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Sarah D. Morris: A figure skating competition worth remembering

Skating The ladies figure skating in the Vancouver Olympic Games was the greatest competition ever. Although for the first time since 1968 no American earned a medal, the two American teenagers did our country proud. Kim Yuna won the gold medal, the first Korean to medal in figure skating. Mao Asada of Japan landed at least two triple axels during the Olympic competition, becoming the first woman to do so in the Olympics.  Overcoming personal tragedy, Joannie Rochette of Canada earned the bronze. Mirai Nagasu from Arcadia, California, skated her personal best to finish in fourth place.

I have watched ladies' figure skating all of my life, and I don't remember seeing such a flawless and emotionally-charged Olympic competition. Falls usually mar and destroy the feeling of awe in the Olympic figure skating. However, every lady in the top group displayed the incredible combination of athletic expertise and graceful beauty.No one could take their eyes off the beautiful skating. 

Coming into the competition, the marquee event of every Winter Olympics, everyone expected Yu-Na to win the gold. In South Korea, she has become a national hero and selling everything.  If she didn't win, many people would have been disappointed and her country would have seen her as a failure. 

Yuna, coached by two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, performed beautifully. The reining the World Champion handled the incredible probably unfair pressure well and gave one of the greatest long programs in the history of the sport. She landed every jump on one foot with elegance. While her athleticism was apparent, she didn't ignore the spins or the footwork. She skated third in the last group.  However, as soon as she finished, everyone knew Yuna accomplished her goal and still is a Korean national hero.
Asada was almost as breathtaking as Yuna, but she didn't have the artistry. During her long program, she attempted two triple axels, a jump that most ladies don't try, but in all other Olympic figure skating competitions, jumping ability hadn't guarantee a gold medal. Asada also had an incredible skating performance, but she didn't hold the one-foot landings or spiral sequences long. Her footwork didn't look difficult, and she stumbled out of her footwork sequences, which is unheard of in an Olympic figure skating competition.
Losing her mother suddenly on Sunday, Rochette elected to skate. After a brilliant short program Tuesday, Rochette, an only child whose relationship with her mother was close, broke down. Thursday night she had more composure. In front of a supportive home crowd, she performed well.  Although her jumps weren't as high as Asada's and her artistry wasn't as evident as Yuba's, Rochette inspired everyone when she chose to compete and did so well. Entering the Olympics, not many expected Rochette to win a gold medal, but many thought she would medal. Rochette's courage and devotion to her sport should be an example. 

Going into the Vancouver Olympic Games, no one expected much from either Rachael Flatt or Mirai Nagasu. The national champion Flatt appeared to skate flawless, but she had many deductions. Her movements didn't look beautiful or graceful.

Nagasu, the sixteen-year-old coached by Frank Carroll, came into the Vancouver Olympics with no expectations. She was second in the national championships because her jumps were under rotated.  However, her jumping ability improved for the Olympics. Nagasu looks like a more complete skater than Flatt. Her ballet background was evident. Nagasu's flexibility in her fast spins probably is the best in the competition. In four years, Nagasu and Flatt will be strong contenders if they continue maturing as skaters.

Although the American dominance ended Thursday night after having a medalist in ladies' Olympic figure skating for the last 42 years, Thursday night's competition was the best.  Every top skater performed their best, and this was what everyone wants to see.

-- Sarah D. Morris

Photo: Kim Yuna of Korea, center, shows off her gold medal as Mao Asada of Japan, left, and Canada's Joannie Rochette join her on the podium following the free skate program on Thursday. Credit: Richard Mackson / US Presswire

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Comments (12)

It's Kim Yu-Na. L.A. has a huge Korean population, you should know these things as a journalist. No wonder your newspaper is going bankrupt and losing it's editorial staff, left and right.

Hey, Korean above me. Why do you expect non-Koreans to know everything about the Korean culture and lash out if an honest mistake is made? Don't take everything so personal, as if Sarah Morris is somehow disrepecting Korea or Koreans.

Kim is the family name and Yuna is her given name. If she grew up in America, she would go by Yuna Kim. Sticking to the Korean convention where the family name goes first, it would be Kim Yuna. Formality of print journalism dictates that family name (or last name) should be used, which is the case for every other skater mentioned in the article(i.e., Flatt, not Rachel. Nagasu, not Mirai).
So it does read funny to a Korean person when "Yuna" is used alone instead of Kim, but still I don't understand why you would have to get all indignant about it.

By the way, it would be losing "its" editorial staff, not "it's" editorial staff.

"Flatt appeared to skate flawless, but she had many deductions. Her movements didn't look beautiful or graceful." ????????
To me Racheal's movements appeared graceful and beautiful.
She is a very pretty, cute and nice girl.
Olympic judging must be different than National etc.


And another thing... The paper isn't losing its editorial staff and going bankrupt because of typos or the occasional perceived insult. Electronic options and the speed of the Internet - and of life itself these days - bear the primary blame for the decline of newspapers. I don't see you sending this in by US mail, written on perfumed stationery, addressed as a "Letter to the Editor" and sealed with a kiss, do I?

Oh, and Chris, also Korean is right. It's "'its' editorial staff...," not "'it's' editorial staff..."

Let THAT completely correct punctuation blow your mind!

Away with you.


@dennis ogden:

Perhaps Flatt simply left the judges flat.

Sorry, I had to.

I think that the performance of Mirai Nagasu was the best out of many of the ladies that placed ahead of her, she had everything, felxibility, the jumping ability, Spins, and artistry. In my opinion the best spinner in the competition, so to know that she only placed fourth after Joannie Rochette had faws in her performance as well as Asada really maks me wonder what is going on with the scoring system. My mom who saw the competition even thought that Mirai should have been on the podium. Yuna Kim is a great skater and she deserves the gold, but jumps shouldn't be the biggest component of figure skating, it takes as much work and effort to do a beautiful spin as it is to do a triple. Above all I thought that it was a shame that only two Americans were able to compete at the Olypics, maybe thats why 0 American ladies places as well, come on what is going on here.

Joannie Rochette won the Bronze Fair and square, any of you have issues with that bring it on! I know thats you Americans always have those sour grapes and your arrogant stupid ways.

Dear "Korean" (the first poster)

Please return to the cave that you came from. And don't come out again. Thanks.

There's a few errors in this article - previous commentators touched upon a few so I'll just point out the ones regarding Mao Asada.

1) Mao's mistakes were NOT on the spiral or footwork sequences - both errors were jump related. Her triple flip in the latter half of the program was downgraded, and she botched a triple toeloop attempt.

2) Mao's spiral, interestingly enough, was awarded the most GoE's in the ladies' free skate and the same holds true for her step sequences.

And for all the statement regarding she lacked artistry, Mao *did* receive the third highest PCS scores in the free skate (second in the short program).

Artistry can be such a subjective thing. Don't you realize you just showed the world that you have such a narrow capacity to appreciate art or lack the sense of the artistry that Mao had when you said that Mao didn't have it? Is this a personal blog of someone who likes figure skating? You'd better put, "I didn't like it."

No wonder you say Mao stumbled out of her step seq.

The One, if you're going to be rude and bellicose in challenging others to fight just because they happen to have opinions that differ from yours when it comes to this very subjective sport, then you'd probably best be reminded of skating history.

Canadian skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Sale, and the Canadian public, screamed bloody murder when they didn't win the gold medal in Salt Lake City. They were accused of displaying embarrassingly bad sportsmanship, and of having a bitter case of sour grapes and whining by numerous writers in the world media... but not by you-know-who. On television, the pair expressed eternal gratitude to the wonderful American public for nobly standing up for fairness.

You might recall the Canadian complaints about the medals in the days of Kurt Browning, Brian Orser, and Elvis Stojko; but I think what is most relevant here is how Stojko openly questioned the awarding of the gold to Lysacek, in a rather similar manner to the Americans that you dislike if they dare question the bronze going to Rochette.

You come across as being pretty insecure and defensive about Rochette's bronze. There's no need to take the universal and unending skating debates so personally, or to resort to chauvinism to try and bully your point home. When you accuse a nation of being arrogant and stupid, it is best not to be that way yourself.

Other than using Kim's given name (Yu-Na) instead of her surname (Kim), I think the writer of the article posted a reasonably accurate account.

It appears Mao Asada is unfortunately being categorized as the triple-axel jumper and therefore subconsciously thought of as being artistically-challenged. Midori Ito had the same knock against her, but she was actually quite the artistic skater (as is Asada). However, Kim was the obvious best skater overall.

@dennis ogden - You're right, the judging was different at the Olympics vs. the US Nationals when comparing Nagasu and Flatt.

The Olympic judging placed the better skater in the deserved higher position.

(Keep in mind that the Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic often referred to Nagasu as the "complete package". They took pains not to be critical about Flatt, but the implication is that she is somewhat lacking in grace and that critical "it" factor that someone like Michelle Kwan had. I personally agree - Nagasu at the moment is clearly the best US hope for the future, not Flatt.)


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