EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na led an Asian sweep at Skate America, winning the title in a runaway Sunday, Oct. 26, at Everett’s Comcast Arena over Japan’s Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando.
With a lead of nearly 12 points entering the free skate, the 18-year-old Kim added to her substantial cushion, ending with a total of 193.45. Nakano, 23, won silver with a score of 172.53, and Ando, the 2007 world champion, took bronze with 168.42.
“I was a bit nervous,” said Kim, last year’s world bronze medalist and a two-time Grand Prix champion. “But when I thought the program was a practice, I was able to pull through.”
Skating with power and grace, the long-limbed Kim landed six triples in a program with no substantial gaffes. She changed a triple loop to a single and was charged with minor flaws on two spins.
Considering the world championship-caliber Skate America field, Kim has to be considered an early favorite for the 2010 Olympics in nearby Vancouver. She’ll have strong competition from the Japanese.
No Americans made the podium, with Rachael Flatt finishing fourth.
Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won Sunday’s free dance segment, but it wasn’t enough to unseat France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder for the ice dance title at Skate America.
Delobel and Schoenfelder, the reigning world champions, finished with 187.64 points, edging Belbin and Agosto with 186.53. Great Britain’s sister-brother duo of Sinead and John Kerr were third with 180.20.
In the women’s event, Nakano started the day in third place, but moved ahead of countrywoman Ando with a nearly flawless program that featured five triples and beautiful spins.
“I felt a little sorry I didn’t try a triple axel and a triple-triple combination,” she said.
Ando dropped to third when she didn’t get around on a triple loop. She also ditched a planned quadruple jump for a triple instead.
When the free skate began, five skaters were within three points of one another, presumably in contention for silver and bronze behind Kim. But none of the Americans did enough to challenge.
Flatt came closest, scoring 155.73 and moving up from fifth to fourth with an ambitious free skate. She stumbled on a triple salchow midway through, but landed six other triples, including a triple-double-double combination late in the program for extra points. She also turned a planned double axel into a single.
“The jumps weren’t on tonight,” Flatt said, chalking up the event as “a learning experience.”
Kimmie Meissner, once considered the heir to Michelle Kwan after winning the 2006 world title and 2007 national championship, seems to be struggling with the same demons that wrecked her confidence last season. She fell twice and changed or dumped five other jumps, failing to complete any of three combinations.
After finishing seventh at worlds and nationals last season, Meissner moved to Florida to work with new coaches Richard Callaghan and Todd Eldredge.
“I’m a bit frustrated right now, but it’s definitely going to make me work harder,” Meissner said. “I don’t think I need to take apart things. I think I just need to keep training more. I have everything. I just need to do it.”
Mirai Nagasu, the reigning U.S. national champion, fell twice and dropped to fifth with 142.90 points. She is struggling with a possible stress fracture in her right ankle.
In dance, Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, competing in their first senior international competition after winning the junior world title, were fourth with 175.66.
Belbin and Agosto, skating to “Tosca” by Puccini, won the free dance 91.43 to 90.89 over the French. But the 2006 Olympic silver medalists were too far behind after the compulsory and original dance portions, a strength for Delobel and Schoenfelder, competing in their 19th season together.
Their lengthy partnership showed in their seamless program and creative lifts, though they were penalized a point for one lift that was too long. They skated to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”
Belbin and Agosto are competing for the first time since shaking up their careers by changing coaches and training base, now outside Philadelphia. They are five-time national champions, but are looking to improve on some disappointing international finishes since Turin.
“Since we’ve moved we’ve tried to make our whole skating process have a plan,” Belbin said. “This is the first step in this season, but at the same time it’s the first step toward the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games is everybody’s main goal.” ♦