Flatt captures gold in ladies final

Consistent performance earns Flatt first-place finish

Rachel Flatt waits for her free skate scores with coach Tom Zakrajsek.
Rachel Flatt waits for her free skate scores with coach Tom Zakrajsek. (Klaus-Reinhold Kany)


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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(03/01/2008) - The ladies free program was the last competition at the World Junior Championships. After the short program, three ladies from the U.S. were ahead, so the fight for gold had a decidedly American flair.

To the surprise of many, it was Rachael Flatt -- a pupil of Tom Zakrajsek from Colorado Springs -- who finally won. She was the only American to not make any mistakes, her only big mistake was when she jumped off from the wrong edge on her second Lutz. Her six other triple jumps, and the double Axel were nearly perfect.

Her interpretation of the "Romantic Rhapsody" by Mathieu got average component scores of 6.3. Flatt also had the highest speed of the three American skaters.

The newly crowned champion commented: "I am excited to be here and I skated very well. I really wanted to do all my jumps, and really skate my heart out. So, I did achieve my goal. For next season, I hope to include the triple Axel in my program. My Lutz is a bit inconsistent, but we are working on jumping off from the right edge. I will make my international senior debut next season."

Second and only 0.35 points behind Flatt was Caroline Zhang, who skated to Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria". Her toeloop was downgraded, which cost her about three points and the gold medal.

Zhang's two Lutzes were started from the wrong edge, but two flips and a toeloop, as well as two double Axels received plus points. Her three spins earned level 3's and 4's and, for her brilliant and acrobatic layback spin, nine of the twelve judges gave a +3 GOE, and three a +2 GOE.

Later, Zhang said: "Before I came I was injured. I had a hematoma, and I sprained my back. When I came here at one of my practices I fell really hard and got another hematoma. It has been bothering me and I am just glad to get past it. I will concentrate on my other jumps and do not plan at the moment to focus on the triple Axel."

The new U.S. champion, Mirai Nagasu, won only bronze despite holding the lead entering the free skate. Her Salchow and loop were clean, but she jumped off of the wrong edge on her two Lutzes. One of them, as well as a flip, were downgraded.

Later she said: "I am a bit disappointed in myself for not doing a little bit better in the free skate today, but not with my placement. This result is a good way to end my season because I learned something. I think I let my nerves take control of me instead of me taking control of them."

Jenni Vähämaa from Finland finished fourth in the competition for the second consecutive year. She skated gracefully, but missed three of her jumps. Yuki Nishino from Japan rounded out the top five in a competition which had started with 56 ladies.

The U.S. team was the most successful team at this junior world championships with three gold, one silver and one bronze medal.