Figure skating

Kim leads Mao after sensational short program

South Korean star enchants Vancouver

Kyodo News

Mao Asada nailed a triple axel en route to second place as South Korean rival and reigning world champion Kim Yu Na stole the show with a sensational skate to win the women’s short program at the Vancouver Olympics on Tuesday.

Dressed in a black costume with jeweled straps, Kim flowed like liquid gold at Pacific Coliseum, effortlessly gliding through her Bond Girl routine to take a commanding lead with the world’s highest ever score of 78.50 points, over two points more than the previous record of 76.28 she set at Skate America last November.

Mao landed all of her jumps in a clean skate on her Olympic debut to take second with a score of 73.78, while a grieving Joannie Rochette held her nerve in front of her home fans to take third with 71.36 just two days after the sudden death of her mother, Therese.

Miki Ando was fourth with 64.76 while compatriot Akiko Suzuki (61.02) was 11th with the free skate program scheduled for Thursday.

Mao opened with a perfectly executed triple axel-double toeloop and followed up with a triple flip before the 19-year-old completed a clean skate that left Kim looking slightly unnerved as she watched from the sidelines.

“I knew the short program would make or break me and I am so happy to have come through it without any hitches,” said Mao, who struggled to nail her trademark triple axel in international competition this season and failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December.

“My legs were trembling when I made the triple axel but I made that jump believing in myself. I just needed to believe in what I have been working on in practice.”

Ando under-rotated on her opening triple lutz-triple loop combination and admitted that she was disappointed about it being downgraded.

“I am a bit disappointed about the jump being downgraded and the score. I want to show in the free skate how much I have improved as a skater in the last four years,” said Ando, who finished a disappointing 15th on her Olympic debut in Turin.

Suzuki made a wobbly start and touched the ice on her opening triple flip but gave an otherwise solid performance.