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Asada edges Kim in Grand Prix Final

Korean star denied three-peat as Japanese rival takes gold

Mao Asada won the GP ladies title.
Mao Asada won the GP ladies title. (Getty Images)

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By J. Barry Mittan, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2008) - The premiere event of the SBS ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (GPF) was the senior ladies. A packed house cheered Korean favorite Yu-Na Kim's every move and inundated the ice with gifts after each program.

But after losing to Kim for two straight seasons at the Final, Japan's Mao Asada came out on top in her rival's home country.

Asada, the reigning world champion, used "Waltz Masquerade" in her free skate, scoring 123.17 points to win the segment. She had 188.85 total points to edge Kim by 2.20 points for the gold medal.

Asada started her program with a triple Axel-double toe combination, followed by a second triple Axel and a triple flip-double loop-double loop combination. She landed a triple Salchow but then fell on a downgraded triple flip before finishing with a triple toe loop and a double Axel.

"I am happy that I could land two triple Axels in my programs and that I was able to win here in Korea," Asada said. "It is really special."

Kim, skating to Rimski-Korsakov's "Sheherazade," earned second place in the free skate with 120.41 points. Kim, who led after the short program, had a total of 186.35 points to win the silver medal.

She opened with a strong triple flip-triple toe combination, a double Axel, a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination and a double Axel-triple toe combination. But Kim then popped a planned triple Lutz and fell on a triple Salchow before landing a final double Axel.

"I felt a lot of pressure today, and I have a cold that got worse today," Kim stated. "It was the first time for me to compete at home, and it was not easy, but this experience will be helpful for me. It was wonderful to skate here."

Italy's Carolina Kostner, the silver medalist at the 2008 World Championships, scored 112.13 points in her free program to Dvorak's "Dumsky Trio" to place fourth in the segment.

She was fourth after the short program but moved up to third in the final standings with 168.01 points. Kostner also won the bronze in last year's Final.

Kostner doubled the toe loop in her planned triple flip-triple toe combination then landed a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop and a triple flip.

She then fell on a triple loop, landed a double Axel-triple toe, put both hands down on a triple Salchow before landing one more double Axel.

"I was very nervous today, and I don't know why," Kostner said. "I have been training very well. I didn't expect a medal. I'm so happy that, after a difficult start of the season, I was able to improve and to work my way up."

After her sixth place finish in the short program, Canada's Joannie Rochette had too much ground to make up to reach the podium, but she tried, missing by less than two points.

Rochette's free skate to Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" earned a score of 115.68 points, placing her third in the free program. With a total of 166.36 points overall, Rochette finished in fourth place.

She won a bronze medal in her last GPF appearance in 2004.

Rochette had a shaky landing on her opening triple Lutz, preventing her from adding the double toe and double loop in her planned combination. She then landed a triple flip and triple loop before doubling a planned triple Lutz.

She came back with a triple toe-triple Salchow and double Axel-double Axel sequences and a final triple Salchow.

"It has been a tough week for me," Rochette said. "I felt weaker than in the short, but it is a good learning experience for me because I was able to fight in my long program until the very end."

Skating to "Giselle," Japan's Yukari Nakano scored only 99.85 points in the free skate, placing sixth. After finishing third in the short program, Nakano totaled 161.93 points, which placed her fifth overall.

Nakano also won a bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final in 2005.

She stepped out of her under-rotated opening triple Axel then doubled the triple flip in her triple flip-double toe combination. She landed a triple Salchow-double toe and a double Axel before doubling a planned triple Lutz.

Nakano completed a triple flip, then landed a final triple toe-double toe-double loop combination, although the last jump was downgraded.

"I am disappointed to have made so many mistakes today," Nakano said. "The triple Axel was really good in practice, but I rushed it a little."

Japan's Miki Ando, the 2007 world champion, earned 102.81 points for her free program, set to Saint-Saens "Symphony No. 3 for Organ," to place fifth, just as she had in the short program. Ando finished sixth overall with 158.25 total points.

Her opening quad Salchow attempt was downgraded, as was the following triple flip. The second jump on her double Axel-triple toe and last two jumps in her triple Lutz-double loop-double loop combinations were also under-rotated.

Ando came back to land a triple Lutz, triple loop and double Axel.

"I was not disappointed," Ando said. "I am actually very happy, because I didn't try a quad for many years, and the double Axel-triple toe is a new jump for me," Ando said. "This year, I really wanted to go for the quad Salchow."

She is the only one of the ladies who has never reached the podium at the Grand Prix Final.