South Korea's Kim Yu-na wins gold in women's figure skating

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- With nimble leaps across the ice, elegant spins and a flowing, graceful program that seemed to reach out and touch the audience, South Korea's Kim Yu-na scored a knockout victory in the Olympic women's free skate Thursday night, claiming the first Olympic figure skating gold medal ever for her nation with a jaw-dropping score that set a women's world record.

Moments after Kim made it clear no one would touch her in the standings, Canadian Joannie Rochette, once again, moved everyone in Pacific Coliseum, and surely around the globe, too. Four days after the death of her 55-year-old mother, Rochette put out an emotional, nearly mistake-free program that kept her on her feet, and then pulled the crowd out of its seats.

Kim's excellence earned her a stunning 228.56 points overall, which allowed her to crush Japan's Mao Asada for the gold. Asada earned 205.50 points for the silver, and Rochette hung on for the bronze medal with 202.64.

In their first Olympics, Americans Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, smiled their way through strong, virtually flawless skates, but they also became the first U.S. women's team not to claim an Olympic figure skating medal since 1964.

"Before the performance, I expected to get maybe somewhere around 130," Kim said, answering some questions in English and others through a translator. "If I did really well, somewhere around 140. When I saw my score, I was very surprised, because it is usually the score men in figure skating get. . . . Today, all of the things I wanted to do, I was able to do."

Kim's point total was higher than that accrued by American Jeremy Abbott, who finished with 218.96 in the men's event, although the comparison is not straightforward because of differences in the scoring and requirements.

After her music stopped, Rochette extended her hands to the sky and mouthed a thank you to her mother. Unlike after the short program, Rochette made it through the night largely composed.

"I gave everything I had in that program," Rochette said, giving her first interviews since her mother Therese died suddenly from a heart attack the night after arriving here. "I was so empty. I had no energy really the last two days. My legs were shaking, but I thanked my mother for the strength she gave me to perform.

"I want to thank everyone who supported me. It was a very rough couple of days, and I want to thank everyone around the world."

Nagasu, the last skater of the night, took the ice immediately after Rochette had left it. She still managed to climb to fourth place with 190.15 points on the strength of a clean -- but not quite difficult enough -- program. Flatt landed in seventh with 182.49 points, behind Japan's Miki Ando (188.86) and Finland's Laura Lepisto (187.97).

"For me, it wasn't the place I wanted to skate," Nagasu said. "I knew no matter what [Rochette] did the crowd would be crazy for her. I just thought about how much I wanted to get here. It's been my dream since I was a little girl."

When the top six skaters entered the rink for their six-minute warmup, many in the crowd of 11,000 pulled out their cheering weaponry: South Korean, Japanese and Canadian flags -- and a few U.S. ones -- danced and waved from the first row to the rafters. The fans were divided among the queen of South Korean skating, a cadre of Japanese stars, and a Canadian medal hope in mourning for her late mother.

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