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(News Focus) Kim Yu-na sends message with dominating win in return
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- With a dominating win in her first competitive event in nearly two years last weekend, Kim Yu-na sent a message to the rest of the figure skating world.

   The "Queen" is back.

   Kim scored 201.61 points in total to blow by the field at the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, on the weekend. She earned 72.27 points in the short program and 129.34 points in the free skating for the highest score by a female skater this season. Kim also surpassed 200 points for the fourth time in her career.

   The performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that Kim, the 2009 world champion and 2010 Olympic gold medalist, had sat out the entire last season and this was her first competitive event since the 2011 world championships in April.

   Now the skater dubbed Queen will turn her eyes toward the world championships in March next year in Canada, with the landscape of ladies' figure skating having been dramatically altered.

   During Kim's absence, the quality of ladies' figure skating had been sporadic and underwhelming. Before Kim's victory Sunday, Mao Asada of Japan, a two-time world champion and Kim's arch rival since their junior days, had owned the best score of the season with 196.80 points. It was Asada's winning total at the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, on Saturday.

   Asada had been one of only two skaters this season to top 190 points, with Ashley Wagner of the U.S. being the other.

  
Kim Yu-na performs her free skating program to songs from "Les Miserables" on Dec. 9, 2012, in Dortmund, Germany, en route to a huge win at the NRW Trophy. (Yonhap)


Then after missing in action for 20 months, Kim, 22, returned and surprised even herself with the high score.

   "This was my first event in such a long time and I never expected to score more than 200 points," Kim said in Dortmund after her win. "I knew people had their expectations, but I didn't think it'd be possible. I am pleased with such an unexpectedly good score."

   Kim needed to meet the required technical element score (TES) in Germany to qualify for the world championships -- 28 points in short program and 48 points in free skating -- and easily eclipsed those marks with a 37.42 TES in her short program and 60.82 in the free skating.

   For the most part, Kim's jumps last weekend were as technically sound as in the past. She has long been a rare female performer who retains her speed as she skates into takeoffs. Her jumps have been famous for their height and technical precision.

   Kim has been known just as much for her artistry, and put that on full display in both her short program and free skating in Germany.

   In her short program, set to "The Kiss of the Vampire" from the soundtrack of the film of the same name, Kim established a new career-high in program component score (PCS), which evaluates artistry and overall performance, with 34.85. Then in free skating, choreographed to a compilation of songs from the popular musical "Les Miserables," Kim earned a 69.52 PCS, almost matching the total from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when she had 71.76 points in PCS as part of the world record mark of 150.06 in free skating.

   In her free skating, Kim earned high scores in all elements of PCS, with 8.88 points in interpretation, 8.69 points in execution and 8.76 in choreography.

   Kim's win was not perfect, and her artistic performance Sunday helped compensate for a pair of rare jump mistakes.

   In the buildup to the NRW Trophy, Kim had repeatedly said she needed to improve her strength and conditioning. Before she flew out to Germany, Kim acknowledged she was at about 80 to 90 percent strength.

   If her performance in Dortmund is to serve as indication, Kim is still not 100 percent.

   In her short program, running two minutes and 50 seconds, Kim was shaky on her spins and steps later in the routine, and her leg extension after the landing on her double axel wasn't nearly as powerful as before.

   The following day, Kim appeared to have run out of gas in the latter part of her free skating, which went for four minutes and 10 seconds long. She managed only a single rotation in air on her double axel, which requires two and a half turns on a forward takeoff, and fell on the ice on the second jump of her triple salchow-double toe loop combination.

   Kim afterward said these mistakes had little to do with her conditioning.

   "On my first mistake, I lost my balance a little on the takeoff," she said. "On the second mistake, I think I let my guard down a bit. But this was only my first event of the season, and I think these errors will help me focus better in the future."

   Kim said her conditioning was the biggest source of concern before the NRW Trophy but added, "I've worked myself into such shape that I can sustain myself through free skating."

   Before the German event, Kim said she was trying to free herself from a burden of expectations and to enjoy herself more on the ice than in the past. Kim insisted on Sunday that this doesn't mean she will relax and grow content.

   "As much as those around me praise me for my efforts, I have to keep motivating myself," she said. "I will bear down even more and make sure I don't become too complacent."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)
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