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Kim off to promising start at Worlds

LONDON, Canada (AFP) –

Carolina Kostner skates during the Ladies Short Program at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships March 14, 2013

Carolina Kostner of Italy skates during the Ladies Short Program at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships March 14, 2013 in London, Ontario, Canada.

Reigning Olympic champ Kim Yu-na gave herself high marks for her performance at the World Figure Skating Championship Thursday which signals her return to ISU competition after a two-year hiatus.

The judges were not quite as impressed but the crowd love it, rewarding her ‘Kiss of the Vampire’ short routine with a standing ovation at the Budweiser Gardens arena.

Although the South Korean superstar topped the field in the women’s opening round ahead of defending champ Carolina Kostner, the adjudicators found fault with the level of difficulty for her spins and were stingy with their performance quality scores.

Kim earned 69.97 points, well off her record score of 78.50 set in the Olympic year. Still, she is well-positioned to win her second world title in Saturday’s final considering the subpar result of Mao Asada, her long-time rival from Japan.

“When I heard the score, I was a little bit surprised and thought maybe I got a downgrade for spins.

“The first spin was a little unstable but because I did my best, I would give myself a full 100 per cent,” Kim said through an interpreter.

“I was not as nervous as I had imagined. I trained four or five years in Canada and won the Olympics in Canada and feel great to be back in Canada and very comfortable.”

Asada landed her trademark triple Axel on two feet although it appeared fully rotated, but her downfall was a planned triple loop which morphed into a single. Undefeated this season in ISU competition, she is back in sixth place with 62.1 points.

Kanako Murakami of Japan competes in the Ladies Short Program on March 14, 2013, in London, Canada

Kanako Murakami of Japan competes in the Ladies Short Program during the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships at Budweiser Gardens on March 14, 2013 in London, Canada.

Kostner suffered a hard and costly fall on the second jump in her triple-triple combination but her performance scores were the highest on the board, giving her 66.86 in total for her routine.

“I was surprised and very honoured that the judges appreciated the effort I put into my choreography and my programmes,” said Kostner, who is competing in her 11th global championship.

Kanako Murakami, the third Japanese entry here, was the surprise of the afternoon, finishing a close third with 66.64 points. She also earned a standing ovation for her delicately elegant yet impassioned programme set to ‘Prayer for Taylor’ and impressed with a beautiful triple-triple jump combo.

“I think I was able to be pretty calm. There was a little hesitation at the beginning, but I think I was able to perform with assurance,” said Murakami, 18, fifth in the world last season.

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond is fourth, scoring a 64.37 for her saucy Mambo interpretation, followed by American Ashley Wagner (63.98).

Both women along with Asada and her countrywoman Akiko Suzuki (seventh with 61.17), are still in contention for a medal. Gold would be a stretch, though, unless Kim falters.

Besides aspiring to establish their status as frontrunners for the 2014 Olympic podium in Sochi, the elite competitors here are on a mission to earn their countries the maximum entries for the Sochi Games.

“My first goal is to get more than two tickets for the Olympic Games for Korea. Beside myself, I would like young Korean skaters to experience the Olympic Games,” Kim said.

To accomplish that, Kim would have to finish first or second.

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