It was to be the re-crowning of Queen Yu-Na. With a somewhat controversial first place finish in the short, Kim was poised to make her Korean-inspired free skate a spectacular “Welcome Back” moment.
But as so many Olympic champions learn, the ice never stops being slippery. And the nerves never go away.
But before we get to Kim’s skate, let’s go back to Rachael Flatt, skating from 8th.
Word had spread she was dealing with some pain in her right leg. Turns out, it was more than a little pain, and it was evident from the warm up that it wasn’t going to be pretty. The pain stemmed from what was diagnosed the previous Friday as a stress fracture. Flatt decided to gut it out, but as expected, it was a performance she may wish she didn’t have to remember. She couldn’t do a flip or a lutz, clearly wasn’t able to do the triple-triple she’d been talking up prior to the event, and even the jumps she did land looked like they took everything out of her. She looked completely dejected as she left the ice…and understandably so.
As I said to someone on Twitter, I don’t want to play the “You know, if Mirai was here…” game because she certainly would have come in as a question mark, too. That said, I have to wonder if it was a good idea — for Rachael individually or for the sake of the US team — for her to compete. Unfortunately, that’s a “what if” that will never be answered.
The reigning champ skated under enormous pressure of her own. It was the “main event” in the eyes of many people — the rematch. Asada vs. Kim. Problem being, she’s had a season full of her own turmoil and had yet to show that she was ready to be world champion again. Despite a program riddled with little mistakes (including some severe underrotations), I have to say I’m proud of her fight. She could easily have written this season off in order to concentrate on her technique issues. But she fought all the way to the end, and came a long way in the process. Still, it was nowhere near enough to compete with Kim — or the other medal contenders.
Miki Ando was the first to skate in the final group, and if anyone was going to beat Kim, it looked like it would be Ando. Plus, it would have a really feel-good conclusion for a Japanese lady to win the women’s event in honor of the people of Japan. It seems she may have been feeling a bit of that emotion as well, as she skated with more emotion than I’ve ever seen from her (as she did throughout this entire competition). While it wasn’t the most “WOW” program, she hit her jumps and finished each element in a way that left the rest of the competition with a bit score to beat.
Alena Leonova may have had the skate of the night when she came out, opened with a bang, and flew through ever step of her program. She was overcome with joy at the end, in tears along with Irina Slutskya who watched from a commentator’s desk. The crowd, of course, erupted at every stage of the program, starting with a big triple-triple and continuing through each and every element. She was brilliant, and in my eyes, should have been on the podium.
The other Russian — Ksenia Makarova — would close the show later on, trying to hang on to her third place finish from the short.
Kim was next. This was the tell-all moment. She certainly has the most mature and deep expression of the top skaters in the world. As she headed into the triple lutz/triple toe combo that she missed in the short, it was as if the world held its breath…then sighed in relief as she hit the first, then the second jump. Not as good as last season, but landed. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. She popped two jumps as the program built to the footwork section. If she’d carried last season’s speed through the sequence, it would have blown the roof off the arena. But, as intricate as it was, it was a little less dynamic than it could have been. That said, this has the makings of an incredible long program. Hope we get to see it skated to full potential in the future! However, in this case, the jump errors were too much to out-do Ando’s steady and consistent skate, and Kim would settle for silver.
Suddenly, with Mao Asada out of the picture and the third place skater from Russia consistently inconsistent in the long, Alissa Czisny looked to be in prime position to move up from 4th to the podium. That is, until the first jump. She fell on the opening triple lutz and as it turned out, missed the podium by just that much. Still, the “old Alissa” never reappeared as she finished brilliantly through the rest of the program. She has much to be proud of in this event, doing more than many ever gave her the chance of doing! She still has the best spins in the world, and if she decides to compete next season, I hope she ups the ante in her footwork and transitions to help out her scores outside of the jumps.
Carolina Kostner is an interesting predicament. She did, in fact, skate a solid long. She does, in fact, skate with great speed. But the content of her program beyond that is, well, dramatically less impressive than that of Czisny’s even. But after hitting the best skate of her season, she not only overtook Czisny, but Leonova as well, raising plenty of eyebrows as she finished on the podium. Interestingly, she won a bronze medal the last time Worlds was in Moscow in 2005. That one was also disputed for weeks.
Makarova was last to skate, and it had the set up of a closing celebration with the return of a Russia to the ladies podium. But, alas, it was not to be. Ksenia hit an opening triple-triple, but pulled an “Oda” and did an extra combination jump, meaning the last triple/double didn’t count at all. Plus, what she did do certainly didn’t have the quality of Asada, Czisny, Kim or Ando. She fell to 7th.
And with that, the event was over. Oddly, it felt very unfinished. Perhaps it was due to the confusion in the stands as the home crowd tried to process Makarova’s scores. Perhaps it was the lack of showdown at all between Asada/Kim. But whatever it was, Ando walked away the two-time champion, and Kim settled for silver, while Kostner took home the bronze. Czisny — despite the doubters and the fall — finished fifth. (But, Flatt’s troubles landed her in 12th overall, not allowing the US to gain back the 3rd spot for next year’s team.)
Finally, Japan had their World Champion.