Kim Yu-na posts season's best to seal return
DORTMUND, Germany -- Olympic champion Kim Yu-na completed her triumphant return to figure skating competition Sunday by winning the NRW Trophy with the season's best total score.
Kim overcame one fall in an otherwise assured free skate to end her 19-month sabbatical with 201.61 points, including the 72.27 awarded for the season's best short program Saturday.
The 22-year-old South Korean was competing in the second-tier competition to secure a place at next year's world championships.
"I'm happy that I could reach my goal today," said Kim, who needed just 28 points from the short program and 48 from the free skate to qualify for London, Ontario.
"At the beginning of the program my spins were going well, but I made one mistake," she said. "Afterward, I felt shaky but I persevered to the end. I was actually surprised at the score I received. That was unexpected. I think I did my best, the best I could, even though I don't feel I've shown all I can do. But overall I'm satisfied with the result today."
Russia's Xenia Makarova was second with 159.01 points, followed by Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson at 158.93.
Mao Asada of Japan reached the season's previous best of 196.80 when she won the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia on Saturday.
"If we do end up in the same competition, I think we will each just focus on our own choreography and skating," Kim said when asked about her biggest rival.
Kim, known as Queen Yu-na in her homeland, hadn't competed since the world championships in Moscow in April 2011, creating unprecedented demand for tickets for her return at the International Skating Union-sanctioned competition.
The modest 200-capacity venue sold out in two hours, and security was brought in for the first time in six years of the event.
With indelible poise and sublime grace, Kim started her routine to music from "Les Miserables," launching herself fearlessly into jumps and landing with implausible softness.
But she fell on a double toe loop after a lapse in concentration and acknowledged that the rest of her routine was affected, despite earning 99.46 more points that second-place Makarova for her free skate alone.
"I was caught off-guard because I assumed it was an easy jump," said Kim, who holds world records in the short program (78.50) free skate (150.06) and combined total (228.56) from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
"I will focus on this just jump next time. Since this is only a mistake in the first competition (since returning), I think if I focus on it I can improve and not make any mistakes."
Kim sat out the 2011-12 season to mull her future and announced in July she would return this year and retire after the 2014 Sochi Games.
"After this I'm going to return to Korea and focus on the Korean national championship, preparing for that. Since entry to the Olympics depends on it, I'm going to prepare very hard for it, not just for me but so all the other young skaters in Korea can also gain entry to the Olympics," Kim said.
"About Sochi, it's not too far away, but this season only just started, so I'm going to focus on the season first and think about that later."
Kim reunited with two of her childhood coaches, Shin Hye-sook and Ryu Jong-hyun, in October. She parted with her American coach of two years, Peter Oppegard, but still works with Canadian choreographer David Wilson.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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