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Imperfect Kim manages slim lead over Ando

Czisny in the thick of medal hunt; Flatt stands eighth

Yu-Na Kim delivered on her solid pre-competition practices, placing first in the short program despite a botched triple Lutz.
Yu-Na Kim delivered on her solid pre-competition practices, placing first in the short program despite a botched triple Lutz. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/29/2011) - Competing for the first time in more than a year, Yu-Na Kim showed a bit of rust, but could still be golden.

On the day of a British royal wedding, figure skating's Olympic queen faltered on her trademark triple Lutz-triple toe combination but kept her composure and salvaged her title chances with a graceful and captivating short program to Giselle.

The queen herself put it best: "I'm still in first place, so I'm happy," Kim said.

Miki Ando had a clean, if conservative, short to place second, just .33 off the lead. Russia's Ksenia Makarova is a surprising third.

U.S. champion Alissa Czisny had her best-ever start at a world championship to place fourth, just .15 out of the medals. Rachael Flatt is eighth.

Arriving with a large retinue and hitting solid practices all week long, "Queen Yu-Na" clearly intending to reclaim her world title throne, lost to Japan's Mao Asada last season.

The crowd gasped when, seconds into Giselle, Kim faltered on the landing of her triple Lutz and did not complete a combination. After landing a solid triple flip, she tacked on a double toe, saving points and earning 65.91.

"I've been doing many clean shorts at home and here, so I was disappointed I didn't do a perfect short in competition," Kim said. "I tried to focus for the rest of the program and put a double toe on the triple flip."

Kim's coach, Peter Oppegard, who trains the skater in Artesia, Calif., was stunned by the error but pleased with how his skater regrouped.

"For her, the mistake is a large one because she is the most consistent athlete I have seen in years on the ice as a woman," he said.

"The rest of the program was typical Yu-Na; she clicked in, focused, put the toe loop on the flip and added the signature drama she is known for."

There wasn't much drama in Ando's short, but the Japanese champion got the job done, hitting an opening triple Lutz-double loop, followed by a triple loop and three Level 4 spins.

"I was trying triple Lutz-triple loop in my short one week before this competition, but after that, I had a small problem with my mind and decided to do a triple-double," Ando said.

"It is less risky, and in the short program it is important not to mess any jumps or elements to get high points."

Skating with good speed, Makarova opened with a fine triple toe-triple toe combination, followed by a solid triple loop, to earn 61.62 and put herself in medal contention.

"I am very surprised I'm sitting here with these legends, pretty much, including the Olympic champion," said Makarova, who until recently lived and trained in New Jersey, said. "I'm happy my hard work paid off."

Makarova, who won Russian nationals in 2010 but placed only fifth this season, now trains with Evgeni Rukavitsin in St. Petersburg. The daughter of Soviet pair Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov grew up in the U.S. and speaks perfect English.

Czisny was elegance on ice, reeling off an opening triple Lutz-double toe and drawing cheers with her superb spins, especially her closing layback to a Biellmann position. She lost points when the technical panel assigned an "e" to her triple flip, indicating an incorrect outside take-off edge, but she is still well within striking distance of the podium.

"I was satisfied with the program today; it wasn't my best but I was happy I was able to stay on my feet and fight for everything," she said.

"I'm glad looking at it that the points are very close and it's really a long program competition tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to fighting for everything in my long."

Jason Dungjen, who trains Czisny at the Detroit Skating Club with his wife Yuka Sato, was pleased with effort.

"The levels were what we wanted, except there was a [Level] 2 on the steps today and usually we get a three," he said. "That's okay, panels are all different. The e on the flip has been going back and forth all season."

The showdown between Kim and Asada so hotly anticipated by some fans did not happen in the short. The Japanese skater opened with a triple Axel, but it was downgraded by the technical panel. Her flip, too, was judged under rotated, and she sits seventh with 58.66.

Flatt, the U.S. silver medalist, doubled her usually reliable triple Lutz in her East of Eden program and is eighth with 57.22 points.

"Everything but the Lutz was really good, and I was just really happy I got the Level 4 on the step sequence," Flatt said.

"I think it's just due to a lack of belief in what I'm doing right now. About a week before we left Colorado Springs, my right leg starting bothering me a lot. It's not been fun but I'm trying to do the best I can with it."