Kim shakes acupuncture treatments to set new mark

Updated: March 23, 2007, 3:21 PM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- Even a bad back couldn't slow South Korean teenager Kim Yu-Na.

Fresh off acupuncture treatment, Kim soared ahead of the competition in her World Figure Skating Championships debut, compiling the highest score ever in the women's short program. With 71.95 points, she has a commanding lead over Japan's Miki Ando (67.98) and European champion Carolina Kostner (67.15).

Defending champion Kimmie Meissner of the United States was fourth after a clean skate that was also a personal best, at 64.67 points.

"I had some small mistakes, but I did better than I had hoped," said Kim, who won the title at the junior world championships last year."When I got to Japan I was feeling some pain, but I was fine tonight."

The biggest disappointment of the night was Japan's favorite, Mao Asada, who scored just 61.32 after bungling a jump combination.

"When I finished, I thought, 'I failed,"' said Asada, another former junior world champion who, like Kim, is just 16.

Kim, who missed time on the ice earlier this year because of back pain and is still getting acupuncture treatment, put in a mesmerizing performance to the"Moulin Rouge" soundtrack. Her routine was full of unusual entries and exits of jumps and spins that earned bonus points.

"Tomorrow's free skate will be my last of the season," she said." I hope to have no regrets."

She certainly had nothing to regret after her performance Friday.

According to the International Skating Union, the only other short program scores over 70 points were a 71.12 by Sasha Cohen of the United States in 2003 and 70.22 by Irina Slutskaya of Russia in 2005. But both of those came at Grand Prix competitions, not the world championships.

Possibly the only thing that could beat Kim now is herself.

Or a quad.

Ando is the only woman who has landed that jump in competition, and she has been honing it for the worlds. She hasn't done one successfully in competition in three years, but landed one in practice earlier this week, putting her on the front page of Japan's many sports newspapers.

She was coy about whether she would bring it out for Saturday's free skate.

"I want to be on the podium since this is Japan, so I want to give it my all," she said. But she added:"I don't want to make the same mistake as last year."

Ando tried a quad salchow at the Turin Olympics, but she stumbled on the landing and then missed most of her remaining jumps. She finished a disappointing 15th.

Meissner, meanwhile, said she is down but not out.

"The short program is always nerve-racking for me," Meissner said."The long program is definitely my favorite, so I am looking forward to it.

"There is a lot of good competition out there, but I am a strong competitor, too."

Fellow American Emily Hughes finished sixth with 60.88, another personal best.

"The excitement in the arena helped a lot," said Hughes, who skated after Kim and Ando.

The third American, Alissa Czisny, was 18th with 49.43 points.

Earlier Friday, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria defended their ice dancing crown.

Skating together in possibly their last competition, they had a score of 201.61 points. Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon finished with 200.46 and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the United States were third with 195.43 points.

It was the same top trio as at last year's world championships.

Denkova and Staviski, dressed in white, took the gold with a free dance program to a modern arrangement of Mozart's Requiem, with a story theme of"Seven Deadly Sins." At the end, Denkova was balanced on Staviski's knees.

Having made up for a third-place finish at the European championships, they said they may now bow out of competition.

"I want a life," Staviski said.

The Canadians' free dance to a throaty version of"At Last" by Etta James was a more relaxed skate.

"We just felt really free out there, which felt great," Dubreuil said.

Belbin and Agosto finished a distant fourth in the free dance. They've only been performing their"Amelie" free dance since the U.S. championships in January, and it had some rough spots Friday.

Belbin made a major mistake when she lost her balance on a twizzle --a one-foot spin --and nearly bumped into Agosto.

"I can't believe I missed my twizzle," she said."I never do that."

Still, they have another world medal to add to their collection. They're the first U.S. dance team to win three world medals and an Olympic medal.

"I guess we dodged a bullet on that one," Agosto said."We've been working really hard on the program. We didn't skate our best, but I guess we did it good enough."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press