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Sarah D. Morris: A figure skating competition worth remembering

February 26, 2010 |  8:34 am
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