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Kim surges to big lead after short at Skate America

Ando is in second; Nagasu is the top American

Yu-Na Kim was less than two-and-a-half points off her personal best on Saturday.
Yu-Na Kim was less than two-and-a-half points off her personal best on Saturday. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/26/2008) - Yu-Na Kim's short program music, "Danse Macabre," tells the tale of skeletons that rise from the grave and dance until the break of dawn, but there will be no dancing on the skater's grave tonight.

The two-time world bronze medalist from South Korea opened up an 11.70-point lead over the field with a dynamic routine that featured the event's only clean triple-triple combination.

"This is the first competition of the season, and since this was my first program, I was a little nervous," Kim said. "I made one small mistake but was able to focus during the rest of the performance."

Kim faltered on the landing of her double Axel. Had it not been for that slip, she may have set a new personal best.

The 18-year-old, who has sparkled in the competition practices, hit her opening triple flip-triple toe combination, racking up 10.70 points. All eight of her elements, except the double Axel, gained positive Grades of Execution from the judges.

"My jumps were better, more consistent," a confident and relaxed Kim said. "Hopefully tomorrow will be good. Up to now, I feel very good physically."

Kim enters this season with no sign of the hip and back injuries that forced her withdrawal from the 2008 Four Continents Championships and limited her practices prior to the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships.

"She's fine now," her coach, Brian Orser, said. "She has good people working with her -- a new physiotherapist and a new trainer. She's a smart athlete, smarter than she's ever been. She knows how to listen to her body."

Behind Kim, less than three points separate the next five skaters.

Japan's Miki Ando was second with a solid program, set to music from Memoirs of a Geisha, that earned 57.80 points.

The 2007 world champion appeared to open with a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, but the loop was downgraded to a double by the technical panel. Ando also tripped on her straight-line footwork sequence, earning a one-point deduction.

It was an impressive mini-comeback for the skater, who dissolved in tears after injuring her shoulder during her free skate at the 2008 worlds and withdrew from the event.

"I think I was ready for this competition," the 20-year-old said. "I knew I was skating well. I'm happy I landed the triple-triple; I'm a little disappointed I fell on my footwork. That was a stupid mistake, but I enjoyed skating tonight and I feel so good."

Another Japanese skater, Yukari Nakano, sits third with 57.46 points, just 0.34 behind her countrywoman.

Nakano doubled an intended triple Lutz but said she was happy with her outing to Dimitri Shostakovich's score from The Gadfly.

"I was quite nervous, but I didn't cut the flow of the program. I continued through to the end," she said.

The three Americans are in fourth, fifth and sixth place, and all are still in contention for medals.

Performing to a medley of Charlie Chaplin tunes, U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu proved she could think on her feet when she improvised a triple flip-double toe loop combination after a flawed landing on her opening triple Lutz cut her planned combo short.

"The mistake cost me points, and I wanted to get them back," the 15-year-old said. "I started thinking about how to get [the combination] with my second jump, and after I landed the flip, I just did it."

Nagasu's coach, Charlene Wong, revealed yesterday that the skater has been coping with an injury.

"Mirai and her parents consulted a doctor, and it was decided she would stay on the ice as much as possible but abstain from moves that aggravate her right ankle," Wong said. "This week, it hasn't been a big problem."

U.S. silver medalist Rachael Flatt scored 54.92 points with her lyrical skate to Henry Mancini's "Moon River." The 16-year-old lost ground when the technical panel downgraded her triple flip-triple loop and assigned an edge deduction to her triple Lutz.

"It was pretty good, not my best," the world junior champion said. "I didn't get some of the levels I wanted, and I was a little anxious on my triple loop."

2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner has been perfecting her triple flip, but her new technique let her down and she fell on the jump. She is sixth with 54.90 points.

"I really thought I had it," Meissner, 19, said. "Todd [Eldredge] told me I got a little bit ahead of it. It's something we're working on. I'm excited about everything else in the program; I thought it was a good performance."