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2013 World Championships

Kim Moves One Step Closer in Her Goal to Win a Second Olympic Gold

by Alexandra Stevenson

Air Canada Loses Ashley Wagner's Skates.  Fans Suspect Nefarious Conspiracy.

Wager's Skates Recovered in Time for Tuesday Practice.  Extraterrestrials Suspected.  NASA Investigates.  (Since Canada no longer funds UFO reporting.)

(15 March 2013)

1. 69.97 (36.97+33.18) Yuna Kim, South Korea, dominated the opening round in the Ladies World championship. She won the Short Program by a significant 3.11 points over the defending champion, Carolina Kostner of Italy. It was no where near the Short Program score she had posted in Vancouver in February, 2010, but it was certainly more than enough to reprimand the many who had doubted that the Olympic champion, who is still only 22, can pull off her goal.

Experts cite the fact that there is far less pressure on those who stick to exhibitions and do not compete. Honing competition skills is a very important in today’s high pressure world. Even Kim admitted she had doubts.

“I was worried because it has been a long time since I competed at the World Championships, but at the same time I was confident. I have done many competitions (in my career). I could do what I had to do. I did all my jumps. I checked the levels and I got some lower level on some elements than expected, but I think it was ok.

“I’ll try my best in the free skating, of course, and I’ll try to be not too nervous about the long program. I did a clean long program at Korean Nationals, so I know I can do it. My first goal is to get more than one ticket for the Olympic Games for Korea. Beside myself, I would like young Korean skaters to experience the Olympic Games. In Vancouver, I had a teammate and that was great. I’d like to repeat that. I have been skating for many years. I love figure skating, and that’s why I’ve returned.”

Because she had not been competing and had a low ISU current ranking, she drew to skate early in the event, 14th of the 35 competitors. She performed to “Kiss of the Vampire”. My choreographer suggested this piece. He said it hadn’t been used by female skaters. I didn’t want to skate to something overused. I’m known for my unique routines, like the Bond Girl, I did for the Olympic season.

Kim, dressed in a sleeveless light blue and silver outfit, with her dark hair pulled back into a neat bun, began her routine with a sensationally high, light, easy-flowing combination triple Lutz to triple toe loop, which had amazed fans who turned up for the previous day’s practice sessions was awarded straight +2 GoEs by the nine-member judging panel. But then her triple flip was given an “e” call for wrong edge take-off by the Technical Panel, and she lost -0.20 off its base value.

Her flying camel spin was “only” Level 3 (possibly because she didn’t hold her final position for enough revolutions) but it received a collective extra +0.43 from the judges. Her double Axel, set at the point when the 10% bonus clicks in, was so good, one judge punched in +3 and five gave +2. (The other three gave +1.) Her layback was lovely, but again, earned only Level 3. However, her step and the final spin, a change foot combination, were awarded Level 4 with, respectively, +1.10 and +0.86 extra. Her components ranged from a low of two 7.75s up to one 9.0.

She thought the marks might have been higher. “When I heard the score, I was a little bit surprised and thought maybe I had got a downgrade of the spins (3 instead of the hoped for Level 4). The first spin was a little unstable (at the end). She had a long wait to see how her main rivals performed.

When she first took the ice for her warm-up, she was not smiling. “I was not as nervous as I had imagined I would be. I did my best, a full 100%. I trained four or five years in Canada and won the Olympics in Canada. It feels great to be back here. I’m very comfortable. When I first got here, I was a little worried because it has been a long time since I competed in such a big venue with lots of people, but I focused on the practice sessions and knew I was doing well.”

2.6.86 (34.01+33.85 -1) Carolina Kostner, the Italian defending world champion, skated 34th, next to last, in a lilac and green creation. By chance, she used music, “A Transylvanian Lullaby” from “Young Frankenstein,” with a similar dark theme to that Kim had chosen. Kostner, a 26-year-old, who has competed in this event every year since 2003, when she finished 10th, with up-and-down success, said,“I am a little bit angry with myself. I fell on the (second jump of the combination of two triple toe loop jumps) which upset me a little bit. I cannot say what happened there. The routine goes by so fast. Otherwise I had a wonderful skate and I felt so welcomed by the audience here.”

She had opened with a triple loop, which one judge had rewarded by punching in a +3. Six other judges thought the jump was worth +2. Her double Axel also gained one +3. Her first two spins were Level 4 and were her steps. She concluded with a +0.57, Level 3 layback spin. Her component marks ranged from two 7.75s up to six 9.0s.

She explained, “I just love skating so much. This is the reason why I continued. I'd miss it otherwise! But after 10 years on the senior circuit, I needed some time off earlier this season to be a normal 25-year old, having time for family and friends, waking up and staying in my pajamas. So I did not do the Grand Prix Circuit. I came back with new energy.

“I am quite nervous in competition anyway, so coming in as world champion did not make a difference. I don't think about getting my second title here at all. Because of my success, this is the first time that we have been allowed three entries for the girls competing at worlds. We have to enjoy that. Our Association has been working towards that goal. And, we have to try to get more than one spot for the Sochi Olympics.”

3. (36.87+29.77) Kanako Murakami from Japan, an 18-year-old who was fifth in this event last year, after being 8th in her debut in 2011, won bronze this year’s Four Continents Championships. Skating 30th to “Prayer for Taylor”, by Michael W. Smith, she began her routine in an unusual manner executing her Level 4 steps and her double Axel first. Usually, skaters like to get their leading difficulties out of way so they can then relax and “sell” the program.

However, Murakami’s approach paid dividends. Both her combination of two triple toes (which is less difficult than the combo chosen by her leading rivals) and her triple flip received the 10% bonus. All three of her spins were the maximum Level 4. She ended up with the top element score (although that was only a tiny 0.08 ahead of Kim, it was 2.86 ahead of a Kostner.

She explained she had no nerves. “I wanted to be very calm like at Four Continents and I was.” Her routine earned the description as “delicately elegant yet impassioned.”

4. 64.73 (35.19+29.54) Kaetlyn Osmond, the new Canadian 17-year old national champion, who trains in the West Edmonton Mall, skated a wonderfully “saucy mambo”, ninth on the ice and really warmed up the delighted home crowd. She didn’t put a toe out of place, opening with a +1.20 combination of two triple toe loops and a +1.40 triple flip. Her steps and two of her three spins were the maximum Level 4. The flying sit spin was Level 3. Her components reflected her youth rather than the audience appeal. She was the third best on the element score but only 7th on the components.

She really produced for the crowd and they let her know they appreciated efforts with a very noisy response. She and they were delighted with her placing. She said, “It was amazing. I was a little nervous but once I landed my first jump, it felt perfect. What a great crowd! This program is so much fun to skate. I feel like part of the crowd. It felt great. The crowd is unbelievable. The program was clean. I am comfortable with all my jumps in the short. The crowd was so amazing, so supportive and so loud - I could barely hear my music. I hope the long goes just as well.”

Until the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany last year, she was relatively unknown internationally, although she had entered the world junior championship. She pulled off a stunning surprise victory in Germany and then, in a shock decision, dominated the Skate Canada event. Those who know her, say her leading asset is that she is fearless – throwing herself into jumps. As Canada’s only Ladies entrant, she could have caved into nerves but her coach, Ravi Walia, says she’s a natural born entertainer and always rises to the occasion. Because this event is used to decide the initial allocation of berths to the Olympics, it is very important for her to make the top ten to qualify the country for a second entry for Sochi.

5. 33.06 (33.06+30.92) Ashley Wagner, 21, the twice American and 2012 Four Continents Champion, skated 31st, presenting an extremely gracefully routine set to “Red Violin” by John Corigliano, immediately following Murakami’s great showing. She opened with a triple flip to double toe loop landed with both arms over her head. Then came her Level 4 layback spin which was so good, one judge gave +3 GoE. After her Level 3 change foot combination spin, she presented a +0.90 triple loop followed by a +0.50 double Axel. Her straight line steps were Level 4 and her concluding flying sit spin Level 3. Her components ranged from one 8.50 down to two 7.00s.

She said, “I had a clean skate, and I definitely had a safe skate. I am happy with what I put out there today. I decided to play it safe and do the double instead of triple-triple. The key to moving forward in the long program will be including the double axel- triple toe.”

She is aware that to have three American women compete in the Olympic Games, “Gracie and I will have to put out two solid programs to be able to achieve that.

I stayed really calm today. I wanted to do that triple-triple combination but I decided to play it safe. I think I put myself in a good position going into the long program. Everyone is really close together. I’m in fighting distance. Mr. (John) Nicks told me, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t risk it. I would rather play it safe than sorry.

“The landing on the flip wasn’t exactly how I wanted it. At an event this huge and this important, my focus is to get the three spots back and I figured playing it safe with a triple-double of quality was the better way to go. You’ll see it this week. I have the double Axel-triple toe planned and that’s something that I’m much more comfortable with. The flip-toe is relatively new. It’s been so perfect in practice and even on the warm up it was there. But, I’m not used to doing it under pressure yet.

“I feel like I’m the problem child of every competition and I’m not that kind of person! To show up to a competition, especially worlds, without my skates, that was definitely something I wasn’t prepared for. They got here, ans everything’s all fine. It made me stop and realize that I need to calm down. I had that mishap and realized, it’s just figure skating, and they are just skates. I need to relax and stay sane in order to do my job.

“Three spots, three spots, three spots. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get there. The Axel-toe has to be in that program and I’m fully aware of that. There are so many talented girls here and it needs to be strong and solid. I would like to build upon my last two competitions. And lucky for me, I have made that pretty easy for myself. We’ll see how it goes.

“The U.S. ladies team here is here to get that third spot back. It’s almost a personal agenda. I was the person most directly affected last Olympics and I want that third spot back. We’ve been trying for too long to get it back.”

6. 62.12 (29.70+32.40)Mao Asada, the Japanese who took Kim’s world title from her at the 2010 world championships, is the current Four Continents and Grand Prix Final Champion. The 22-year-old, who skated 33rd, interpreted George Gershwin’s famous “I Got Rhythm”. She opened with a triple Axel which earned 8.64 points. That was followed by a triple flip to double loop but the flip got an arrow for slight under-rotation.

Next up were two Level 3 spins, a layback and a flying camel. But then she singled her triple loop. The following change foot combination spin and the steps were both Level 4.

She said, “I wanted to skate the short program today like I did at Four Continents, but the jumps weren’t as good. I am little sad. On my last jump I had a problem with the take-off.

7. 61.17 (30.71+30.46) Akiko Suzuki, the Japanese 27-year-old, who was last year’s bronze medalist, skated 24th, performing to “Kill Bill” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” She opened with her combination of two triple toe loops but the second jump was given an arrow for under-rotation. However, all her other elements gained positive Grades of Execution, including the triple flip and double Axel. Twon of the spins were Level 3. The concluding change foot combination was Level 4 as were the steps.

She explained, “I stepped out of my combination so this was not perfect enough to be absolutely happy. But the first jump of the combo was so good. I put so much energy into it, maybe this is why the mistake on the second jump happened. I’ve been very happy since I came here. I enjoy the atmosphere here in Canada and, overall, I am happy with what I could show today.”

8. 59.62 (30.97+28.65) Adelina Sotnikova, RUS, the 2013 European medalist, skated 26thto “Capriccio Espagnol” by Rimski-Korsakov. The 16-year-old opened her routine with a combination of two triple toe loops but got an arrow on the second jump. Her triple flip earned an extra +0.30 and the double Axel was awarded an extra +0.86 over its base value. Two of her spins and the steps were Level 4, but her layback was only Level 2.

She said, “It’s my first Worlds and I felt really calm. To be honest, I didn’t quite understand what was going on and that I am at Worlds. I don’t really get my skate, but I think it was quite okay. I under-rotated the second triple toe in the combination and I didn’t hold the last spin long enough, but overall for my first worlds it is fine. I came here earlier to a training camp a little earlier and I trained on the smaller ice surface. The smaller size doesn’t bother me, you have always to adapt.”

9. 58.84 (30.23+28.62) Gracie Gold, the 17-year-old American national silver medalist making her debut in this event, skated 21st to Hernando’s Hideaway. The second jump on her combination of two triple toe loops received an arrow and the triple flip got an “e” for wrong edge take-off. However, her double Axel received +0.50 over its base value. Her flying camel spin was only Level 2 with 0.34 removed from its base value , but the other two spins were the maximum Level 4 with +1.0 for her lovely layback and +0.57 for the change foot combination. Her components ranged from a low of one 6.25 up to four 7.75s.

Gold, who has had an incredibly exciting season, taking part in the Junior Grand Prix Final in the Olympic site and now here Worlds, trains in the Chicago area. She said, “I feel I had a safe skate and a steady skate. There was a problem with a spin switch. I came to prove myself. The fact that I can land elements well says a lot about me as a competitor. The crowd is so supportive, even if you have a rough element they still support you. My goal for worlds is to skate to good programs and skate like I have trained. I have been practicing my long program very well and I want to stay in the moment and enjoy it. I really love skating.”

About her first Worlds performance, she said, “I was a bit nervous going into it. I haven’t had the best short programs. Everyone was really supportive. Everyone who is part of Team USA has been really supportive this week. So far, I think it’s going really well.”

Regarding her flying camel spin, which was only Level 2, she explained, “I’m supposed to pull it up for an edge change. I think I got a little bit excited and as I was pulling it up, I went for the edge change immediately. I wasn’t able to get either of those features. Simple mistakes today. Easy things that I think I can fix with time and more competitions. Nerves are part of competitive sports. They do tend to help you - it’s the adrenaline building when you’re going out to perform or compete in whatever your sport may be. I know that every skater gets nervous. I’m young so I haven’t had the same time to cope with the nerves as some of the other competitors, but I think every time it’s getting a little better. Short programs have been getting better.

“I’m excited about it. It can be a little intimidating. In the locker room, they are just people. But when the get on the ice and you see the banners and hear the crowd cheer for them, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m watching the Olympic champion, World champions, people who have so many achievements.’ It’s exciting.

“I need to learn how to trust myself. My junior season I was really good at that. There’s so much less pressure and media excitement. I’m learning how to take what I do in practice and put it out during competition. I want to show the judges that I do deserve to be here and at the top competitions with the other skaters in the world. I want to show what kind of skater and competitor I am. I plan to keep on improving.”

10. 58.36 (30.73+27.63) Viktoria Helgesson, the 24-year-old from Sweden, finished one place higher than last year. She said, “I felt really good about my program. I was disappointed I could not do my triple-triple in this program. (She did triple toe loop to double toe loop.) It was going so good in practice. Prior to worlds I went to Boston to prepare for this event. I was feeling confident coming into worlds. The crowd has been so supportive of the skaters.”

11. 56.90 (30.75+26.15) Mae Berenice Meite, the 18-year-old second ranked French skater, skated 32nd. She said, “I felt pretty good today, and I think this was a rather good short program. I managed to save all the jumps. It was better than at Europeans. I have to keep on working on my second mark, but to be surrounded by all these great skaters feels really good and motivates me a lot. The competition is not over yet, so I have to stay concentrated and keep my focus for the free skate.”

12. 56.31 (30.76+26.55 -1) Zijun Li, 16, is the Chinese Champion who finished fifth in the recent Four Continents’ Championships. She said, “In that event, I did only a triple-double combination. Here, I went for the triple-triple and even though I missed it at least I showed a higher level. Overall it wasn’t bad. This was just the first day and hopefully I can skate better in the free skating.” Re her fall on the combination of jumps, she said, “I rushed it. The ice surface here (hockey size) is smaller, so it might have affected my set up.”

13. 56.30 (26.47+29.83) Alena Leonova, from Moscow, last year’s runner-up, skated 35th and last to music from the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire. She said, “I am very happy actually with the way I skated, especially with the emotions I showed. I was dancing and I didn’t even want the program to end.” Re her combination of two triple toe loops in which the second jump received a double arrow for a down grade, she said, “I’m not going to cry over it now. I did it in the warm up. I trained well and I gave a 100 percent in practice. I knew it would be difficult here as there are so many girls contending for the podium. It is different than last year. I really want to do the first combination as I missed it today.”

14. 54.72 (27.97+27.75 -1) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is 16 and the 2013 European bronze medalist, skated 28th to Aston Piazzolla’s famed Tango “Adios Nonino”. Although she opened with a +1.0 triple Lutz to triple toe loop, she got no points at all for two of her seven required elements. She said, “I actually felt confident going into this competition. I don’t know what happened on that spin which was supposed to be the flying sit spin. The ice is good here, my blade just slipped away. And then on the (intended double) Axel, my toe pick touched the ice before the takeoff, which was why I couldn’t do it anymore. The most important now in the free skate is that I can do all of my elements, including the Axel of course.”

15. 54.59 (29.47+25.12) Elena Glebova, the 23-year-old Estonian champion, who was 13th in this event last year, said, “I stepped on ice knowing it was the last time I would skate this short program. It was a Season’s Best for me. I really enjoyed it. The Canadians are incredible. they were applauding all the way through. There’s no element I could have done better. I hope to do as well as I can in the long. Last week, I skated three clean longs last week in practice so I know that it is in me. I just have to go jump by jump, spin by spin.”

16. 52.44 (28.79+23.65) Sonia Lafuente , the 21-year-old Spanish champion, said, “I felt good today, even though I was nervous before my skate. I was not used to the (small) size of the rink and it felt weird to do the loop almost right into the boards at practice. But then I had a good start to my program and got more and more confident during the program as things were running good. I came to Toronto to train with Javier (Fernandez) the week before the competition already to get used to the time difference and had a great time there and a good practice.”

18. 51.23 (26.61+24.62) Jenna McCorkell, 26, is the ten time British champion. She said, “It was a good skate even if it was not my best. I lost a few points on the GoEs, but I am happy that I could show a good performance after Europeans were really bad. But, after being injured in December, I was in a good shape after Europeans and I came here fully fit. I came to Boston with Viktoria Helgesson for three days and practiced with Ross Miner. It is always good to train with a concurrent before a competition and even more since we are best friends with Viktoria

29. Elena Gedevanishvili, 23, is the most well-known of the skaters not making the top 24 who progress to the Free Skate. She is who now trains with Brian Orser in Canada, but still represents the country of her birth, Georgia. She was tenth in this event in 2009, 2010 & 2011. But this time she couldn’t put a foot right and was 29th. The twice European Championship bronze medalist said, “I don’t know what happened. I just didn’t feel my legs. I tried to get it together, but it just didn’t work. Everything still worked during warm-up.”