Yu-Na Kim of South Korea claimed the gold medal in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 9,873 spectators at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver Friday evening at the ISU 2009 Four Continents Championships. In ice dance, meanwhile, Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) upset defending champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada to take the title.
Kim trains in Toronto with coach Brian Orser and the crowd embraced her as one of its own. "It is very good for me to have earned first place here in Vancouver,” Kim said.
Canada’s Joannie Rochette claimed the silver medal for the second straight year. Reigning World champion Mao Asada of Japan won the free skate as she rallied from sixth to third.
Kim scored 116.83 points (56.95 element score/60.88 program component score) and was ranked third in the free skate but held on to first place at 189.07 points. It was her first ISU championship title at the senior level.
The teenage star skated last in the final flight. She retied the laces of her left skating boot while the marks of the previous skater were still announced, then she skated to the loud cheers of the crowd as she circled the ice before taking her opening position.
Skating to “Sheherazade,” the two-time World bronze medalist nailed her rock-solid triple flip-triple toe combination. She then crashed on the next jump, a planned triple loop. The triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination was not fully rotated and downgraded. Kim pulled herself together to reel off a double Axel-triple toe, a triple Lutz, triple Salchow and another double Axel as well as exquisite spins, steps and spirals.
“I wanted to do the triple loop in this competition, but unfortunately I missed it," she said. "The rest of the program was great, although I was a little tired today."
Rochette collected 117.01 points (58.45/58.56) for her free skate and claimed her second consecutive silver medal at Four Continents with 183.91 points. “I felt good today," she said. "I was a bit nervous, but when my music started, I got into my program and my training showed that I was in good condition. Of course there were some mistakes, but I’m happy."
Rochette landed a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination, a triple flip, loop, another Lutz and a triple Salchow in her sophisticated routine to “Concierto de Aranjuez.” She did one step too many in her triple toe-triple Salchow sequence so that the second jump didn’t count. She also singled the first jump in a double Axel-double Axel jump sequence. The Canadian star was awarded a level four for her three spins as well as for the spiral sequence and got a level four for the footwork.
"I can build on this before the World Championships,” the 23-year-old said. “When the triple toe loop wasn’t landed good enough for doing the triple Salchow (for the sequence), I wasn’t sure if the rules allowed to do a Salchow anywhere else, but I just wanted to do it for myself. Now I know that it doesn’t count and I should just do a nice triple toe loop.”
Asada scored 118.66 points (58.58/60.08) for her long program, which was the best of the night. With 176.52 points, the 2008 Four Continents champion moved up three spots to take the bronze medal this time. “I still had to overcome some problems, and I will try harder for the World Championships," she said. "I was determined to do at least one good triple Axel today. So when I singled the first one I was determined to do the next one better.”
Asada, who stood in sixth place following a faulty short program, skated first in the group and knew she had to risk everything. The 2008 World champion had to overcome a shaky start into her powerful “Waltz Masquerade” program when she popped her first planned triple Axel. She surged back to hit a triple Axel just a few seconds later.
A triple flip-double loop-double loop combination, a triple loop, triple flip-double loop as well as a double Axel followed. Her only miscue came when she doubled a planned triple toe loop. The 18-year-old also showed strong spins, two of which were graded a level four.
Caroline Zhang (USA) came in fourth in her debut at the event. She landed six triples and showed impressive spins (171.22 points). Cynthia Phaneuf (CAN) slipped from third to fifth at 169.41 points. The Canadian silver medalist produced five clean triples, but doubled a flip and stepped out of a triple Lutz. Fumie Suguri (JPN) was sixth with 167.74 points.
Rachael Flatt (USA) was seventh, Akiko Suzuki eighth, Alissa Czisny (USA) ninth and Amelie Lacoste (CAN) tenth.
The day started with the free dance. While Davis and White and Virtue and Moir placed 1-2, respectively, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates (USA) earned the bronze medal in what was their debut at the Four Continents Championships.
Davis and White had drawn to skate last and delivered a powerful performance to “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens. They earned a season-best score of 96.74 points (49.90 element score/46.86 program component score) for their free dance and compiled a total competition marl of 129.39 points. They eclipsed overnight leaders Virtue and Moir by less than one point.
“It (the program) felt powerful and emotional; those are the two things that have been really key this season for us. It felt like we could go out there and give it everything had,” White said.
The Americans maintained great speed throughout the program and completed intricate footwork as well as beautiful lifts, including a curve and a curve rotational lift. The U.S. champions were awarded a level four for seven out of the eight elements; only the circular step sequence was graded a level three.
“Things have been coming together for us this season. Last season and the year before we were working on different aspects of our skating, and I think that this season it all came together. We’ve been working pretty hard and we’re happy with our performance,” Davis said.
Virtue and Moir scored 94.51 points (47.20/47.31) and accumulated a total score of 191.81 points. “It is good for our confidence just to be here not matter what our placement is. It’s important for us internationally,” Moir said.
They opened their program to “Great Gig in the Sky” and “Money” by Pink Floyd with a difficult combination spin, but Virtue wobbled during the change of foot. The reigning World silver medalists went on to produce innovative lifts including a straight line lift with her standing unsupported on his leg and a serpentine lift with many changes of position. Their circular footwork was smooth, but they had another bobble in the diagonal steps at the end of the routine. The Canadians were awarded a level three for the spin and the two step sequences while the twizzles and all four lifts were a level four.
“We are quite pleased with our skate today. In many areas it was better than nationals, while in others it wasn’t,” Virtue commented. “It feels really good for us to get this under our belts and it’s a confidence booster. We’re heading home feeling really positive. We’re really proud of Meryl and Charlie. They certainly deserve it.”
Samuelson and Bates turned in a technically demanding and smooth performance to “Amazonic” that was highlighted by excellent lifts and steps.
The 2008 World junior champions showed off their unison throughout the dance and were awarded a level four for all elements except for the step sequences that were a level three. They earned a personal best 89.90 points (48.10/41.80) and racked up a total score of 180.79 points.
“We were able to execute all elements and give a good performance, and it was a personal best. It went really well” Bates said. “Hopefully this is the first of many Four Continents for us. We’re really happy to be on the podium with two of the best teams in the world. For the future, hopefully this means a lot of good things.”
World Junior silver medalists Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier (CAN) finished fourth with 176.82 points. They put out a romantic and technically difficult program to “Doce de Coco.” Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN) came in fifth with a dramatic dance to “Dr. Zhivago” (168.76 points). 2008 Four Continents bronze medalists Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre (USA) were ranked sixth (151.82 points).