South Korean world champion Kim Yu Na took the first step toward her country's first Olympic figure skating title tonight when she easily won the short program ahead of Japan's Mao Asada. "The burden of competing here was not as much as I thought it would be," said the 19-year-old Kim, after she had outpointed the previous global titlist by 78.50 to 73.78. The 78.50 is a world best.
In third was Canada's Joannie Rochette, who was competing only three days after the death of her mother Therese from a heart attack after she'd arrived here to watch her daughter bid for the first gold medal by a Canadian woman since Barbara Ann Scott in 1948.
Rochette, who slapped hands with coach Manon Perron at the dasher just before she went out to skate, turned in her best performance of the season, a remarkably composed and courageous effort that began with a solid triple lutz-double toe combination and ended without fault. Then when the music stopped and the crowd rose and roared in admiration, Rochette burst into tears. Yet even though she skated cleanly, the difficulty of her program couldn't match that of Kim and Asada. Kim landed a triple lutz-triple toe and Asada a triple axel-double toe, the first triple axel combo by a woman in Olympic history.
In fifth place behind former Japanese world champion Miki Ando was US champion Rachael Flatt, who skated a clean program highlighted by a triple flip-triple toe combo. In sixth was teammate Mirai Nagasu, who fought off an untimely nosebleed to turn in a solid skate.
Had Nagasu tried the triple lutz-triple toe combination that she'd planned she might have placed higher but a wobbly warmup landing convinced her not to take the risk, so she opted for a triple-double. "From today's performance I don't think I can make the podium," Nagasu reckoned, "so I'm a little bit disappointed.".