Monday, 23/4/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Asada Edges Kim for Final Victory

World Champion Mao Asada reigned supreme on Saturday at the final event of the Grand Prix Series. The Series, which consisted of six qualifying events throughout the world, culminated in a final match-up held this week at Seongsa Ice Rink in Goyang City, Korea.

The most anticipated event came down to a nail-biting finish between Asada and her long-time rival Yu-Na Kim. Kim, who was competing in her home country was the reigning Grand Prix Champion and had high hopes to capture her third straight crown.

Kim was favoured to win the event after winning both her qualifiers held in America and China. Asada, on the other hand, had a rough start to her season. She finished second in France, but gave a tough-as-nails performance in her home country to win NHK Trophy two weeks prior — to qualify for the final.

Asada took to the ice before Kim after a second place showing in Friday’s short program. It was a stellar performance for the Japanese Champion. She appeared nervous and was seen taking a few last minute deep breaths as she took her opening pose. The 18-year-old delivered a power-packed program to “Waltz Masquerade” by Aram Khatchaturian.

Mao meant business and fought with all that she had. She gutted out two triple Axels — the first of which was in combination with a double toe loop. The second was not in combination, however, appeared better than the first. She earned GOE’s as high as +2 for that element. Her next jump a planned triple flip/triple toe was changed to a triple flip/double loop/double loop.

Her only error came when she under-rotated a triple flip which caused her to fall. The Japanese Champion recovered quickly landing a triple Lutz and a double Axel.

The youngster from Nagoya was spectacular as she flew down the ice displaying amazing control of the blade. Seven of the judges were also impressed awarding Asada a +2 GOE. The rest of her elements were equally as strong. All were called level four except the footwork and her flying sit spin which were level three.

The youngster shook her arms and her head in disbelief and then waved to the crowd teary-eyed.

Coach Tatiana Tarasova looked elated when her star pupil picked up 123.17 points for her free skate. Asada reclaimed the Grand Prix title which eluded her the last two seasons with an event total of 188.85 points.

“I didn’t feel any pressure coming into this event as the World Champion,” Asada told the press. “I am happy that I could land two triple Axels in my programs, and that I was able to win here in Korea. It is really special.”

The excitement and anticipation in the arena was overwhelming as Korean star Yu-Na Kim took to the ice for her free skate. Fans sat at the edge of their seats. Media packed in every crevice. It was as if Elton John or Madonna had arrived and was standing on center ice.

Yu-Na beamed as she took her opening pose. Head up, perfect posture and every hair in place. Not a peep could be heard as she took off on her opening jump. It was an outstanding triple flip/triple toe. The crowd erupted and got even louder when she hit the double Axel and an effortless triple Lutz/double toe/double loop. It looked like the fairytale ending when she completed the double Axel/triple toe.

But wait, Kim popped the Lutz into a single and under-rotated the triple Salchow and fell. She rebounded quickly to complete her last jump — a double Axel.

Her non-jumping elements were mostly level three except for the spiral step sequence and a flying sit spin which were called level four. She edged her Japanese rival on the component scores, but was unable to match the technical prowess of Asada’s performance today.

“I felt a lot of pressure today and I have a cold that got worse today. I made some mistakes and I am disappointed about that,” the Korean relented. “But on the other hand I did quite well, and I won a medal, I felt more tired physically than I was yesterday, that was my problem.”

The Skate America Champion accumulated 120.41 points, 2.76 points less than Asada. When combined with her short program the Korean sat second with an event total of 186.35 points.

Tears fell for the hometown hero when the overnight leader was overtaken by the World Champion. Her third straight Grand Prix Final title which seemed oh so close yesterday — seemed so far away today. The 18-year-old Korean collapsed on her triple Salchow and popped the planned triple Lutz. Two costly errors — that kept her from gold.

“But I have other competitions remaining, and I will try to do my best there,” the teen explained. “It was the first time for me to compete at home, and it was not easy, but this experience will be helpful for me. It was wonderful to skate at home, I am a little disappointed about my mistakes, but it’s ok. I will do better next time.”

The two-time World bronze medalist performed her “Sheherazade” free program under intense pressure and the on-comings of a cold. Kim was constantly stalked all week by hundreds of media and thousands of fans. However, the Korean was a trooper and handled the pressure with the utmost grace and charm.

Yet all was not lost for the youngster, and something positive can be found in every situation. While she did not bring home the gold medal to Korea — she brought home her heart instead.

Italian Carolina Kostner finished third and it was a story of comebacks. She started her grand prix season on a sour note finishing fourth at Skate Canada. She rose at Cup of Russia and won the gold medal in order to qualify for this event. Today the 21-year-old had another comeback of sorts – from Friday’s short program.

“I was very nervous today, and I don’t know why, because I have been training well.,” Kostner stated. I know I still have to work a lot, and I will do so after Italian Nationals. Each competition is getting better.”

The long-limbed beauty reeled off a huge triple flip/double toe combination to open her “Dumsky Trio” free program. Her next combination was extremely well-done and consisted of a triple Lutz/double toe/double loop. A triple flip was next and that was okay, but oops a fall on the triple loop. The World silver medalist nailed the double Axel/triple toe and a solo double Axel, but struggled and went hands down on the triple Salchow.

“The triple Lutz (was a highlight), and I also was happy about the double Axel triple toe. I think I didn’t take enough speed out of the triple flip and I didn’t take the time to find the right rhythm,” she added about missing the triple loop.”

The two-time European laughed as she fought to hold her closing pose. Her free skate earned 112.13 points placing her fourth in the free skate. However, when combined with her short program score she had an event total of 168.01 points – which elevated her to third overall.

Canadian Joanne Rochette redeemed herself after a disastrous short program on Friday where she doubled all her jumps and tumbled to sixth place.

The Canadian Champion looked tentative on her opening jump — a triple Lutz and was not steady enough to perform the double toe/double loop as planned for a combination. Her next jumps a triple flip and a triple loop were solid. However, she doubled the Lutz. The 2004 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist powered back with a series of powerful jumps – a triple toe + triple Salchow sequence, double Axel + a double Axel sequence and a solo triple Salchow. Rochette pocketed 115.88 points for her third place free skate, however, when combined with the short program she had an event total of 166.36 points narrowly missing the bronze medal.

“It has been a tough week for me,” claimed Rochette. “I felt weaker than in the short. It is a good learning experience, because I was still able to fight in my long program until the very end. I just need to figure out what is best for me, to go home and work on. I know that I need to do a lot of training before Worlds. I wasn’t able to do that before coming here. I missed some on ice sessions. I just have to do what I did before Skate Canada.”

Yukari Nakano dropped to fifth place overall after she delivered a messy free skate to “Giselle” earning her only 99.85 points. She stepped out of an under-rotated triple Axel, under-rotated a triple flip of a triple flip/double toe combination. She then doubled the Lutz, tripped on her straight line footwork and under-rotated the final jump on a triple toe/double toe/double loop combination as well.

“I was very nervous, and I am disappointed to have made so many mistakes today,” Yukari said sadly. “The triple Axel was really good in practice, and I thought I’d do it, but I rushed it a little and I think that’s why I missed it.”

Miki Ando of Nagoya, finished sixth overall with 158.25 points after receiving four downgrades on her jumps including the quad Salchow. Ando is the only female skater to land the quad Salchow in competition which she did at the 2002 Junior Grand Prix Final.

“I was not disappointed, I am actually very happy, because I didn’t try a quad for many years, and then the Axel/toe is a new jump for me,” Miki explained. This year I felt I really wanted to go for the quad Salchow.

The double Axel/triple toeloop was also under-rotated, but I am very happy that I was able to do these two elements. Even though I was lacking speed and some jumps were under-rotated I’m still pleased. I just changed my program. I knew when I landed the Salchow that it was under-rotated. I made the decision (to go for the quad Salchow) after the official practice. I discussed (it) a long time with my coach if I should do the triple Salchow/triple loop combination or the quad (Salchow) and finally he said it’s up to me.”

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