MANILA, Philippines – World and Olympic Champion Kim Yuna moved one step closer to defending her Olympic title with a win in the ladies short program on Wednesday, February 19 (February 20 in Manila) but not as convincingly as she would have wanted.
Yuna scored 74.92, just over a quarter of a point ahead of her closest rival Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova (74.64) and less than a point over Carolina Kostner of Italy (74.12).
The South Korean figure skater landed all her jumps cleanly including a triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and a double axel but lacked transitions within elements keeping her almost 4 points off her world record 78.50 set at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She also only received a level 3 (out of a the highest level 4) on her layback spin.
Yuna took her starting position with nerves written all over her face. She struggled through her warm-up popping her first attempt a triple lutz. Speaking to journalists after her performance, the skater many refer to as “Queen Yuna” said, “I couldn’t jump at all in the warmup. I was more nervous than I expected. I tried to trust in myself. I didn’t feel any pressure.”
Following her victory at the 2013 World Championships Kim Yuna missed the rest of the competitive season due to a leg injury. If she wins gold in Sochi she will be only the 3rd woman in history to win back-to-back ladies figure skating Olympic titles. The last woman to do it was Katerina Witt of Germany in 1984 and 1988.
2014 European silver medalist Sotnikova was the surprise of the event. While her triple toe-triple toe combination was not as difficult as the other ladies in the top 3, she received higher technical element marks than Yuna courtesy of her level 4 spins.
Costner the 2012 World Champion was in rare form when it mattered most. The Italian changed a planned triple toe-triple toe combination to a more difficult triple flip-triple toe. The risk paid of, her flawless rendition of Ave Maria also earned her marks almost enough to beat Yuna.
15-year-old Lipnitskaya already a gold medal winner in the team figure skating competition, and favored to chase Kim Yuna for the gold buckled under pressure falling on her triple flip jump to finish 5th with a score of 65.23.
American skaters Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Paulina Edmonds finished 4th, 6th and 7th respectively. Gold the current US champion fought to finish her triple lutz-triple toe combination despite a wonky landing on her lutz.
Two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan, also expected to be a contenter for gold, fell apart falling on her opening triple axel and doubled a planned triple loop not managing to perform the required combination jump after it. She ended up 16th overall.
Filipino-Norwegian Anne Line Gjersem barely qualified for the long program posting a score of 48.56 to make the Top 24. – Rappler.com
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