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Kim sets new standard in ladies short at worlds

Rochette second; Asada nine points off the lead

Yu-Na Kim easily won the ladies short program at the 2009 World Championships.
Yu-Na Kim easily won the ladies short program at the 2009 World Championships. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/27/2009) - Most everybody expected the ladies' event at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships to be yet another showdown between Yu-Na Kim and Mao Asada, with the usual suspects playing supporting roles.

Not so fast. While Kim played leading lady to perfection with a sublime performance to Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre," Asada doubled her triple Lutz and sits third, some nine points off the lead.

"I think this was one of those moments people will always remember, especially those judges," said Brian Orser, the two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist who coaches Kim in Toronto.

"Everything came together at the right time. Yu-Na beat her [personal-best] score by four points. When you get to the world championships, the level of everything comes up. She's trained so well, and, on this stage, every gesture just gets better."

Kim, who placed third behind Asada and Carolina Kostner at worlds last season, skated like liquid gold. She opened with a high-flying triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz, followed by a superb spiral sequence and three other Level 4 elements.

"Two years ago, at my first world championships, I did my personal-best short program but not so well in the long program," she said. "Now I just want to do well in the long program tomorrow."

The 18-year-old, who hails from Gunpo City, was buoyed by the many Korean fans in the crowd.

"With a lot of Koreans in the audience today, I was very comfortable when skating," she said. "I feel I was able to do well because of all the people cheering for me out there."

Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, whose highest worlds' finish in six trips was fifth place last season, earned a personal-best 67.90 points for her short program, and that landed her in second place.

Rochette did not attempt a triple-triple combination, opting for a relatively safe triple Lutz-double toe. But her performance quality shone through, and her program components score was second only to Kim's.

"I feel confident for the long program, and I'm anxious to come back tomorrow," she said. "The free program is my strength. When I first started, I didn't feel completely on, but when I landed my flip, I could enjoy myself."

Asada opened her program, set to the Debussy's lilting "Clair de Lune," with a sterling triple flip-triple loop, but a shaky double Lutz, instead of her usual triple, cost her dearly. While her score of 66.06 was still a season high, today it wasn't good enough.

"One of my goals in the first half was to complete the triple-triple," she said. "I was satisfied about that, but for the second half, I was not able to do my best, so I'm not satisfied. Tomorrow, I would like to skate with no misses."

Asada and Kim have been rivals since their junior days, with the Japanese champion capturing the world junior crown in 2005 and Kim returning the favor a year later. Last season, Asada came out on top at worlds while Kim, somewhat limited by a back injury, placed third.

The two have split their two meetings so far this season, with Asada capturing the Grand Prix Final in December and Kim winning Four Continents.

2007 world champion Miki Ando sits fourth, despite having her opening triple flip-triple loop combination downgraded by the technical panel. She earned 64.12 points.

European champion Kostner was a bit off her game, leaning forward on her opening triple flip and double-footing the landing of her solo triple Lutz. Her 63.18 points put her fifth.

U.S. silver medalist Rachael Flatt had a season-best outing to "Moon River" slightly marred by a step-out on her triple flip. The 16-year-old honors student did some quick thinking, adding on a double toe to her triple Lutz and ending up seventh with 59.30 points.

"I'm disappointed with how the combination came out; aside from that, it was a good program," she said. "I let it go pretty much as soon as it happened. I knew I needed a combination in, so I just tacked it on to the triple Lutz."

After starting well with a solid triple Lutz-double toe combination, U.S. champion Alissa Czisny fell on both her triple flip and double Axel attempts, landing in 14th place with 53.28 points.

"Today was disappointing, because it's not the way I've been practicing," Czisny said. "I guess I had higher expectations of myself, and today it just didn't happen.

"The first jump was pretty good. I was comfortable going into the second jump and got tight after that. I wasn't expecting to fall."

Barring calamities to many of the top-placed skaters, the U.S. will get only two ladies' spots for the upcoming Olympic Games. To earn three, the placements cannot equal more than 13.

"Everybody keeps reminding me, and I can't think about that because I can't control the outcome," Czisny said.