Last night was a very interesting one for figure skating. American Mirai Nagasu skated 11th out of 30 skaters. It’s difficult to place well in that situation because judges hold back on scores in case later skaters do well. She had a “funky landing” on a triple lutz and so downgraded a planned triple-triple into a triple-double. Then, she felt something running from her nose. Blood.
“You have to deal with what you’ve got,” she said. “Halfway through the program, I felt it running down my nose and just said, ‘Don’t stop, keep going.’
“I skated the best I can.”
When she heard about Nagasu’s bloody nose, [teammate Rachael] Flatt exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!”
“Man, that’s not fun at all,” she said.
Despite all that, she managed a personal best, which kept her on top until the 22nd girl skated. Not bad for someone who has never been to a senior-level world championships.
Her component scores were relatively low, all in the 6-point range, which is the way judges often penalize skaters whom they think have more dues to pay.
“I thought I could have skated better,” she said. “I’m happy that in my first Olympics, I didn’t fall yet.”
Mark my words, she is someone to watch in the years to come.
The aforementioned 22nd skater was Mao Asada, who beautifully skated her program, which included a triple axel, in combination no less, the first woman to do so at the Olympics. No wonder that, after finishing her program, she began jumping up and down like a giddly schoolgirl. It was the record for the highest score for a short program in Olympics history. Until the 23rd skater, that is.
That skater was Kim Yu-na. After finishing a flawless routine performed to a medley of James Bond music, she had earned the record for highest short program score. I guess triple lutz/triple toe trumps triple axel/double toe.
These three ladies stood at the top three positions until the sentimental favorite, Joannie Rochette, went on the ice. Skating in her home country, she would have had the crowd behind her regardless, but two days before, her mother suddenly passed away from a heart attack. No one would have blamed her if she had skated poorly, since psychology figures so importantly in figure skating. But she didn’t. Unbelievably, she skated beautifully, a personal best. As she waited for her scores, weeping, she mouthed what appeared to be the French word for mother, “Maman.” Many fans have sent condolences and good wishes via the Internet. One person wrote:
Your courage has been such an inspiration to me. I lost my best friend a few years ago, and I found comfort with skating. No matter how upset I was, I was able to put it all aside and skate all my emotions out on the ice. I watched your performance and cried the whole time — I was so proud of you — of your courage, your will and your tribute to your mother. She would be so proud. I know you still have your free program to skate, but no matter how you place, today I am proud to be Canadian because of you and your strength.
(emphasis mine. Me, too)
Joannie Rochette was so inspiring last night. I’ve never seen an arena filled with more love. We are all skating with you Jo! So proud of U — Evan Lysacek
In case you don’t know who Evan Lysacek is, he won the gold medal in the men’s competition.
“What I think … is that skating right now for her is the best thing that she can do for her Mom. I think it’s great that she is skating and that she is doing her best right now. And I would like to pay my condolences.”
“I think the atmosphere was of course a little bit down at the practices. But I think the whole Canadian crowd is really supporting her
“I know she’s a great skater and I feel so sorry for her. But that shows how great a skater is she, that she could skate in this situation very well.”
“I had a similar difficult situation about two years ago, a personal situation during a very important international competition. And I fully understand how she feels and I’m sure she’ll overcome the difficulties.”
“I feel really bad and I’m really sorry for her. I hope she can skate really well and does her best.”
“I just applaud her for taking the ice. This is what the two of them [she and her mom] worked so hard for. I think she will do her best because her mom will be with her.”
So here are the standings after the short program:
1. Yu-Na Kim (Korea) — 78.50
2. Mao Asada (Japan) — 73.78
3. Joannie Rochette (Canada) — 71.36
4. Miki Ando (Japan) — 64.76
5. Rachael Flatt (USA) — 64.64
6. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 63.76
7. Carolina Kostner (France) — 63.02
8. Alena Leonova (Russia) — 62.14
9. Elene Gedevanishvili (Georgia) — 61.92
10. Laura Lepisto (Finland) — 61.36
11. Akiko Suzuki (Japan) — 62.02
So what’s next, in the free skate? Let’s listen to Michelle Kwan:
“What might be going through her (Asada’s) brain right now is that she has nothing to lose. She’s got to nail the two triple axels, thinking that (Kim) would do a clean program,” said Kwan.
How psychologically defeating is it to land a big jump like the triple axel and still place second?
“Well, that’s competition. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. … It’s all what the judges are looking for, and apparently (Kim) is what the judges are
looking for when it comes to jump quality and spin quality and her edges and all that,” Kwan said.
And do the American women, in 5th and 6th place, have a chance to scramble onto the podium?
Flatt’s coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said he had spoken with Flatt about her medal chances. They have decided that a medal is possible — if someone ahead of them makes a mistake.
[ snip ]
“One person pops a jump and it’s an even playing field,” Zakrajsek said.
In figure skating parley, a “pop” is when a skater turns a planned triple into a single.
And here is a chart showing all of the top ladies’ personal best and worst free skate scores.