Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim fell on her opening jump but still posted a total score beaten by only one other skater during the Grand Prix season at a minor event in Zagreb, Croatia, on Saturday.
The South Korean won the Golden Spin with 204.49 points, her first competition this season following a foot injury.
Japan’s Mao Asada totaled 204.02 points after the Grand Prix Final free skate earlier Saturday. Asada is Kim’s main rival for Sochi Olympic gold. Asada has scored 207.59 and 204.55 points this season.
Kim fell on her opening triple Lutz in Zagreb and skated clean the rest of the way to “Adios Nonino” in a black dress with sequins. Here’s video of her free skate.
Two-time world champion Miki Ando also skated in Zagreb and scored 176.82 points.
A right foot injury had forced Kim to withdraw from two Grand Prix assignments earlier this fall. It was announced in late September that Kim, 23, would miss around six weeks.
She’s attempting to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles since Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988.
Davis/White trump Virtue/Moir at Grand Prix Final
Russian Maria Paseka, who beat Simone Biles on vault at the 2015 World Championships, is not certain to compete in the Olympics due to a back injury, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Biles is considered a clear favorite for four gold medals — not done by a female gymnast since Romanian Ecaterina Szabo in 1984 — and could win five golds — never done by an American woman or a female gymnast.
Biles captured gold medals at the last two World Championships in the team event, all-around, balance beam and floor exercise.
Vault is her fifth and most questionable event. Biles took silver, silver and bronze on vault at the last three world championships.
Paseka is the only returning vault medalist from the 2012 Olympics (she took bronze) in addition to being the reigning world champion.
Regardless of Paseka, Biles’ primary competition in the vault final may be the 2008 Olympic champion, North Korea’s Hong Un-Jong, who could not compete in London due to North Korea’s ban for age falsification.
Like Biles, Hong earned vault medals at the last three world championships, including gold in 2014.
Biles’ vaults at worlds were less difficult than Paseka and Hong, causing her to lose eight tenths in start value. Biles has since upgraded her weaker vault, increasing her start value.
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Russian president Vladimir Putin said Olympic medals won in events lacking Russian contenders will be devalued, speaking to athletes who will be going to Rio at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
Russia is set to send just one track and field athlete, plus fewer athletes in many sports, to Rio amid its doping scandal.
It could significantly alter the Rio Olympic medal standings, as Russia finished third in overall medals at the 2012 London Games with 79 — behind the U.S.’ 103 and China’s 88.
“It is obvious that the absence of Russian athletes, the leaders in many sports events, significantly reduces the intensity of the competition, and hence makes the upcoming events less spectacular” Putin told the Russian team Wednesday, according to Russian news agency TASS. “I think that your colleagues from other world’s leading sports powers also understand that the quality of their medals will be different, because it’s one thing to defeat an equal, strong opponent, and quite another – to compete with obviously weaker opponents. Such victory has a very different taste or maybe bad taste.”
Also at the event, two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva broke down while addressing the Olympic team (video here). Isinbayeva was barred from the Rio Games due to Russia’s track and field ban, though she has never failed a drug test.
MORE: Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio