to recover after the failure of Olympic Games, and I think I did it. I was less nervous than yesterday, more relaxed and that allowed me to approach the elements more concentrated and do them well. I have to thank the crowd that supported and pushed me. They moved me.”
Laura Lepistö started off strongly, nailing a triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination and triple Lutz, but that was the end of her successful triple jumps attempts as she popped the rest of them into doubles. The Finn did recover some ground by getting high levels on spins and steps, and her interpretation of Adios Nonino was unexpectedly passionate and intense. She scored 114.32 (54.24/60.08) points to finish sixth in the long program, but remained third overall with 178.62 points.
“I am so happy to get a bronze!” exclaimed the 21-year-old. “I can’t express it. I don’t know what to think. I was so nervous waiting for the others scores and now it’s just amazing. I still do not realize what this medal means for me and for Finland. Those fantastic Asian girls seemed to be unreachable, but also in Europe we have very good skaters and I think we are getting close to them.”
“I am very happy for my Championships,” continued the Finnish Champion. “Today I performed very well the hardest elements, but I’m very annoyed for the easiest ones. They are not difficult for me but I didn’t do them perfectly. Yesterday I did a very good short program and got the small bronze medal that is very honorable for me but I did not put too much pressure on me, I just kept my concentration focusing on my today’s program.”
Lepistö claims that it was not too hard to refocus after the Olympics. “The Olympics were also a very good competition for me. I was able to improve my personal best very much and it was one big step forward for me. After the Games I was a bit tired. Afterwards I was able to get motivation quite easily because I knew I was in good shape and I was looking forward to this competition.”
Skating in the first warm-up group after a disastrous short program yesterday, Akiko Suzuki only popped her triple flip in the second half of her engaging routine to West Side Story. The Japanese silver medalist otherwise landed five triple jumps overall, and impressed the audience with joy and expression during the final step sequence. She earned 111.68 (58.96/52.72) points to finish seventh in the long, but remained in 11th place overall (160.04).
“I did my best not only for the jumps, but also for my skating,” said the 24-year-old. “Yesterday’s performance was not so good, but I wanted to refocus and to come back strongly in order to end this good season at my best. It was difficult to relax in a short period like the one we had since the Olympics.”
Ksenia Makarova drew the last starting number, and with the way the things were at that moment, the 17-year-old had a chance to win a bronze medal if only she could skate clean. The pressure, however, proved to be to much for the debutant.
The Russian Champion nailed her opening triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination, but had tight landings on the majority of the remaining jumps, and fell on her final jumping pass – a triple Salchow. Still, her performance as a whole was a very decent attempt and nothing to be ashamed of. She scored 107.58 for her eight place in the long and overall (169.64 points), securing two spots for Russia for next year.
“I was just a little nervous, after all I skated last in the last group,” said Makarova. “I closed this Championships and I had to skate well. Obviously there were mistakes, but I’m glad that this season has ended and that a new season is about to start. I didn’t expect this season to go so well. I started out to skate in juniors and in the end I competed at the senior level.”
Rachael Flatt once again failed to produce a triple-triple combination as the landing of her opening triple flip was quite shaky and she was only able to tack a double toeloop at the end, and the technical panel did not ratify the flip as fully rotated.
The U.S. Champion also popped a triple Lutz attempt in the second half of the program into a single, and overall her program to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, while having some moments of brilliance, did not come across as a strong artistic performance. She scored 106.56 for the long and 167.44 finished in the ninth place overall.
“I was so tired… it wasn’t ideal at all,” offered the the 17-year-old, “but I think I gave some very good performances this year. It is hard to get through the pressure, but I’m glad I did some elements well. It was just a difficult program.”
Flatt is uncertain about the future. “I’m enjoying the idea of taking a year off for college. I think I will have to make this decision in several weeks, and we’ll see what happens.”
Viktoria Helgesson improved her personal best by 19 points after skating the best program of her career up to date and landing all six planned triple jumps. While the Swedish Champion was very focused throughout her routine to One Moment in Time and Canone Inverso, she displayed solid skating skills and rounded up the top ten (161.79).
Overnight leader Mirai Nagasu struggled with most of her jumping passes, successfully executing only a double Axel-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip and a triple loop-double Axel sequence. Nonetheless, her charming and upbeat rendition of Carmen was one of the highlights of the event, even if it was not exactly true to the more sinister character she was presumably trying to portray. The U.S. silver medalist finished 11th in the long program, but seventh overall (175.48).
“It was an honor to skate here,” said the 16-year-old. “I’m just really disappointed in myself for not stepping up to the plate today and not doing the best I could have done. Coming out of the Olympics in fourth place… seventh place is just a really big fall. This isn’t how I have been practicing my program. I told myself that I wouldn’t feel like this anymore last year, and it’s really a big bummer to feel like this again.”
Sarah Hecken of Germany was the only other skater to land a triple-triple combination, and she finished 12th (153.99).