If there’s one thing figure skating has taught me, it is that life is never certain. And also, ice is very slippery. The ladies’ event at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships was an especially exemplary example of those life lessons.
Since the 2006-2007 season, the ladies’ division has been dominated by Yu-Na Kim of South Korea and Mao Asada of Japan. This rivalry seemed to be as solid an institution as the legendary rivalry between Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko, the two brilliant Russian skaters who had firmly monopolized the gold and silver positions of the men’s division previously. As for Kim and Asada, the two have been heavy favourites for every major ladies title for the past few seasons. However, cracks began to show. Asada had won the Grand Prix Final title over Kim in December 2008, but ‘only’ won the bronze at the Four Continents Championship in January 2009 (Kim won the gold). But in the weeks leading up to the world championships, Kim and Asada were still the favourites for the title, even with the vulnerability Asada had shown during Four Continents and an earlier competition, the 2008 Trophee Eric Bompard. After all, Asada has been a lock on the podium of every international competition she has ever competed in as a senior skater.
All seemed well during the short program last night. Kim skated a splendid short to Camille Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre and thoroughly trounced the competition with a massive 9-point lead over second-place finisher Joannie Rochette of Canada. Asada had finished in third place after her ethereal Clair de Lune short with a costly error by doubling her planned triple lutz, but had the most difficult technical content planned among the ladies with her two triple axels (Asada is the only lady to even attempt triple axels). Pessimists predicted that Asada would skate decently, but remain in the bronze medal position. Optimists insisted that she would overtake Rochette for the silver in the long program, given Asada’s formidable technical content. Die-hard Asada devotees hoped that Asada would make up the 10-point deficit between her and Kim and take the gold (technically possible, as Asada had done so in 2007 before). Continue reading “Skating in the Rough Part II: Ladies”