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Teary-eyed Kim wins second world gold in romp

Kostner bags silver, Asada bronze; Wagner, Gold secure third spot in Sochi for U.S.

Korea's Yu-Na Kim routed the competition by 20.42 points in London, Ontario.
Korea's Yu-Na Kim routed the competition by 20.42 points in London, Ontario. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(03/16/2013) - Yu-Na Kim gave skating fans one day more of what they wanted to see with 11 months to go leading up to the Winter Games in Sochi.

Performing to a medley from Les Misérables, Kim put herself back on top of the world championship medal podium after a two-year hiatus from the event.

Kim said she suffered nerves, but she sure didn't let it show. The 2010 Olympic champion came to these world championships with a very businesslike approach, attacking each practice and each event with the steely focus of a CEO entering a boardroom meeting. But, she finally shed a tear when the world medal was placed around her neck as she was standing on top of the podium.

"It has been a while since I competed in a big competition such as worlds, and at the warm-up session I was really nervous," the staunchly popular South Korean skater said. "But, because I was sixth in the group and skated last, I had time to calm down. Because I skated a clean short, that gave me a good energy going into the free program.

"I have a feeling [these world championships] could be my last one, and because I won, I will have good memories."

Skating last among the 24 skaters, Kim performed the way all 23 of the other competitors could only dream of -- a program with precise technical prowess complemented with a rare sense of artistry. Her program garnered a score of 148.34 for a total of 218.31 points.

Performing a stellar short and virtually flawless free, Kim turned her comeback into a game of catch-me-if-you-can. She finished 20.42 points ahead of 2012 world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, who popped one triple and fell on another in the final second of her program, and 21.84 points ahead of Japanese rival Mao Asada.

Kostner had troubles before her program began, as she experienced a nosebleed. She said her nose was "running like a river," throughout her routine to "Bolero."

Asada also fought through her program, two-footing her trademark triple Axel and under-rotating two other jumps, but finished with the bronze medal.

Although Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold did not earn a spot on the podium, the day was still a success; Wagner placed fifth and Gold was sixth, high enough to give the United States three spots for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Wagner had one pre-competition message for her 17-year-old teammate. In not exactly these words, Wagner said she told Gold to "kick some butt."

"I think she took my advice verbatim and did exactly that," Wagner said.

Wagner, who was fourth at worlds a year ago, came to these championships almost with a vendetta to secure that third spot. At Wagner's debut at worlds in 2008, she placed 16th. That year, Kimmie Meissner placed seventh and Bebe Liang was 10th, and the United States lost a spot for the 2009 worlds. The United States has not had three spots at worlds ever since.

The lost spot affected Wagner personally because in 2010, she placed third at the U.S. championships and did not get an opportunity to compete in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

"I always said my main goal coming into this worlds was getting the three spots back," Wagner said. "That was my goal. Getting on top of the podium or on the podium would be icing on the cake.

"For us, what we accomplished, with this strong international field, is more than standing on top of that podium. It's something we haven't been able to do for, what, five seasons now? That goes to show how difficult it is to get those 13 points. The fact that Gracie did it with me her first time out, it's huge."

Gold was the first of the Americans to skate, and she did a yoeman's job in getting the spot back for the U.S. team. Her program, performed to music from the movie, Life is Beautiful, was not at the level of the one she performed at the 2013 U.S. Championships back in January, but it was more than enough.

She turned out on the landing of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe and came close to the boards after turning out of the landing on her double Axel, yet her overall performance was strong enough to score her 125.40 points in the free skate --- 12.53 more than her international season's best.

"It was a little bit of a shock," Gold said of nearly hitting the boards. "It kind of brought me back into the zone, into the focus. I reminded myself I still had three big jumping passes left."

Wagner was the first to skate in the final group. Her routine had a couple of minor errors as well as an unexpected fall on a twizzle during her footwork sequence.

"Some people get terrified when they fall down," Wagner said. "For me, I go, 'Oh! I have to do everything perfect now.' It was kind of similar to my mentality after nationals. I came back for the flip, same for Sochi (Grand Prix Final). As of now, it kind of seems that flip is invincible."

Following these worlds, Wagner has a busy month ahead with sponsor engagements, possibly competing in the World Team Trophy in Tokyo, a photo shoot in West Hollywood, Calif., and then performing in Stars on Ice in Canada.

Gold, too, will have her work cut out for her as well, but for now, she is trying to absorb the magnitude of the week she just had in London, Ontario. For her, just being at worlds was a huge mission accomplished.

She was ninth after the short program at the U.S. championships and used a first-place finish in the free skate to earn one of the two spots for this event. Had she not made it here and had to go into an Olympic season without this experience, it could have been problematic.

"It probably would have put me back more than I care to share," Gold said.

Part of what she learned here in London was absorbing the big-time atmosphere, an experience that will be even larger should she make the Olympic team in Sochi. Seeing the likes of Kim, Kostner and Asada in one competition made a lasting impression on the starry-eyed Chicago teenager.

Earlier in the week, Gold said she was hoping to get a photo with Kim. She had a chance to achieve that goal at lunch when Kim was sitting at the next table.

But, Gold said, "I chickened out."

She'll have another opportunity Sunday at a skaters banquet.

The two, no doubt, are on track to meet again in Sochi. There's a good chance there will be photo opportunities of Kim on the medal stand there.

Who will join her for that picture-perfect moment remains the big Olympic-season question.

Rink Notes: Kaetlyn Osmond, skating in her first worlds and performing in her home country, dropped from fourth after the short to eighth after falling twice in her free skate to Carmen ... China's Zijun Li, 12th after the short program, brought the sold-out crowd to its feet with her near-flawless routine to place fourth in the free skate. She finished seventh overall. Training with Lu Chen's longtime coach, Mingzhu Li, the 16-year-old skater might just be one to watch leading up to the Games ... Russia, the host country of the 2014 Winter Games, lost a spot for Sochi as Adelina Sotnikova placed ninth and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva was 10th. The 2012 world silver medalist, Alena Leonova, dropped to 13th.