|South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na performs a dazzling short program in the ladies` singles competition in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday. (Yonhap)|
South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na took the lead after a dazzling short program in the ladies' singles competition at the Sochi Winter Games on Wednesday.
The reigning Olympic champion scored 74.92 points to shoot to the top of the standings at Iceberg Skating Palace. It's the highest short program score by any female skater this season.
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia finished in second place with 74.64 points, followed by Carolina Kostner of Italy at 74.12 points. The free skate is on Thursday.
Kim is trying to join Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt, who are the only women so far to defend an Olympic figure skating title.
Performing to a musical score titled "Send in the Clowns," Kim opened the program with a perfect triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, her signature element that usually sets the tone for the rest of her performance. She also nailed her next jump, a triple flip, and followed that up with a flying camel spin.
Kim executed another flawless jump, this time a double axel, and closed out her program with quality spins and step sequences.
She earned her career-high 35.89 points in the program component score, which measures skaters' choreography and presentation, and scored 39.03 points in the technical element score.
In a televised interview afterward, Kim admitted to battling nerves until right before her turn.
"For some reason, I was so nervous and I couldn't really move my legs in the warm-up," she said. "I had very little confidence and I kept telling myself I need to take this like any other practice."
Kim said she had performed "clean" short programs in practice almost on a daily basis and that it would have been disappointing not to duplicate that in actual competition.
"I was most worried about my first jump, and once I nailed it, I was able to stay composed," she said. "I hope to be back for the free skate with more confidence."
At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Kim captured the gold medal with 78.50 points in the short program and 150.06 points in the free skate for a combined 228.56 points, all of them record-highs under the revamped figure skating judging scale.
Kim was the 17th among 30 skaters to perform the short program. After setting the bar high early, she watched her rivals try and fail to top her score.
Sotnikova came the closest. The runner-up at this year's European championships, the 17-year-old executed clean jumps and earned maximum levels on all of her spins and step sequences.
Kostner, a five-time European champ, led the field in PCS with 36.63 points. The top three skaters were the only ones to score in the 70s, with Gracie Gold of the United States further back in fourth place at 68.63 points.
Mao Asada of Japan, the silver medalist behind Kim in Vancouver, fell well out of contention with 55.51 points, good for only 16th place. She slipped on the landing of her triple axel jump at the onset of her program.
Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia, who helped the host country win the inaugural team competition last week, two-footed her landing of a triple flip jump late in the program and earned 65.23 points for fifth place. It was Lipnitskaya, not Sotnikova, who had been built up as Russia's best hope for the figure skating title. (Yonhap)