Great Night of Skating in Ladies Short Programby Laura Fawcett
|Yu-Na Kim of South Korea|
(3/23/07) - The ladies made the wait worthwhile, as the final event of the 2007 World Championships showcased both artistry and technical prowess at a high level.
Yu-Na Kim of Korea ended any doubts that her back injury would derail her skating, as she collected a record-high score of 71.95 to grab first place Friday night at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Japan's Miki Ando gave the home crowd something to cheer about as she finished second, just three points behind Kim. Italy's Carolina Kostner was the surprise third-place finisher, and defending World champion Kimmie Meissner is also in the hunt with a fourth-place finish and a personal best 64.67.
The four top ladies all performed triple-triples in their programs, perhaps heralding a step forward in the technical difficulty of the ladies competition.
Meissner cleared a hurdle with her clean short program. She was fighting with the triple Lutz all week, and even fell on one during the six-minute warm-up. She regrouped to land a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, triple flip and the double Axel.
“I was a little bit nervous tonight,” Meissner said. “The short program is always a little nerve-racking for me. I was super excited to land that combination, and then to finish the rest of the program solidly … I felt really good.”
Meissner always likes the free skate better than the short program – more chances to earn points.
Kim's score topped the previous international best score, which was posted by Sasha Cohen at 2003 Skate Canada. Her mix of technical difficulty and expression might have awed even the most jaded fan. She landed a triple flip-triple toe, triple Lutz and an Ina Bauer into a double Axel, all with ease.
In the kiss and cry with coach Brian Orser, the Canadian World champion and Olympic silver medalist, Kim was almost knocked out of her seat by the scores. This is Orser's first experience at Worlds “on the other side of the boards.”
“You're always a little bit nervous about the unknown,” Orser said. “She certainly made my first experience very nice.”
Kim has been fighting a bulging disc and inflammation in the sacroiliac (SI) joint since the Grand Prix Final in December.
“She is so tough,” Orser said. “It's remarkable when you see the couple of months we've just had with the back injury and the pain. Today was the first day she skated without any pain at the practice. We were down to the wire … perfect timing. We just have to get through tomorrow.”
“Today I was a lot more nervous (than at Europeans), just because of the environment and atmosphere,” said Kostner, who lost two months of preparation due to an injury in the fall. “I knew everybody here is strong and well prepared.”
Her score of 67.15 looked like it could hold up through the event until Kim took the ice. Ando's triple Lutz-triple loop combination might have given her the edge, but lower grades of executions on her technical elements left her trailing, 71.95-67.98.
“My morning practice was not so good,” Ando said, “and I was nervous during the six-minute warm-up. But after the triple Lutz-triple loop combination, I felt really good and started to enjoy performing.”
Emily Hughes is in striking distance of a medal after also skating a clean program. She's in sixth place with a personal best 60.88 points after landing a triple flip-double toe, triple Lutz and double Axel. Besides Mao Asada, Hughes was the top skater in the field who didn't land a triple-triple.
“Going into this I wanted to skate a clean program and get a personal best, and I accomplished both of those thing,” she said.
Asada popped the back end of her planned triple flip-triple loop combination, but high program component scores (second-highest of the night) kept her in fifth place with 61.32 points.
Alissa Czisny had a rough go in her Worlds debut, falling on her triple flip, popping the double Axel, and having her triple Lutz-double toe downgraded.
“I couldn't get myself focused out there,” she said. “There was nothing I could do to change it.”
Her planned combination was the triple flip-double toe, but after falling on the flip, she tacked the toe onto the Lutz for more points. She's in 18th with 49.43 points.
“I think I'm going to try and forget about today and go out tomorrow and skate my best,” she said.
The ladies free skate is Saturday evening.