South Korea's Kim holds lead at worlds

Updated: March 23, 2007, 10:36 AM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- South Korean Kim Yu-na shook off her back pain and took the lead in the short program Friday at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Kimmie Meissner
AP Photo/Vincent ThianDefending world champion Kimmie Meissner, fourth after the short program, says the long program is her better event.

Japan's Miki Ando was second and European champion Carolina Kostner was third.

The two favorites, defending champion Kimmie Meissner and local star Mao Asada, were fourth and fifth, respectively. American Emily Hughes was sixth.

Kim, the Grand Prix champion this season who is skating with a sore back, put in a mesmerizing performance to the soundtrack music "Moulin Rouge" that was full of unusual entries and exits of jumps and spins that earned bonus points.

Kim scored 71.95 points and Ando tallied 67.98.

Previously, the only other scores over 70 points, according to International Skating Union statistics under the new judging system, were a 71.12 by Sasha Cohen in 2003 and 70.22 Irina Slutskaya of Russia in 2005, both in Grand Prix competition, not an official championship.

Kostner skated early but posted a big score of 67.15 with a routine that included a big triple-triple combination. Meissner skated clean to earn 64.67, but without the big feats of Kim and Ando. Asada scored just 61.32, bungling a jump combination.

Kim at one point launched into a double axel from an arched-back position and came out of it with one arm nearly folded in front of her.

Kim Yu-na
AP Photo/Vincent ThianKim gained bonus points for her use of unusual entries and exits of jumps and spins.

"I had some small mistakes but I did better than I had hoped. When I got to Japan, I was feeling some pain but I was fine tonight," Kim said. "I want to keep this up. Tomorrow's free skate will be my last of the season. I hope to have no regrets."

Asada started off well with a triple lutz to music by Chopin. However, on her combination she suddenly opened up on the second jump and did only a single loop instead of a triple. She lost eight points to the leaders Kim and Ando on that one move alone.

"I didn't feel that nervous. I knew I had to do my best," Asada said. "When I finished I thought 'I failed."'

Ando skated a passionate program to "Scheherazade" that had the crowd cheering her footwork and spirals besides her triple lutz-triple loop combination, the toughest of the night.

"I was very relaxed after I made my triple-triple," Ando. "I want to be on the podium since this is Japan. So I want to give it my all."

Ando hedged when asked whether she will try a quad in Saturday's free skate.

Meissner, the American champion for the first time this year, was hurt by a low level of difficulty in a layback spin. Although she had a triple-triple, it was not as solid or daring as the leaders.

"The short program is always nerve-racking for me. I like to be ahead but sometimes it is better to come at it like this," Meissner said. "The long program is definitely my favorite, so I am looking forward to it."

Last year, she won the worlds with a free skate that included seven triples.

Kim, with a 10-point lead, is capable of skating well enough to hold off Asada and the others. Asada was ineligible for the Olympics last year although she beat Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa three times during the season.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press