Wow. This has simply been an exciting competition. I cannot tell you how thrilling it has been here in L.A.
Before the top ladies competed in the short program, they did another public medal ceremony for the men. This time, I watched from my perch at a cafe outside the second level of the Staples Center. Evan Lysacek was absolutely gracious towards his fans and their support the previous night. He also revealed he had a stress fracture on his left foot. He didn't mention it before the event because he didn't want the focus to be on his injury...what a competitor! All the skaters were asked who their inspiration was and all gave interesting answers. For Joubert, it was Alexei Yagudin, Chan named Kurt Browning, and Evan named Michelle Kwan. A member in the crowd asked Joubert about his quad and if he feels he needs to continue to attempt because he keeps getting beat by people not doing it. His answer was straight forward..."Yes I will do the quad. In Vancouver my goal is to do three. We have the Olympics next year. It will be a good fight. I will be ready." Ummm...them sound like fighting words to me!
The ladies short program was great! First, trouble for American Champ Alissa Czisny. After a gorgeous lutz combo she went on to crash and burn on the triple flip, sliding right into the boards. If that wasn't disaster enough, she fell on her double axel as well. She's in 14th place and that all but seals the deal on the U.S. Olympic fate.
The top two groups of ladies put out some solid skating. Switzerland's Sarah Meier is 10th, Suguri of Japan 9th, and Georgia's Gedavanishvili 8th after strong programs. American Rachael Flatt is 7th. She had just a tiny little jilt on the landing of her triple flip, otherwise fine. She was just .36 from making the final group of skaters. That top group will include Finland's Laura Lepisto who barely edged Flatt. Carolina Kostner is in 5th after a clunky program that, as per usual, somehow gets the points from the judges! I think she could just stand on the ice and medal! Miki Ando is in 4th after a beautiful short program. She put a mini spell on the audience with her 'Memoirs of a Geisha' short program. She went for the big triple lutz/triple loop but cheated the loop just a bit. She'd be higher had that combo been perfect. Mao Asada is 3rd despite doubling her triple lutz. Her footwork, to be fair however, is brilliant. Joannie Rochette was the first skater to get the crowd to their feet. She put on quite a show for the Staples Center which has a huge Canadian cheering contengent! She earned a new Season Best score with her effort.
But the class of the field was Korea's Yu-Na Kim! She had a solid warm-up. Speaking of warm-ups...Mao Asada was meticulously steering clear of Kim during the warm-up. You could tell because I have never seen so many cameras rolling on a warm up, they were watching! But back to Kim's program. The crowd went crazy for her...CRAZY!!! Every single element she performed; jump, spin, footwork, the ovation just kept getting louder and louder. Every element was performed with absolute perfection. At the end of her program, she was elated as was her coach Brian Orser who was jumping up and down madly near the Kiss n' Cry! She soaked it all in as the crowd poured accolades on her. Korean flags seemed to appear out of nowhere as the crowd amplified it's applause. When the score went up there was a huge sound of shock as Yu-Na shattered the record for a short program score by a female skater. She has almost a 10 point lead over Rochette and I can't see how she can lose this event!
The night concluded with the Free Dance and the excitement continued! Samuelson and Bates were the first American Team to skate earleir in the night and skated very well. They finished 11th but made up ground and was able to get back ahead of Crone and Poirier of Canada and Zaretski and Zaretski of Israel who they had fallen behind earlier in the competition. They also were knocking on the door of the top ten.
Cappellini and Lanotte of Italy finished 10th with a dance that looked awfully copycat to Sale and Pelletier's 'Love Story.' Same cut of music, same outfits, similar choreography, same hair even! Carron and Jost of France finished 9th. That 9th place finish, however, cost France three Olympic spots in Dance...they needed to finish 8th (Delobel and Schoenfelder's withdrawal was felt there). 8th place, in fact, went to the other Italian Team of Faiella and Scali who came back after a terrible fall in the OD with a strong skate. In my opinion, one of the most undermarked teams, Kerr and Kerr of Great Britain placed 7th after a gorgeous Free Dance that brought the crowd to their feet. Wherever the Kerr's go, the crowd loves them!
The top six all skated well. Khoklova and Novitski finished 6th (I had pegged them to win...shows what I know!) after an interesting program. They received a deduction for something, not sure what, but that deduction cost them dearly in the final standings. Moving ahead of the Russians was the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat, their circus themed program was one of the crowd favorites.
Then there were two distinct battles...one for the Gold...the other for the Bronze. Davis and White lost the bronze battle to Canadians Virtue and Moir, however it was desparately close! Davis and White's 'Samson and Delilah' program was gorgeous and they showed tremendous skating. Their twizzles are amazing! They actually beat the Canadian's in the Free Dance but Tessa and Scott had just enough of their lead from the Compulsory Dance to hang on. To be fair, they're Pink Floyd 'Gig' program was excellent as well. In the end, the difference was .04...talk about razor thin! The Gold Battle was tense. Belbin and Agosto were first to skate. They looked more polished than in previous competition and skated well. They skated a little safe, however, I think feeling the pressure of being in a position to well as well as truncated training time due to the injury. Nonetheless they hit a huge score and took the lead. Domnina and Shabalin skated after Belbin and Agosto and looked polished as well. Natalia Linninchuk really got these teams together in a hurry! The difference was the freedom and abandonment the Russians skated with...they just let it go and skated from the heart. When the scores went up, they narrowly eclipsed Belbin and Agosto and got a good ovation from the crowd, the judging was fair.
What a day...tonight the event concludes with the ladies free skate!