Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Women's figure skating
By Elliott Almond
San Jose Mercury News
Results of Women's Figure Skating.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Their faces said it all.
Kim Yu-na spilled tears Thursday night after a spellbinding four-plus minutes on the ice.
Just moments later, rival Mao Asada of Japan wore a stoic look, wondering if she had done enough to hold on to a silver medal.
By then the gold medallion belonged to South Korea’s most famous person, the one they call “The Queen.” Kim, 19, knew it as soon as she ended her program to a George Gershwin concerto. The audience at Pacific Coliseum joined her in the celebration even though three skaters had yet to perform.
On a night expected to be a showdown between the world’s most gifted skaters, Kim handed her competitors an old-fashioned butt-kicking, scoring 228.56 points. Asada made three mistakes in her dark program skated to “Bells of Moscow” by Rachmaniov.
She still had executed uplifting jumps and lovely footwork to hold off everyone’s emotional favorite, Joannie Rochette, for the silver medal by almost three points. Rochette was skating only four days after her mother Therese died of a heart attack Sunday in Vancouver.
Perhaps it was too much to expect the six-time Canadian champion to skate cleanly in the long program. She appeared to make three errors on separate jumps, including failing to complete the second double axel in a combination sequence. The mental errors doomed her chance at the silver medal. But it hardly mattered, as Rochette became the first Canadian to medal in the Olympics since Elizabeth Manley in 1988 in Calgary.
Her mistakes allowed Asada, 19, to hold onto the silver in what became a one-woman show. Kim outpointed the Japanese champion by a whopping 26 points.
Kim’s coach, Brian Orser, clapped with each perfectly executed jump by his student who trains in Toronto. A two-time silver medalist for Canada, Orser has found a kindred spirit in Kim, who hasn’t lost in more than a year.
Orser tried to corral his skater’s nerves this week as Korean media hunted Kim down throughout Vancouver like she was Princess Diana.
“My only were words of wisdom were to appreciate the space we were in,” he said a day before the long program. “It had such a good energy and good feel you have to take time to acknowledge that.”
Kim paid tribute to that space by skating spectacularly. Looking toward the ceiling in her blue gown, Kim began with graceful movements as soon as the first note of Gershwin resonated in the Coliseum.
Kim spun around as if every joint were detached, contorting her lithe body in all manner of positions. It was an ethereal performance, light-hearted and yet athletically demanding.
“She just has a style that is pretty genuine and it is open for everybody to appreciate,” Orser said. “There is nothing selfish about her skating. It is welcoming and she reaches the very last row in the building and people feel they are invited to enjoy as she is.”
The pro-Canadian audience would not have disagreed. They seemed transported while witnessing perhaps the greatest performance in history among the current generation of skaters.
While the night belonged to the Asian stars, Americans ended with a mixed bag. U.S. champion Rachael Flatt, 17, made an early error on a triple-triple combination jump and couldn’t recover, falling to seventh place.
But the United States’ future looked promising with the final skater of the evening. Mirai Nagasu, 16, started the night in sixth place and is already talking about the Sochi Games in 2014.
But a rousing long program left her fourth, 12 points behind Rochette.
“I think I learned a lot here at my first international competition,” Nagasu said. “It was my first time skating in the final warm-up. It was a great honor and as stressful as they say. But I was able to beat that pressure.”