Crowd favorite Yu-Na Kim skated into the lead last night at the 2009 Four Continents Championships.
While Kim hails from South Korea, she trains in Toronto with Brian Orser, and the crowd in Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum backed the elegant skater. She did her part to enchant the audience by skating a terrific short program and scoring 72.24 points, the highest mark awarded in the ladies event, under the new judging system.
When the score came up, Kim covered her face with her hands in surprise. “When I was preparing for the Four Continents, I tried to stay healthy because last year I was having injuries in February. I couldn’t prepare so well. So this season I’m in my best condition and to have achieved the highest score makes me very happy,” Kim said. “It took me a long time to clean up this program, and I’m so happy that I did it today.”
Kim’s program to "Danse Macabre" was superb. The 18-year-old hit a solid triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz and double Axel effortlessly. Her three spins and the spiral sequence were graded a level four and the straight line step sequence was a level three.
Joannie Rochette of Canada was second with 66.90 points while teammate Cynthia Phaneuf ranked third with 60.98 points.
Rochette opened her “Summertime” routine with a beautiful double Axel followed by a triple Lutz-double toe and a triple flip. The reigning Four Continents silver medalist also produced two level-four spins and earned a level three for her layback spin and the footwork. She scored 66.90 points (37.90/29.00), a personal best.
“I’m very happy with how it went. The short program was my harder program all season. We’ve made a few changes since nationals, and I had only one week to practice. I still need to fix some things,” Rochette said. “I had planned to do triple-triple tonight, but when I landed the Lutz, it was a bit high, and I decided to do a double toe. It is better to do a clean triple-double than a cheated triple-triple. I wanted to do perfect program tonight.”
Phaneuf won the silver medal in her debut at the Four Continents Championships in 2004 but hasn’t been on the podium at the event since. Her to “Nocturne” program included a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, a triple toe loop and a double Axel. She earned a personal best of 60.98 points (34.70/26.28) and was ecstatic. “I’m so happy [to be] skating here in Vancouver in front of a home crowd and doing an amazing program. It’s my first clean program since 2005. I’m so proud of myself,” she said.
Fumie Suguri of Japan was fourth with 60.18 points. In fifth, was American Caroline Zhang (58.16 points).
Reigning World champion Mao Asada (who a botched a landing in one jump and popped another) was sixth with 57.86.
The rest of the American ladies team did not fare well. U.S. champion Alissa Czisny (who fell on a triple flip) was seventh while teammate Rachael Flatt was eighth.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China led the pairs with 65.60 points. “It was not perfect today and we hope to do better tomorrow,” Pang said. “I was hesitating on the toe loop. The ice surface is more narrow and I hadn’t quite adjusted to that.”
Tong added: “Some of our elements were good today, but we made two mistakes.”
Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison of Canada, reigning World bronze medalists, were second with 64.36. “We’re looking at a podium here. That’s our goal,” said Davison. “We are happy with our performance. It was the best short program of the year. We’re looking forward to carry this performance momentum into the long program tomorrow.”
China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (63.20 points) were third; Canadians Megan Duhamel and Craig Buntin (62.08) were fourth; and Rena Inoue and John Baldwin of Santa Monica (56.78) were fifth.
U.S. champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker skated an error-filled program to rank seventh. Their teammates Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were eighth.
After the compulsories (the Finnstep) in ice dance, reigning World silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada earned 36.40 points to place first, ahead of U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier of Canada were third, with Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States in fourth.