Yu-Na Kim won the ladies event at Skate America in Lake Placid while ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto also climbed to the top of the podium. It was the second gold medal on the Grand Prix Series this season for the South Korean superstar and American ice dancers.
Kim earned $18,000 and a place in the Grand Prix Final. Belbin and Agosto split that amount and also found their ticket to Tokyo punched.
In the ladies free skate, the big story was American Rachael Flatt who claimed the silver behind Kim but won the free skate. Julia Sebestyen of Hungary took the bronze.
Performing to “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninov, Flatt reeled off a number of impressive triple jumps. She landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz, loop, triple Lutz-double toe, triple flip-double toe-double loop and a triple Salchow. She also earned a level four for two spins.
Her last combination spin didn’t receive credit though, as the caller identified two separate spins because Flatt re-centered too far apart after a change of direction.
Flatt scored a season best 116.11 points to rank first in the long program. Overall she totaled 174.91 points to finish second. “I skated a clean program except for the last spin, which I did not get credit for. But I landed all my jumps. It was a great program, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.
Kim collected 111.70 points (51.18 element score/61.52 program component score) and ranked second in the free skate. Overall though she easily claimed the title with a competition mark of 187.98 points. “I was too nervous today. I skated last and I had a perfect short program, so I felt the pressure," she said.
Kim opened her routine to “Concerto in F” by George Gershwin with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. She ran into trouble after as she under-rotated the toe loop and stepped out of it. Kim then fell on a triple flip that was downgraded. “My first two jumps were weird and my body got tense. When I miss a jump, I try to refocus, but I didn’t do it this time,” the 19-year-old explained.
She did rally to pull off a double Axel-double toe-double loop, a double Axel-triple toe loop, a triple Salchow and a double Axel. The reigning World Champion received a level four for two spins and the spiral sequence and a level three for the combination spin and the footwork.
Sebestyen gave a solid performance to a medley of music by Raul di Blasio. Her program included four triple jumps and a double Axel as well as a flying combination spin that was graded a level four. However, she doubled the second Lutz and singled two Axels.
The 2004 European champion earned 100.49 points (47.13/53.36), which was a season best, and accumulated 159.03 points overall. She returned to the podium at a Grand Prix event after three years. “I am happy that I was able to concentrate again after the good short program. After Moscow (Rostelecom Cup), I’ve worked a lot on my free skating. I was a little tired in the middle of the program, but then I pulled myself together, because I knew that the triple toe-double toe at the end is a bonus jump,” Sebestyen said.
Fumie Suguri (JPN) came in fourth. She landed a triple Lutz-double toe (but got an edge deduction), a triple flip and three double Axels (148.99 points). Elena Glebova (EST) finished fifth. The highlight of her performance was a triple toe-triple toe combination (148.71 points).
Kim took 15 points and now tops the Grand Prix standings with 30 points. Flatt (13 points) now has 22 and will have to see if that is enough to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Sebestyen (11 points) got 16 points from her two events.
Belbin and Agosto (USA) danced to victory as they led form wire to wire. Below them, the standings shuffled. Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte edged out Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski of Israel by less than one point to take the silver medal. Zaretski and Zaretski captured the bronze.
Belbin and Agosto turned in a solid performance of their lyrical dance to “Ave Maria” and “Amen” that was highlighted by beautiful lifts such as a serpentine lift and a curve lift. The current World silver medalists picked up a level four for all their lifts, the twizzles and the spin. They earned 95.62 points (46.90 element score/48.72 program component score) which added up to a total of 195.85 points.
“This has been a very exciting competition. It was a lot of fun to skate here in Lake Placid, so historic. Once again we felt like we were able to execute all three segments of the competition really well. Today was little bit hard," Agosto said.
Cappellini and Lanotte gave a passionate performance to “Requiem for a Dream.” The Italians routine was highlighted by a straight-line lift in a low position with her balancing in front of him and a one-armed rotational lift. Cappellini and Lanotte picked up a season best 85.73 points (43.60/42.13). They were ranked second in the free dance but overall moved up from third to second at 171.86 points, just 0.09 points ahead of Zaretski and Zaretski.
It was the Italian team's second silver medal on the Grand Prix circuit this season and has most likely qualified for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final for the first time in their career. “We are definitely excited about our result,” Cappellini noted. “We were not expecting this (to make the final). We’ve worked hard this year and this is a reward for our work. I can’t even feel the happiness yet, it’s a big thing. (The Grand Prix Final) is a very special competition. We’ll be there for the first time and we want to be up for the challenge.”
Skating to “Schindler’s List”, Zaretski and Zaretski produced a technically demanding yet flowing dance. They improved their season best score, and pulled up from fourth to third at 171.77 points. “We skated very well. This was one of our best free dances,” Roman Zaretski said. “This is our first medal (at the Grand Prix), so I have no words. We are still shocked! It was a big surprise.”
Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski (RUS) slipped from second to fourth. Several elements in their routine to “Meadowlands” received low levels (168.25 points). Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre (USA) finished fifth with an elegant dance to “One” by U 2.
Belbin and Agosto earned 15 points and now proceed to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final with the maximum of 30 points. Cappellini and Lanotte (13 points) have 26 points, which should be enough to make the Final. Zaretski and Zaretski (11 points) collected 18 points from their two events.