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Kim posts record SP score at Four Continents

Surprises pile up behind record-setting Korean in Vancouver

Yu-Na Kim showed her excitement when she landed this jump. She had plenty to smile about on Wednesday at the Four Continents Championships.
Yu-Na Kim showed her excitement when she landed this jump. She had plenty to smile about on Wednesday at the Four Continents Championships. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(02/05/2009) - World champion Mao Asada of Japan out-skated South Korea's Yu-Na Kim for gold at the Grand Prix Final in December, but it was Kim who prevailed Wednesday in the women's short program at the 2009 ISU Four Continents Championships, in the process setting a new record for the highest ladies short program score in international competition under the International Judging System -- 72.24.

Asada finished a shocking sixth, earning just 57.86 points, after doubling her planned triple Lutz and scoring just Level 2s on two of her spins.

Five-time Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, fourth at the GP Final, is second with 66.90 points, thanks to her error-free outing. She had hoped to have her triple-triple combination -- a Lutz-toe -- materialize this time, but she settled for a triple-double once more.

Kim was the only one of the top six women to get credit for a triple-triple jump combination. She opened with a beautiful flip-toe.

Kim skated without evident flaw, sailing through jump after jump and igniting the audience with her interpretation of Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre."

"After having injuries in February the last two seasons, I tried to be healthy and in top condition. My programs have been getting better in practice, beacuse it's the end of the season. I really wanted to do the same in competition, and I did it today. I did the high score for the short program, so I'm very happy," said Kim, who trains in Toronto with two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Kim and Asada have been rivals since their junior days. Each of them won the world junior title once. Both now 18, they enjoyed immediate success upon graduating to the senior level in the 2006-07 season. Asada won Four Continents in Kim's absence with injury a year ago, while Rochette was second.

The second big surprise of the night, after Asada's finish, came from a former Canadian champion, Cynthia Phaneuf, who skated into third place with 60.98 points, just ahead of Japan's Fumie Suguri, who finished at 60.18.

Phaneuf, 21, who won the Canadian title in 2004, has been in comeback mode ever since enduring a series of injuries and going through jumping issues related to a major growth spurt when she was 17. Today, she hit every one of her jump elements and offered sophisticated choreography in her program, which was set to "Nocturne."

"It's such a relief. I was just feeling so good out there to skate a clean program for the first time since 2005," said Phaneuf.

At 28, Japan's Suguri is the veteran of the field. She won this event twice before -- in 2003 and 2005 -- and appears to have been reborn this season under the tutelege of coach Nikolai Morozov.

American Caroline Zhang, the recently-crowned national bronze medalist and the 2007 world junior champion, skated a solid program, except for the downgraded triple toe in her triple-triple combination. She is in fifth place with 58.16 points.

The new U.S. champion, Alissa Czisny, encountered major problems on her opening jumps, but her splendid spins, footwork and spiral helped her cause. She placed seventh at 55.62.

Rachael Flatt, the 2009 U.S. silver medalist and 2008 world junior champion, offered an expressive program set to "Moon River." Unfortunately, she also received a downgrade for her triple flip-triple toe, a popular combination on Wednesday. Also, her spins were judged to be not as high in difficulty as Zhang's. After tallying 55.44 points, Flatt is in eighth position.

The women's short program was a five-hour marathon featuring 35 competitors whose scores ranged from the 23.76 posted by Hong Kong's Kristine Y. Lee to Kim's record-setting tally of 72.24.

The top 24 women advanced to Friday's final.