When her score popped up on the monitor at the world figure skating championships on Friday, Kim Yu-na could hardly believe it.
She buried her face in her hands. Her jaw dropped. Her coach, the two-time Olympic medalist Brian Orser, grabbed and shook her.
In front of a crowd filled with South Korean fans waving South Korean flags, South Korea’s Kim dominated the short program here Friday, winning by more than 8 points. Her score was 76.12, the best ever for a woman. It easily eclipsed her previous best score of 72.24.
Joannie Rochette of Canada finished second, with 67.90. Mao Asada of Japan, the defending world champion and Kim’s longtime rival, was third, with 66.06.
“I was very comfortable when I was skating,” Kim said of her reaction to the audience, many of the fans from the sizable Korean community here. “I felt that I was able to do well because of all the people cheering me on in the stadium.”
Kim, 18, had come into worlds expecting her biggest competition to be Asada, but she had no competition at all. Her performance put her in perfect position to win her first world title on Saturday, less than a year from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Skating in a black outfit that sparkled in the lights, she landed each of her jumps, but her moves in between were what mesmerized the crowd. She effortlessly floated from one element to another, often with a smile, always with grace.
“It’s one of those moments in skating people will always remember,” Orser said.
The United States team had a night to forget, with its hopes of earning three spots at the Olympics likely slipping away.
The Americans must finish at least a combined 13th for the team to be awarded three Olympic entries. After the short program, the Americans are in 21st, combined. The last time the team brought only two women skaters to the Olympics was in 1994.
Alissa Czisny, the national champion, fell twice and is 14th going into the long program. She had 53.28 points.
“Today was disappointing because that’s not the way I’ve been practicing,” she said, devoid of emotion. “I have higher expectations of myself, and it just didn’t happen.”
Rachael Flatt, who finished seventh, stepped out of a triple flip and flubbed her first combination jump. But it did not ruin her night. Flatt, 16, said she was excited, not nervous, for her first senior-level world championships. She scored 59.30 points.
“I was hopping around out back, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool,’ ” said Flatt, who has been studying for her A.P. chemistry test and writing an English paper on “The Great Gatsby” during her down time.
The United States men could rest easy. They secured their three spots for Vancouver on Thursday. Evan Lysacek’s gold medal certainly helped the cause. At 23, he will go into the Olympic year as the gold-medal favorite.
Lysacek skated brilliantly to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” landing eight triple jumps as the crowd roared. He became the first American man in 13 years to hold the world title.
“To perform it just how I imagined it hundreds of times and visualized it,” he said, “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
source: nytimes.com via xxx-olympic-games.com