They saved the best for last at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships and no one was disappointed. In the end, three former World champions stood atop the podium.
As cliche as it sounds, Yuna Kim’s majestic return to top form — and, not coincidentally, the top step of the ladies’ podium — made it a pretty easy thought for one and all who witnessed the best skate of the entire Championships.
"Queen" Yuna was royally good in her return to Worlds after a 20-month absence, claiming her second global crown in decisive fashion with a free skate score (148.34) which was just shy of the World record she set in winning the 2010 Winter Olympics.
But this was a different Yuna, skating free of the crushing pressure that always accompanied her on the road to Olympic glory. She will tell you now that lifting that weight off her delicate shoulders allowed her to skate more freely in London last week — and regain the throne she first occupied in 2009.
“Before the Olympics, I was very focused on the results,” said the graceful Korean. “After the Olympics, although the training itself was very similar, I didn’t feel the pressure as much. I was able to enjoy this win.”
Though she knew full well that she had delivered a command performance, she admitted surprise at the whopping score she earned.
“I did my best, so I knew my score was going to be good, but I didn’t think it was going to be that high,” said the 22-year-old, whose winning margin was a massive 20.42 points. “I wasn’t quite able to cry ... but because I delivered a clean long program, I was very happy.”
Kim admitted that this might be her last Worlds appearance and said she will appreciate what she achieved in London. “I am happy I delivered both short and long clean programs. This Championship could be my last one and I won, so I’m very happy.”
She will compete at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where she could match the back-to-back ladies’ Olympic golds produced by the great Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988. But it will not be her sole focus.
“The next Olympics, I will do my best but I will not focus on good scores because if I do that, I will not deliver the good skate,” she said.
The last thing Carolina Kostner needed before her free skate was a recurrence of any old childhood malady. But there the reigning World champion was, trying to fend off a nosebleed with her title on the line.
“I remember when I was growing up, it would happen, but I don’t think I’m still growing,” said Kostner with her ever-present smile. “I hope it was just a one-time thing.”
Look closely, and you’d have noticed Kostner holding her nose during a spin — “it was running like a river,” she said — trying to stem the flow of the blood that spattered the Budweiser Gardens ice.
“Then I said if you want to finish, you have to let go,” she said. “I tried to forget about it as much as I could.”
Somehow, Kostner produced her typically elegant performance and was justly rewarded with a silver medal.
“When I came here, I didn’t know what to expect,” said the 26-year-old Italian. “But now that I can go home with a medal, it’s such a great feeling.”
After sixth-place finishes at the previous two World Championships, Mao Asada found herself sitting in the exact same position following the short program that left her feeling “great regrets” over the errors she made.
The 2010 World champion from Japan — who is a huge skating star not only in her homeland but around the globe — wondered if she was doomed to finish off the podium again. But after a slow start in her free skate Saturday night, Asada rallied heroically to earn the bronze medal.
The result left her beaming with pride afterward. “I said to myself, 'once again, I’m in sixth, what have I been doing all this time,'” Asada said in reference to her standing after the short. “But after the two-season hiatus, I was able to make it back on the podium. So for that, I am very happy.”
After finishing fourth in the short Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond found herself skating between two major contenders in the free - Kim and Asada.
But the feisty 17-year-old went out and did her best and wound up eighth. She admitted to a fleeting thought about winning a medal. “There was a little vague thing going on in the back of my head ... maybe it’s going to happen,” she said. “But I kind of put that out of my head pretty fast. I said my goal was top 10, I’m going to keep it that way ... to find out that I made top 10 is unbelievable.”