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Kim routs ladies for world title in Los Angeles

Joannie Rochette wins silver; Miki Ando grabs bronze

Yu-Na Kim creamed the competition at the world champs, winning by more the 15 points.
Yu-Na Kim creamed the competition at the world champs, winning by more the 15 points. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/28/2009) - Can anyone stop Yu-Na Kim?

The 18-year-old Korean proved that, free of the back and hip injuries that plagued her in prior seasons, she's magic on ice.

"This is my third worlds; my first two didn't go so well," Kim said of her two bronze medals. "But even with my little mistakes today, I was able to do well.

"This was the best audience I ever had and that they gave me more confidence."

Other skaters threw everything they had at her. Miki Ando skated a season's-best program. Joannie Rochette finished with a career-high overall score. Mao Asada launched a triple Axel-double toe combination before crashing on a second Axel.

Nothing was enough, as Kim amassed 131.59 points, her finest free skate of the season. With that added to her short program score, she became the first lady to cross the 200-point barrier, and she blew past the barrier with 207.71 points. The scariest part is she did it two elements down: her final spin didn't count, and she flubbed a triple Salchow so badly it ended up being worth just 0.24 points. Even with those mistakes, her score would have landed her among the top 10 men in L.A.

"I didn't really want to think about the score before I skated, because it gives me [added] pressure and hinders my practices," the Gunpo City, Korea, native said. "Now my biggest concern is keeping my scores [above] 200."

If she manages that, the rest of the field may be out of luck. Skating to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, Kim combined high, powerful jumps with delicate artistry and superb musicality.

"She was calm, the most relaxed she's been all year," Brian Orser, Kim's coach and a two-time Olympic silver medalist, said. "What she did today was her average. She does better [in practice]; she does worse. I always say, 'You can count on doing your average in competition.'"

Rochette capped the finest season of her career with the silver medal, becoming the first Canadian woman in 20 years to make the world podium. The last, Elizabeth Manley, who took silver in 1988, was the first to offer a hug in the mixed zone.

"Silver is a great color," Manley said. "Hey, she's got 11 months to go until the Olympics. She can do it."

Rochette's elegant routine had six triples, including a clean triple toe-triple Salchow sequence. But she stepped out of a triple Lutz and doubled an intended triple loop, and she seemed shocked with her 123.39-point score, third best in the segment. She earned 191.29 overall.

"I was surprised [with silver], but I thought, 'Yes, I made a mistake; I can still be on the podium,'" she said. "Those points at the end, that triple-triple [sequence] and those [Level 4] steps, were so important."

Ando, the 2007 world champion from Japan, returned to the podium with a powerful effort that featured three strong triple combinations, an improved Level 4 spiral sequence and solid spins.

"Last year I withdrew from worlds, so I was so disappointed and sad. So I wanted to come here and do my best," said Ando, who trains under Nikolai Morozov in Hackensack, N.J.

"I was so happy to do my best here at this competition."

Asada, the defending world champion, also from Japan, opened her "Masquerade Waltz" free, choreographed by coach Tatiana Tarasova, with a stunning triple Axel-double toe combination, the only lady to accomplish that feat. But the 18-year-old fell on her second triple Axel attempt and had the jump downgraded, dropping its value to essentially zero. She placed fourth in the free and fourth overall with 188.09 points.

"I wasn't thinking about being the champion again. I was thinking about finishing my elements. I am satisfied," Asada said. "Next time, I will have a different program. I'd like to show a different side of myself."

Asked about her ongoing rivalry with Kim, who now holds a distinct edge heading in to the 2010 Olympics, Asada was circumspect.

"I think she is a very good rival for me and motivates me to do better. There is not much time [until the Olympics], so I will be practicing hard every day."

Returning to her program of last season, Mathieu's "Romantic Rhapsody," did the trick for U.S. silver medalist Rachael Flatt, who climbed from seventh-place after the short to fifth overall with a solid skate featuring six clean triples.

"I loved it. It was so much fun. Skating in front of a home crowd was great, and since this was my first worlds, I had no pressure coming in," the 16-year-old said.

Like Kim, Flatt had spin trouble. Her closing camel combination did not count, because it had no change of foot.

"That was the rule last season, and this was last season's program," Tom Zakrajsek, Flatt's coach, said. "It was just a boo-boo on a lot of people's parts, including mine. I think we were so focused on looking at the level of the spin that we forgot to check the rule changes."

Alissa Czisny's free to Dr. Zhivago captivated the crowd with its sublime spirals and step sequences, with many standing during her two closing spins. The U.S. champion landed three clean triples -- a triple loop was downgraded -- and the skater left out a triple combination after doubling a toe. She was credited for two solid triple Lutz-double toe combinations, prompting reporters to ask, "Can you do that?"

"I didn't mean to, but it's not against the rules," Czisny correctly answered.

"It was better than yesterday. I went out there and focused on each element. I was a little bit disappointed in my short program, obviously, but I think I can take what I've learned here and improve from it."

Czisny placed eighth in the free and 11th overall. Added to Flatt's fifth-place result, it gave the U.S. two ladies' spots for the 2010 Olympics.