Nagasu leads by 2.32 points after stunning short

Asada second; Kim falters on spin, sits seventh

Mirai Nagasu has been sidelined with a stress fracture most of the summer.
Mirai Nagasu has been sidelined with a stress fracture most of the summer. (Getty Images)


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By staff
(03/26/2010) - Mirai Nagasu's star is soaring.

While Yu-Na Kim skated like she suffered from Olympic hangover, the 16-year-old Californian -- a promising fourth in Vancouver last month -- made her worlds debut by grabbing first place with an aggressive short program that included her first-ever stab at a triple-triple combination in senior international competition.

"It felt great," Nagasu said. "Right before I took my [starting] position, I was really nervous. But, then, I just believed in myself -- and crossed my fingers for the triple-triple."

Japan's Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada is second, 2.32 points off the lead despite a triple Axel downgrade. European silver medalist Laura Lepisto, sixth in Vancouver, is third here, some 6.10 points behind Nagasu.

In a shock, Olympic and world champion Kim fell out of her layback spin, gaining no points for the element, and had a triple flip downgraded by the technical panel. She sits seventh with 60.30 points, more than 18 points off her record-setting short in Vancouver.

U.S. champion Rachael Flatt skated a solid but conservative program, opting to complete a triple-double combination instead of her usual triple-triple. She is sixth with 60.88 points.

But the evening belonged to Nagasu, who whizzed over the ice to Pirates of the Caribbean.

The 2008 U.S. champion hit stunning positions in her spirals and spins, charged into a solid triple flip and launched into a big double Axel right out of a stunning Ina Bauer.

The triple toe in her triple Lutz-triple toe combination was downgraded by the technical panel, but she's glad she made the attempt.

"I hope that I can keep improving from here," Nagasu said.

"My goal was to do my triple-triple, and put out the best program I could. I think I did that, and I'm really happy about it. I've trained my free skate pretty well since the Olympics -- not as hard as my short program -- but I'm convinced I can do the program just as well, if not better, than what I did at the Olympics."

Nagasu scored 70.40, some 5.33 higher than her prior personal best. The judging panel scored her program components at 30.20 points, just a shade lower than Asada and Kim's.

Still, the teen was cautious about putting too much emphasis on today's results.

"I think [Asada and Kim] will be back on their game tomorrow," Nagasu said. "I am sure they are tired after the Olympics, as I am, but I just have to concentrate on myself and do the best long program I can."

Asada, who won this title in 2008, lost a chance at the lead when the first jump in her triple Axel-double toe combination was downgraded. The rest of her "Masquerade Waltz" short was solid and secure, but her score, 68.08, was well off her personal best of 75.84.

Laura Lepistö had an elegant short, but faltered on her double Axel, getting a negative 2.32 grade of execution from the judging panel. The Finnish champion's highest finish at worlds was sixth last season.

Skating in her home country, European champion Carolina Kostner is fourth with 62.20. In a surprise, Russian champion Ksenia Makarova, who hit a triple toe-triple toe combination, is fifth with 62.06.

Flatt performed well to the fast-paced "Sing, Sing, Sing," but looked a bit tentative, executing a triple Lutz-double toe instead of her usual triple-triple. She also lost ground with her layback spin gained just Level 1 from the technical panel.

"It was a little disappointing not to get the triple-triple in, but, with the components, I actually think I sold it [the program] very well," Flatt, 17, said. "I was pleased with that. I'm going to get that triple-triple in the free skate for sure."

Several pre-event favorites faltered, including 2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who sits 11th, and her teammate Akiko Suzuki, who is 20th. But those unlikely results paled next to the lackluster program from Kim, who has been wowing judges and fans all season with her James Bond short.

"I was [a little] scared to compete again. The Olympics was my goal," the South Korean skater said. "I wasn't expecting to skate like that. I just want to forget about it and get back to normal tomorrow."

Kim enters the free skate 10.10 points off the lead and just four points out of third, so a good performance would still likely put her on the podium.

In more good news for U.S. Figure Skating, Nagasu and Flatt are in position to secure three ladies spots for the U.S. at the 2011 World Championships. To qualify, their combined results cannot be more than 13; after today's event, they stand at seven.