Ice Network

Borscht belts: Kim banks on Olympic experience

Arutunian returns to roots; Kwan relates to Chan's pain; Asada keeps mum
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Yu-Na Kim is hoping her experience and presence on the ice are enough to trump Julia Lipnitskaia's technical content. -Getty Images

A relaxed, smiling Yu-Na Kim gave hungry reporters a few bits of news in the mixed zone after her practice at the Iceberg Skating Palace early Sunday afternoon.

The 23-year-old Olympic champion spent much of her on-ice session working on her triple Lutz and triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. In a run-through of her "Adios Nonino" free skate, choreographed by David Wilson, she opened with the combination and later popped the second triple Lutz into a single.

"I am most concerned about training the Lutz because I have two of them in my program," Kim said, adding that she used the practice to get comfortable with the Iceberg.

"I tried to look around the rink and into the crowd. I have competed in many rinks, and each is different. I didn't notice too much special about this rink."

The Korean superstar will begin defense of her crown Feb. 19, the date of the ladies short program, when she will put her triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip on display. The following night, she will perform her free skate, in which she has six triples planned: the Lutz combination and solo Lutz, plus flip and two Salchows (one in combination with double jumps). She will also do two double Axels, one in combination with a double or triple toe. Kim performed these jumps at her only international event this season, Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia, in early December.

This technical content may not as high as that of budding Russian star Julia Lipnitskaia, who executed not only a triple Lutz-triple toe in her team free skate here but also a double Axel-triple toe-double toe.

"The Russian skaters are better here than they were in Vancouver," Kim said, not mentioning Lipnitskaia by name. "But it is their first Olympics, and they are just experiencing everything for the first time. For me, it is my second Olympics.

"Here in Russia, their skaters are very popular and will get good support from the crowd, but I will try not to think about that," she added.

Curiously, reporters did not seem to ask questions about Kim's long-time rival Mao Asada, who was second to her four years ago in Vancouver. If Asada lands her triple Axel and triple flip-triple loop cleanly, she, too, could have a higher technical base value than Kim in the free skate. The Korean's advantages are consistency and high program components scores.

For now, though, Kim didn't appear worried about defending her title. She enjoys spending time with her teammates, So-Yeon Park and Hae-Jin Kim, saying she wants to help them with their skating. They attended short track events Saturday, and Kim was a bit disappointed Korean skaters didn't win.

"They did better in Vancouver," she said. "They really didn't show their best yesterday."

- Lynn Rutherford

First impressions

Polina Edmunds finally got a taste of Sochi on Sunday, skating in her first practice on ice with the Olympic rings painted on it. She had been working out in Germany and then met up with U.S. teammates Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner to train in Graz, Austria, for four days before arriving here yesterday.

"I saw the Olympic rings on the walls, and it said 'Sochi' on the ice, which was really cool," said Edmunds, who is making her senior international debut at these Winter Games. "It took me about five minutes to get comfortable."

Edmunds said she has watched some of the Olympic coverage on TV, but clearly it's not the same as being here and feeling out the place. Her coach, David Glynn, was rinkside with her, while her mother, Nina, who also coaches her, watched practice from the stands, as only one coach can be credentialed. For Nina, the trip to Sochi is especially sentimental, as she was born and raised in the Russian city of Tver.

One goal Edmunds has while in Sochi is meeting Joe Pavelski, a forward on the U.S. men's hockey team. While Edmunds hails from the Bay Area and Pavelski plays for the San Jose Sharks, the encounter might have a better chance of happening if, as one reporter suggested, the 15-year-old skater wins a medal here.

She smiled and said, "That would be the best way to do it."

Raf back near Georgia roots

Rafael Arutunian is at these Olympics coaching Ashley Wagner, and for him, Sochi is a bit of a homecoming. Arutunian is from the country of Georgia, and Sochi is a Black Sea city located near the Georgia-Russia border. His mother still lives there but her advanced age would have made travel to Sochi too difficult.

For Arutunian to come to Sochi for figure skating is a bit of an oddity. When Arutunian visited the city as a skater, it was not for training. There were no rinks in Sochi when Arutunian was growing up in Georgia. Sochi was a resort town.

"We came here in the summers for off-ice conditioning and recovery," he said.

The last time he was in Sochi was when he was coaching Alexander Abt in the years leading up to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Wagner was in Sochi for the 2012 Grand Prix Final but was working with coach John Nicks at the time.

When Arutunian saw the scale of the Olympic Park and the Iceberg Skating Palace, he was more than impressed.

"It's really incredible what they have done here," Arutunian said. "The facilities are terrific. I have talked to many coaches about this, and they all say this is the best experience of the Olympics they have had before, with all the facilities so close together. I talked with Frank Carroll, and he said it is one of the best facilities he has been to."

No mixing it up

Arutunian did not address the marks given to Wagner for her short program in the team event earlier in these Olympics. Wagner's scowl and her now Internet famous "not impressed" look when she saw her 63.10-point score told her side of the story. Was Arutunian equally umimpressed?

"I teach, she skates and judges judge," he said. "We don't mix up stuff. The skater must not teach. The skater must not judge. The skater must skate."

And if Wagner skates well in the ladies event, they might offer impressed looks then.

Kwan feels Chan's pain

Michelle Kwan can relate to Patrick Chan's disappointing showing in the men's competition. Twice she tried to win the Olympic gold medal, and both times she came up short. In Nagano in 1998, she skated well but was tentative and lost to an electric Tara Lipinski. Then in Salt Lake City in 2002, she two-footed her triple toe and fell on a triple flip, and finished with a bronze medal.

"It was painful," Kwan said. "I know how it feels to skate your best and not be able to do it and to not skate well and not do it. After 1998, I thought, 'What now?' but after Salt Lake I dissected every element. It took me four years to watch [the program] after Salt Lake. That one was much, much harder. I think if Patrick wants to continue, I say go for it. He's only what, 24?"

Asada back in Sochi

Mao Asada today skated in her first practice in Sochi since competing in the team event. She let her skating do the talking, landing her trademark triple Axel during her program run-through but walking on by reporters following practice. Following the team competition, Asada went to train in Armenia. 

- Amy Rosewater

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