Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim runs away with national title in South Korea

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Yuna Kim wasn’t happy with the final jump she had performed in front of her adoring home fans in South Korea Sunday – so she did another.

The reigning Olympic champion ran away with the South Korean Figure Skating Championships, but had popped a double Axel into a single at the end of the free skate, leaving the 23-year-old unsatisfied. So as her name was called for the medal ceremony, Kim skated out and performed a perfectly clean double Axel, showing her nation – and the world – that she’s determined to be ready for Sochi.

The Vancouver gold medalist racked up a score of 227.86 (which is not counted towards her personal bests because it is a national competition, not international), running away with the title in front of a sell-out crowd, most likely the last to see her compete domestically before she retires. See video of her free skate here.

Soyoun Park was second with a 178.17 and Haejin Kim third at 159.15.

Kim was graceful in her “Adios Nonino” tango piece, flowing from element to element. She opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but later struggled with her Axel combination and finally popped her last planned double Axel. The jump had given her some trouble at her comeback event in Croatia last month, as well.

Kim has skated sparingly since running away with the Olympic title in 2010 with a world-record skate, placing second at the 2011 World Championships before making a grand comeback in 2013, winning the World Championships by a safe margin.

A foot injury forced her out of the Grand Prix season this past year, meaning she’ll attempt to become the first skater to have foregone the major international circuit and still win an Olympic gold since the Grand Prix series was introduced in 1995.

2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is still seen as Kim’s top rival, though Asada was third at the Japanese National Championships two weeks ago and has struggled with her own Axel – the rare triple in ladies’ skating.

2012 world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy and American Ashley Wagner are also seen as medal contenders for the Sochi Games, as are Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya.

The South Korean National Championships marked Kim’s final domestic competition for the 23-year-old, who has said she will retire following the Olympic Games next month.

Yuna Kim not preparing ‘special skills’ for Sochi Olympics

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Yuna Kim has won nine national titles.

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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VIDEO: Nathan Chen makes more history at season opener

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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