Kimmie Meissner's comeback yesterday derailed in a series of falls and poorly executed jumps that left her in eighth place out of 11 skaters. Injured U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu fell twice and had numerous elements downgraded to finish fifth. And Rachael Flatt couldn't untrack her jumps and finished fourth.
Instead, Yu-Na Kim of South Korea and Japan's Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando took control of the event and made it their own.
Kim, who led after the short program by nearly 12points, rarely paused in her pursuit of the gold medal, earning a total score of 193.45, almost 21points ahead of Nakano. She attacked her program, performed to Sheherazade, with cool precision, slipping only once when she popped a triple loop.
Kim acknowledged feeling a bit nervous, even with the big lead.
"I just tried to do the program as I did it in practice," she said through a translator.
Both Japanese skaters performed to Giselle, with Nakano's interpretation beating Ando's version by four points, 172.53 to 168.42.
The free skate started with the five skaters behind Kim, including all three Americans, clustered within three points of one another. But performing back-to-back-to-back, the Americans could not crack the top three despite the cheers from a partisan crowd.
Nagasu, 15, nursing an injured right ankle, speculated she might have aggravated it by jumping too much in practice. Flatt, 16, called her first senior Grand Prix competition "a learning experience." But Meissner, who turned 19 this month and is by far America's most experienced skater, remains a puzzle.
And after pinning her hopes on a new coach and training site, Meissner seemed shocked by the outcome. The former world and national champion from Bel Air fell on her opening two jumps - the first, a triple lutz - in a spray of ice chips.
"I don't know," said Meissner, looking melancholy and shaking her head.
"The first lutz was just a weird mistake, but then the [double] axel, I just slipped on the landing," she said. "I tried to fight back the rest of the program, but I mean, starting out like that is not good.
"I'm a bit frustrated right now, but it's definitely going to make me work harder. I don't think I need to take apart things. I think I just need to keep training more. I have everything. I just need to do it."
Her coach, Richard Callaghan, said that based on her warm-up, he felt she was going to perform well.
"It's disappointing because she was a lot more prepared for this event than her performance showed," he said. With a month to go before Cup of Russia, Meissner's second Grand Prix event, Callaghan said they would concentrate on repetition of elements.
Scott Hamilton, an NBC analyst and the 1984 Olympic champion, said Meissner should not be counted out.
"She's grown so much and she's so muscular. She's not as quick because there's more of her," Hamilton explained. "It's a matter of consistency with her. It's in her head now, but she's in a good place with Richard Callaghan. If she can get some momentum going, everything will be fine."
U.S. ice dancing champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won the free dance, but it was not enough to catapult them past the leaders and to the top of the podium at Skate America.
Performing to Tosca, the American team showed some flashes of Russian-style form - the influence of their new coaching team - on the way to a segment score of 91.43 points and the silver medal. They finished with a total score of 186.53.
Belbin said they were pleased with the score they received, calling it "typical" for the first Grand Prix event of the year.
World champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France showed the poise of 18 years of skating together to build leads in compulsory and original dances that in the end gave them a 1.11-point cushion of victory. The brother-sister team of Sinead and John Kerr of Great Britain took the bronze medal with a total combined score of 180.20.