LONDON, Ont. – Gracie Gold is plainly reverential toward Yuna Kim, whom the 17-year-old Gold came to idolize in the two years leading up to Kim’s victory at the 2010 Olympics.
It makes no difference she now is Kim’s competitor. This was Gold’s first encounter with Kim, who had taken 18 months off from competition, and she was both excited and a little intimidated by being in the South Korean’s presence. Asked if she had sought an autograph, Gold said, unashamedly, “I’m kind of waiting for a picture (together.)”
Gold would be too busy with her own preparations for Thursday’s short program at the World Championships to catch anything but the end of Kim’s performance. By then, Kim had shown exactly why Gold admires her skating so much.
In Gold’s view, that would be everything about Kim, whose name coincidentally translates to "gold."
“There is that smoothness she has on the ice. . .how it is one (uninterrupted) program,” Gold said. “Even if she does stop, the program keeps going. And how going into every jump, you kind of know she will hit it.”
Kim did all that to music from the film, “The Kiss of the Vampire.” Even if the judges dinged her for a wrong edge takeoff on a triple flip jump and sloppy execution of one spin, even if the scores were lower than she expected, Kim’s 69.97 gave her a deserved first place.
She is 3.11 ahead of reigning world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, who got overly generous marks for a program that included a fall on the second jump of her combination.
Japan’s Kanako Murakami was third at 66.64, with U.S. champion Ashley Wagner fifth at 63.98, Gold ninth at 58.85 and two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan sixth at 62.10 after she landed her triple axel on two feet and popped the triple loop.
The two U.S. women need to improve just one place between them after Saturday’s free skate to gain their country a third entry for the 2014 Olympics.
Because Kim, 22, had been away so long, she lacked the ranking points to skate in her accustomed position, one of the last in the competition order. That she was 14th starter of the 35 women, in a group with decided also-rans, worked in her favor.
“Because I was so used to competing (in the same group) with so many high-level skaters in the past, this time I was not as nervous,” Kim said. “I was just able to focus. If I did end up competing with top skaters right now, I think I would be more nervous.”
She opened with an impressive triple lutz-triple toe combination, which produced the highest score of anyone in the field for the required jump combination. From then on, Kim was in command, no matter that her time away from competition clearly affected her sharpness.
“Other than the first spin, I felt great,” Kim said.
Because several of the top women had uneven performances, Wagner was able to stay in medal contention by minimizing risk. Yet she could not help but notice that a clean but underwhelming program was greeted with minimal enthusiasm by the judges.
Wagner, fourth last year, eschewed a triple-triple combination for a triple-double when her landing on the first jump was, in her estimation, wonky. That left her in “fighting distance” going into Saturday’s long program final.
“I am not a senior man who can rotate three times sideways and stand up,” Wagner said. “So I decided to play it safe.
“In the long program, there is a lot more room to risk because there are more elements. Mostly, I just want to build upon my past two long program performances, which (should be) easy.”
Wagner fell twice in the long programs of her last two competitions, the Grand Prix Final and U.S. Championships. At nationals, Gold had redeemed a disastrous short program with a dazzling, first-place finish in the long.
Gold’s world meet debut short program Thursday drew negative grades for an under-rotated jump, a wrong edge takeoff on the triple flip and a loss of balance on the flying camel.
“It wasn’t my best, but it was a lot better than some of the shorts I have done this season,” said Gold, who lives in Elk Grove Village. “I am relieved, because the short program is harder for me.”
Gold, who admits to struggling with confidence, marveled at Kim’s self-assurance, at how much “she trusts herself, which is a lot (easier) said than done.”
That’s the way Gold would like to picture herself some day. After all, it's the gold standard.Copyright © 2015, CT Now