When the final group of six Olympic skaters stepped onto the ice in Thursday’s ladies’ free-skate competition before a capacity crowd at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, there were more plot lines brewing than in an episode of Modern Family:
• Would either of the Americans, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, the youngest skaters in the final group, topple one of the three veterans occupying the top three places? (The last Olympic year an American female didn’t take a medal was 1964, and that was four years after a tragic plane crash wiped out the U.S. World team.)
• Could Korean Kim Yu-Na fend off the triple Axel queen, Japan’s Mao Asada, one last time to win the gold?
• Would Canadian champion Joannie Rochette – who lost her mother to a heart attack only four days before – be able to skate an error-free 4-minute program and earn a spot on the podium – and keep Japan’s Mike Ando, the former world champion sitting in 4th place, from spoiling her dream?
Gold for Kim Yu-Na
After skating a performance that would earn her a world record score of 150.06 for the long program and a record total of 228.56 points for both short and the long, Kim, 19, uncharacteristically began crying as she waved to the crowd and received a standing ovation.
“I don’t know why,” Kim said afterwards. “It just turned out that way. I think I was just very emotional. I can’t believe this day has finally come for me.”
Silver medalist Asada was never a real factor for the gold, changing a planned triple toe loop to a single and bobbling on a three-jump combination. Countrywoman Ando dropped to fifth and Laura Lipisto of Finland finished sixth.
A remarkably composed Rochette, 24, scored 131.28 points, despite a couple of minor errors, and took the bronze. Breaking her silence, Rochette, 24, met with the press said it had been a difficult few days but she found solace reading the letters and emails from fans and friends. “It helped me perform for my country, myself and my mother,” she said. “I’m glad I did this, though my mind wasn’t always there, I knew 10 years from now, after the pain had gone away, I would have regretted not skating. And my mom would have wanted it this way.”
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‘Something to Work On’
The most surprising skater of the night actually skated last – Mirai Nagasu, the California teen with a sushi roll named after her. She managed to climb from 6th to 4th after skating flawlessly to Carmen, earning a 126.39 points and bettering her all-time best by an impressive 20 points.
“I was happy just to finish behind these top three competitors. Hopefully, I will make up for it in the next Olympics and make it to the podium,” said the Arcadia, Calif., native.
Nagasu, 16, skated immediately after crowd favorite Rochette. “I was proud of Joannie and I knew the crowd would be crazy for her no matter how she skated,” Nagasu said. “So when I went out there, I just thought about how much I had wanted to get here. [The Olympics] has been my dream since I was a little girl. ”
Rachael Flatt, 17, was looking to pull off a double – she was recently admitted to Stanford – and an Olympic medal certainly would have looked cool hanging in her dorm room. But the technical panel downgraded her on two triple flips, and she dropped to seventh.
“I was stoked,” she said after finishing an exuberant program to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. “I didn’t care what the points were at that point, but I do now I guess it’s just something to work on.”
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