LOS ANGELES – Kim Yu-na has a world title to go with her royal nickname.
Kim, called “Queen Yu-na” by her adoring fans, gave South Korea its first title at the World Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night. After her big lead in the short program, this was more coronation than competition. She finished with a record 207.71 points, shattering the old mark by eight.
“Being the world champion was my dream and I did it here,” Kim said. “So it’s just amazing.”
Kim was more than 16 points ahead of Joannie Rochette, and beat main rival Mao Asada by almost 20. How big a rout is that? Think one of those non-conference football games the big names play, and you get the idea.
When she saw the scores, Kim closed her eyes and shook her head. She then stood up, beaming, and waved to the cheering crowd.
“I’m sure the whole globe shook,” said Kim’s coach, two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. “The whole country of Korea must be elated.”
Rochette won the silver, Canada’s first medal at the world championships since Liz Manley also won silver in 1988. Miki Ando, the 2007 world champion, was third. Asada, last year’s winner, fell on her second triple axel and dropped to fourth.
“I was thinking about being a champion again, but instead of thinking about that, I needed to have concentrated on completing my elements,” said Asada, who had clearly been crying.
Rachael Flatt finished fifth and Alissa Czisny was 11th, meaning the United States can send only two women to the Vancouver Olympics.
It’s only the second time since 1924 the Americans have failed to earn the maximum three spots. The other was in 1994.
Kim and Asada’s rivalry is the best thing going in skating these days. They’ve been at it since juniors, trading one major title after another. Asada won the world title last year and the Grand Prix final this season. Kim responded with a victory at Four Continents.
The Americans failed to medal for a third straight year. That hasn’t happened since 1962-64 – and that drought came after a plane crash wiped out the entire U.S. team on its way to the 1961 world championships.
Worse, Czisny and Flatt’s combined placement of 16 means the Americans will send only two women to Vancouver.
“I came here and tried to do my best,” Czisny said. “The outcome is not in my hands and there is nothing I can do about that.”
Except skate better. Her 11th-place finish was the worst by a U.S. champion at worlds since World War II.
•The organizers of next year’s U.S. Championships in Spokane are blogging from this year’s World Championships at blog.spokane2010.com.