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Rejuvenated Kim leaves Skate America field in dust

Japanese duo takes the silver and bronze

Yu-Na Kim waves to the crowd after her gold medal-winning free skate.
Yu-Na Kim waves to the crowd after her gold medal-winning free skate. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/26/2008) - This one was never in doubt.

A confident and relaxed Yu-Na Kim, with last season's back and hip injuries seemingly behind her, blasted past the field by more than 20 points to take home her first Skate America title.

"I am satisfied with both of my programs and would like to keep up this pace throughout the season," said Kim, who earned 193.45 points overall.

If the South Korean teen fulfills her pledge it will be bad news for her rivals. The 18-year-old was nearly flawless in her free skate to Rimski-Korsakov's Sheherazade, hitting six triple jumps, including a superb opening triple flip-triple toe combination -- the only triple-triple of the event that was not downgraded by the technical panel. Her only notable mistake was popping a planned triple loop into a single.

"I tried to do the program as I do it in practice," Kim said. "I was a bit nervous, but when I thought about [the competition] as though it was practice, I found my confidence and was able to pull through."

The skater, who hails from Gunpo City but trains in Toronto under Brian Orser, expressed gratitude to a large Korean contingent in the crowd.

"They really helped make things a lot more comfortable for me," she said.

If Kim keeps her form, the only lady who may be capable of defeating her is longtime rival Mao Asada, the reigning world champion. The two could square off at the ISU Grand Prix Final in December, but Kim isn't looking ahead.

"[Skate America] is an individual competition, so I was trying to focus on that," she said. "There are so many top skaters from all over the world, including Japanese skaters and American skaters. Of course, I would like to see Korean skaters at that level, so we can all compete."

Both Japanese ladies here -- Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando -- performed to music from the classic ballet Giselle. Nakano, who was fourth at the 2008 World Championships, edged out Ando for the silver medal.

"Actually, right after worlds, I told my choreographer Marina Zoueva I would like to skate to Giselle," Nakano said. "That's when we decided to use this music.

"Miki and I found out we were skating to the same music at the end of July at a press conference in Japan. We were both surprised, and Mao [Asada] was surprised as well."

Ando, who won the world title in 2007, said the coincidence might work to their advantage.

"We laughed about it so much; it is pretty funny," she said. "I think it is good for us because everyone can [compare] two different Giselles. We will practice more, because I want to do a better Giselle than Yukari, and maybe Yukari is thinking the same."

At this event, Nakano's Giselle, which featured far more ballet-like touches, including toe steps, than Ando's, triumphed by virtue of superior program component scores. The skater did not try her signature jump, the triple Axel, or a triple-triple combination but still took second place in the free with 115.07 points.

"After the six-minute warm-up, I had a discussion with my coach [Nobuo Sato], and he advised me that it was too early [in the season] to try a triple-triple," Nakano said. "He told me whether to do a triple Axel was completely up to me. I thought about it and did not feel completely secure, so I decided not to go for it this time."

Ando pronounced herself satisfied with the bronze, despite having her opening triple toe loop-triple loop downgraded. She hit all her other jumps but had low levels on a spiral sequence and combination spin.

"I was so nervous, but after I did the triple-triple my jumps were good for me," she said. "I had a mistake on my spiral sequence, and I was disappointed with that.

"My coach [Nikolai Morozov] and I talked about the quad [Salchow], but Nikolai told me not to do it, because this is the first competition of the year and it is better to have a clean program. I did a clean program today, so his choice was correct; he told me I could try it at my next competition, Cup of China."

Rachael Flatt placed fourth in the free and fourth overall, tops among the American contingent.

The Colorado Springs-based world junior champion had a solid skate to Debussy's "La Mer," although she lost ground when she fell on an intended triple Salchow.

"I'm a little disappointed. It was not my best, but I can learn from it," the 16-year-old said. "I have to get used to competing against the top ladies in the world."

U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu, who entered Skate America troubled by both a growth spurt and a sore right ankle, placed seventh in the long program and fifth overall, after several of the jumps in her free skate were judged under rotated.

"I'm really disappointed a lot of my jumps were downgraded," the 15-year-old said. "Still, I couldn't do my jumps before I got here, and I was excited to do them in the [competition] practices. I think maybe I did too many. Hopefully, I can get that under control. I want to redeem myself at NHK Trophy."

2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner fell on her first jump, an intended triple Lutz, and never regained her footing. She placed ninth in the free and eighth overall.

"I'm a little frustrated right now," Meissner, 19, admitted. "I don't know what happened."