Nagasu leads in Turin

 

USA's Mirai Nagasu leads the ladies after the Short Program to Pirates of the Caribbean at the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships.

USA’s Mirai Nagasu (USA) finished first in the Ladies Short Program, ahead of Japan’s Mao Asada and Finland’s Laura Lepistö.

Nagasu opened her routine to Pirates of Caribbean soundtrack with an ambitious triple Lutz-triple toeloop attempt, but the second jump in the combination was not fully rotated. She later nailed a triple flip and double Axel, but what really propelled her to the top position at her first senior World Championships were her superb spins, for which she received the best marks of the evening – including a straight +3 from all the judges for the execution of a level four layback spin.

The U.S. silver medalist  improved her personal best by five points to 70.40 (40.20/30.20) points and became the only skater who had a total score above 70 points, as well as a  technical sum above 40 points.

“I am really happy with the way I skated today,” said the student of Frank Carroll at the post event press conference. “I was able to put together a good Short Program where I was able to do everything I planned to do. I held all my spins and spirals, gathered my levels. And I’m happy I was able to do it the last time I get to do this Short Program.”

“I think this is the good start for me,” continued the 16-year-old who placed fourth at the Olympics. “I am happy that I was able to do a triple-triple combination today. I really wanted to try it at the Olympic Games, but was not able to, and it is very important for me that I went for it here. To be able to do it, I just listened to my coach. He has a very positive aura about him, and I appreciate all the things he does for me and I am happy I was able to pull it off today.”

“I am trying not to think about the lead,” Nagasu responded about when asked about being first going in to the free skate. “I’m just happy with how I skated. I hope that I keep improving from here. On this competition, my goal was just to do my triple-triple combination and do the best short program I could. I did just that and so I’m happy.”

Asada began her  performance with her trademark triple Axel-double toeloop combination, but the technical panel downgraded the jump to a double and she had to settle for a score of only 68.08  (37.12/30.96) points – well below her 75.84 personal record. On a positive side, the student of Tatiana Tarasova achieved good levels of difficulty her  non-jumping elements – a feat which has often eluded her in the past.  Her Waltz Masquerade routine was both intense and airy, and made a very strong impression on the enthusiastic crowd; especially during the final straightline step sequence.

“Of course I am disappointed about the triple Axel downgrade,” the Japanese Champion later told the press. “Otherwise I did very well and I think I have good momentum going into the free. My goal after the Olympics was to skate a clean short and long program. Today’s short had a mistake, but it was a pretty satisfying clean program. I am very confident for tomorrow’s performance.  I felt very inspired by the performance of my friend Daisuke Takahashi yesterday.”

Lepistö opened her routine with a  strong triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination and a nice triple loop, but later was unable to hold onto her double Axel landing. Nonetheless, the Finn was able to pick up a lot of points for the execution of her non-jumping elements, even though two of her spins and a spiral sequence received only level three from the technical panel.

“The double Axel was a bit difficult today,” she later told the press. I don’t know why it was so hard. I felt very confident after my other jumps. Maybe I lost concentration or maybe it was very hot in the ice rink. I was quite surprised when I missed the Axel, but otherwise it was a good performance.”

While the European silver medalist is not the most exciting or expressive skater in the World’s elite, her creative choreography of her stately “Imagined Oceans” routine highlights all her best qualities:  soft stroking, excellent posture and impressive accuracy in execution of every move. This makes it hard to find any fault with her skating. She earned 64.30 (34.98/29.32) points and received a small bronze medal for her third place finish in the short program.

“I am satisfied,” commented Lepistö. “First when I came home from the Olympic Games I was tired,  but when I started practicing again, my motivation came back immediately and I was looking forward to competing here.”

“I am a bit surprised about the third place,” the 21-year-old continued when asked about her placement. “I just want to concentrate on my performance, not to think about the placements. Of course I am very proud to be on the third place now, but I don’t really want to think about it too much. That way it’s easiest to skate in the free skating.”

Italy’s  Carolina Kostner, who has been struggling with consistency all season, skated a rather strong program by her current standards, landing a triple flip-double toe loop combination, but doubling a triple loop out of steps. The experienced competitor did not allow the mistake to interrupt the serene flow of her Nocturne and Violin Concerto routine, or her devotion to the choreography.

Kostner’s  basic skating skills, along with the effortless glide she achieved across the ice, are still among the best in the world, and she received an impressive level four for her circular step sequence. In the error-filled field, the European Champion was able to hold onto fourth place on the strength of her program components score with 62.20 (33.20/29.00) points.

“It was fantastic to skate with this audience and with the crowd shouting your name,” said the 23-year-old.  “My legs trembled because of all the criticism I heard after the Olympics. It was difficult to react, and I also felt  insecure because of the mistakes I had at the Olympics. We decided to be smart and to reduce (the program content). Tomorrow I will have the same strategy, but I want to do better. I want to have a clean program.”

Ksenia Makarova landed a triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination and a triple flip out of steps to improve her personal best to 62.06. (36.90/25.16) points after an elegant performance to the Ladies in Lavender soundtrack. The Russian Champion is currently sitting in fifth at her first ever World Championships.

“This time I was not nervous at all!” exclaimed the 17-year-old. “I even was surprised myself about that. But of course after the Olympic Games, the feeling is completely different! I feel much more confident because I know that if I could show a clean skating there, I can do that everywhere. And this time I didn’t get tired at all. Usually by the end of a program you feel exhausted, but today I did one element after another and felt great.”

Rachel Flatt delivered what looked like a flawless routine to Sing, Sing, Sing, but after a tight landing on her triple flip, was forced to change her jump combination to a triple-double. Also her layback spin received only level one.

“I have never shown a triple-double combination in my short at all this year,” said the U.S. Champion, “so it was a little disappointing not to get a triple-triple and I think that would have helped to improve my score significantly. But things don’t always work out.”

The choreography of her jazzy routine was really well planned, but the student of Tom Zakrajsek needs more abandon to make the playful moves look natural rather than studied. She scored 60.88 (33.80/27.08) points for sixth place to round up the final warm-up for the Long Program.

“It was difficult to get right back into training after the Olympics,” commented the 17-year-old, “but Worlds is such a great competition and I really wanted to compete well here. So I use it as motivation and just want to have fun. That’s what it comes down to.”

The main news of the event was the uncharacteristically weak performance by Olympic Champion Yu-Na Kim. The South Korean ended the day at seventh place, missing the cutoff for the final flight for the long program tomorrow.

Kim started off as strongly as usual, nailing an effortless triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, but had a hard landing on an underrotated triple flip and then immediately missed the entry to the next element – the layback spin. The unexpected mistake seemed to throw the skater off, and later she was not able to hit the second position in her spiral sequence.

“The first triple-triple combination was perfect,” noted Kim, “but then I felt unsure on my left foot. It was shaking and I don’t know why. My layback spin, my spiral and the footwork  – I don’t know what happened. It is the first time that I missed an element, other than jumps, and I am surprised.”

While Kim  recovered to land a strong double Axel,  the skating phenom appeared to be quite shaky throughout, going through her complex choreography without the usual commitment and having a couple of close calls on the straightline step sequence. She earned 60.30 (30.02/30.28) and is currently seventh – by far the worst result of her entire career.

“I didn’t expect a Short Program like that,” said the defending World Champion, “but tomorrow I will fight because my motivation is still high, and moreover, this will be the last program of the season. After the Olympic Games I was a little scared to compete again. The Olympic Games were my goal and I wasn’t sure if I can fight again for the World Championships. Now I want to forget about this and do my best tomorrow.”

Cynthia Phaneuf, who unexpectedly found herself representing Canada after the withdrawal of Joannie Rochette, was not as impressive as her more decorated teammate would have been. Nonetheless, she gave a very decent performance in which she had a tight landing on her opening double Axel and put a hand down on triple Lutz in combination with a double toeloop. The student of Annie Barabe was able to compensate for the mistake on the jumps by the quality and difficulty of her spins and steps, and the lovely execution of her “Nocturne” routine earned her  59.50 (33.94/25.56) points for an eighth place finish.

“I am very happy with my performance, even if I could have done better and skate faster,” said the 22-year-old. “I made a mistake on the triple Lutz. Tomorrow will be the last time with this program.  Being here is very different to Olympic Games and Nationals. I am less nervous, especially because I am not performing in front of my home crowd. Joannie Rochette withdrawing  does not make any difference for me. I am here to do my job the best I can.”

Viktoria Helgesson of Sweden became a surprise participant of the penultimate flight tomorrow after the skate, whose best result to this date was 11th place at this year’s European Championships. The 21-year-old landed a clean triple flip double toeloop combination and a triple loop out of steps. Some of her spins were a bit shaky, but she managed to hold onto the positions long enough to receive good levels of difficulty, and scored 56.32 (32.68/23.64) points for ninth place.

Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen began her farewell World Championships at 10th place (56.10) after the technical panel downgraded her triple flip attempt.

In addition to Lepistö, Makarova, and Kim, the other skaters to produce clean triple-triple combinations were Sarah Hecken (GER, 55.20, 13th  place) and Elena Glebova (EST, 47.72, 22nd place).

Two Japanese favorites, Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki struggled with their jumps. Ando fell on an underrotated triple Lutz to finish 11th, and Suzuki fell on a triple flip and stepped out of both the triple loop-double toe loop combination and double Axel to finish 20th.

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