U.S. skater Nagasu wins world short program; Olympic champ Kim 7th
A month ago, as the Winter Olympics ended, I wrote a blog saying the most enduring memory I would take from Vancouver was a vision of Mirai Nagasu as the next Olympic women's figure skating champion.
With a stunning performance in the short program at the World Championships in Turin, Italy, Nagasu stands first with 70.40 points going into Saturday's free skate.
Even more stunningly, she took a 10-point lead over Olympic champion and reigning world champion Kim Yuna of South Korea, who had problems on three different types of skating elements and wound up 7th with 60.30 points, 18 fewer than her world-record score in Vancouver.
Given her recent level of excellence, it was undoubtedly the worst short program of Kim's career at the senior level, although she had lower scores twice before, at the 2008 worlds and 2007 Cup of China.
An aborted entry meant Kim got no credit for her layback spin. She was given level 1 - of a possible 4- for the spiral, with a negative grade of execution, and the triple flip was downgraded to a double. Kim, who has won her last six international events, said later she had never before missed an element other than a jump.
"I was a little scared to compete again," Kim said. "The Olympic Games were my goal, and I wasn't sure I could fight again for the World Championships. But tomorrow I will fight, because my motivation is still high. I have to forget about this."
Nagasu's score -- five points better than her 2-year-old personal best short program -- gave her a lead of 2.32 points over Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan.
"I'm trying not to think about (the free skate)," said Nagasu, a world meet rookie now in position to become the first U.S. woman to win a world medal since Kimmie Meissner took the title in 2006.
Showing the same confidence that carried her to 4th at the Olympics, Nagasu upped her technical ante with a triple-triple on the opening combination (the second jump was downgraded to a double). It was her third straight strong short program performance in a major event, following those at the U.S. Championships and the Olympics.
Asada lost at least five points when the triple axel in her combination was called a double. That mistake accounted for the difference between the score Friday (68.08) and her 73.78 last month in Vancouver, where she became the first woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic short program.
"Of course, I'm very disappointed because of the downgraded axel, but I think I was able to perform relatively well," Asada said.
The top two in Friday's ice dance final repeated their Olympic finish, with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada taking gold and Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. earning silver.
-- Philip Hersh
Photos, top to bottom: Mirai Nagasu points one finger as she reacts to seeing she is first in the short program. Credit: Damien Meyer / Getty Images. Kim Yuna has an expression and gesture of disbelief after her badly flawed performance. Credit: Paul Chiasson / Associated Press. Nagasu shows her grace and extension during a spiral sequence. Credit: Damien Meyer / Getty Images