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Yuna Kim wins big despite poor performance

November 16, 2009|Philip Hersh

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — There are two ways to look at Yuna Kim's performance in Sunday's free skate final at Skate America.

One is that, despite her intimations of skating immortality, Kim remains vulnerable to mental pressure, which should encourage her rivals three months before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The other is that despite her worst free skate score since her debut on the senior Grand Prix circuit four seasons ago, Kim still won the competition by more than 13 points over Rachael Flatt, who won the free skate.

And the South Korean's total score at Skate America, 187.98, still is 11 points better than anyone else's this year. To her rivals' discouragement, that means Kim seems unbeatable even far from her best.

Flatt finished with a score of 174.91, cementing her position as the leading U.S. woman. She took a balanced, realistic view of the situation.

"It's really hard to match her [Kim's] quality, because she has set an incredibly high standard," Flatt said. "And she has shown that she does falter on occasion."

Kim's free skate started badly, with both jumps of her combination shaky, and she never completely recovered. She fell on the next jump, a triple flip, and later butchered the execution of a triple lutz so badly it was ruled a single and given a maximum negative grade of execution.

The judges credited Kim with just three clean triple jumps. Her free skate score was 111.70 to Flatt's 116.11. Kim's previous low in a senior international competition was 105.80 at Skate Canada in 2006.

Kim's world record score in Friday's short program was both the reason she won Skate America and the albatross she carried into the free skate.

"Everyone wants her to skate perfectly, and it's not easy," said third finisher Julia Sebestyen of Hungary.

Trailing by 17.48 points after the short program, Flatt rolled through the free skate, hitting seven triple jumps before making a gross technical error that gave her a zero for the final spin.

"My short program wasn't great, and I need to work on my speed and carriage on the ice and get credit for the last spin," Flatt said. "There are extra points you can grab here and there."

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phersh@tribune.com

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