Kim outguns Asada in ladies short program
Rochette is third; Americans fifth and sixth
|Yu-Na Kim has ended her coaching relationship with Brian Orser. (Getty Images)|
Yu-Na Kim's James Bond short program had a license to thrill the Pacific Coliseum crowd on Tuesday night, and the South Korean skater outgunned longtime Japanese rival Mao Asada to open up a 4.72-point lead.
"When I was practicing at home in Toronto, I didn't think [about how] this is the Olympics, and how I have to be perfect," a relaxed and confident Kim said.
"I was here a year ago [for Four Continents], and I don't know why, but I really wasn't thinking that. I wasn't [thinking] it was special; it was the same, just like other competitions, so I was very comfortable, just like at other competitions."
The world champion, who drew to skate immediately after Asada, nailed her opening triple Lutz-triple toe combination, racking up 12 points, and her oft-troublesome triple flip decided to die another day, adding another 6.70.
Kim's double Axel was easily done directly out of a spiral sequence, and her intricate footwork was in perfect time to the music's highlights. The Gunpo City native included a few flirty transition moves, playing her part to perfection for the adoring audience.
Kim backed up her status as the gold-medal favorite, earning 78.50 points to shatter her own world-record score of 76.28 set at 2009 Skate America.
"Yes, I was aware Mao did a good performance. It was difficult not to be aware, although that would have been nice," Kim said. "I was able to see the score she received and from hearing the audience response, I knew she did a good job.
"However, I have a lot of experience, and I don't believe her performance affected mine. I was able to do what I came here to do."
Kim's Bond girl program, the brainchild coach Brian Orser and choreographer David Wilson, hit heights early this season at Trophee Eric Bompard and Skate America.
At December's Grand Prix Final, the skater's triple-triple combination was downgraded by the technical panel. Not so here.
"I was able to practice in Toronto for the Olympics, and during my practices, my condition was very good," Kim said. "I did not make many mistakes. Tomorrow, I will go back to the drawing board and prepare myself to do a good job on Thursday."
If Kim can maintain this level for her free skate Thursday night, it's likely nobody will do it better.
The fourth time in international competition turned out to be the charm for Mao Asada, who performed her best short program of the season.
Three times -- at Trophee Eric Bompard, Rostelecom Cup and Four Continents -- the Japanese champion has tried, and failed, the triple Axel-double toe loop combination in her "Masquerade Waltz" program.
Tuesday night, Asada nailed it, banking 10.10 points. She also hit a triple flip and double Axel for a total of 73.78 points.
"That was one of the best short programs I've done, so I'm really happy about it," Asada said.
"I was nervous at first, and then I realized I'm here, and I'm skating at the Olympics, and that made me happy and confident."
Coming in to the short program, there were signs the Axel tide was turning. Japanese media, who follow Asada's every move, reported she landed each triple Axel she tried in her last two practices.
It's a high-risk strategy, but since Asada does not do a triple Lutz, her camp felt it was necessary in order to keep pace with Kim.
"I was kind of disappointed at the beginning of the season, but I always get better as the year goes by," Asada said. "Five points isn't a lot, compared to some other times, so I feel good and confident."
The two 19-year-olds are both making their Olympic debuts in Vancouver. Both skaters were a hair too young, under ISU rules, to compete last time out at the 2006 Torino Games.
They have been rivals since their junior days, trading junior world titles: in 2005, Asada won, and Kim took silver; in 2006, the results were reversed. Asada is the last woman to defeat Kim in competition, at the Grand Prix Final in 2008.
"We've been competing together for so long, since our junior days," Asada said. "We don't really talk during competitions; there is no time, but once the competition is over, we talk a lot."
The emotional highlight of evening came when Rochette, skating first in the final warm-up, took the ice for her short to "La Cumparsita."
Earlier this week, the Canadian champion's 55-year-old mother Therese died of a heart attack at Vancouver Hospital.
Rochette, 24, made the difficult decision to compete, taking to the practice ice just hours after hearing the tragic news from her father, Normand.
Skating to a sophisticated short to a Tango, Rochette had a stylish, secure performance, holding herself together until dissolving in tears at the end. She earned 71.36 points, putting her right into the medal picture.
"I think her mother is jumping up and down in the sky," William Thompson, CEO of Skate Canada, said.
"If she can skate the long and skate it well, she's done more than any of us could hope for."
Skating last -- a position she said she didn't like -- 2007 world champion Miki Ando opened her short with a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, but the technical panel downgraded it to a triple-double. She sits fourth with 64.76, well under her season's high of 66.20.
"I did the triple-triple well in practice," she said. "It was a little disappointing that I could not nail it in competition."
Performing to "Sing, Sing, Sing" Flatt had her best short of the season, hitting a triple flip-triple toe combination and digging in to gut out a slightly wild landing on a triple Lutz.
The U.S. champion earned 64.64 points, shattering her previous season best of 58.80.
"Aside from the Lutz being a little shaky, everything else went great," Flatt said. "I performed my program well, that was my goal, so I'm ecstatic about how things went."
Nagasu, the U.S. silver medalist, didn't let a small nosebleed derail her short to music from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Skating early in the evening, the 16-year-old hit an opening triple Lutz-double toe, although it received a negative GOE, likely due to judges spying an incorrect take-off edge.
She also hit a triple flip, and did a gorgeous Ina Bauer into a big double Axel, earning 63.76 points, a new season's high. It puts her in sixth place going in to Thursday night's free skate.
"I did okay; I'm just ready for the long program," Nagasu said.
"Halfway through the program I just felt stuff running down my nose. I tried not to think about it...I think it's just because the air is a little drier than in California. I've been using a saline nose spray."
Nagasu's coach, Frank Carroll, told the press yesterday his skater would try a triple-triple combination here, but Nagasu stuck to the safer triple-double.
"I feel like I could I have skated better so I'm a little bit disappointed," she said.
"The landing on the Lutz was a little bit funky, so I think I made a smart choice."