|Korea’s Kim Yu-na rehearses ahead of the free-skate program in Sochi, Russia, Thursday. (Yonhap)|
Kim is the leader in the ladies’ singles competition after Wednesday’s short program with 74.92 points, 0.28 point ahead of Adelina Sotnikova of Russia.
Kim will be the last among 24 skaters to perform.
Her free skate, set to a tango piece entitled “Adios Nonino,” will start at 10:46 p.m. in Sochi (3:46 a.m. Friday in South Korea).
The South Korean is trying to become just the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the ladies’ singles.
Sochi will be Kim’s last Olympics.
Looking collected and yet fatigued at Iceberg Skating Palace, Kim opened her rehearsal with a triple salchow and then a triple flip.
She also executed a clean triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, the opening element of her program.
With her music on, Kim only worked on her jumps while skipping most of her spins and step sequences. Midway through the program, Kim under-rotated her triple salchow as part of her triple-double jump combination, before closing things out with a double axel.
Lurking in third place behind Kim and Sotnikova is Carolina Kostner of Italy at 74.12 points.
A five-time European champ, Kostner finished more than 20 points behind Kim in second place at the 2013 world championships.
Kostner will be the 20th skater and Sotnikova will follow her immediately.
Performing to a musical score titled “Send in the Clowns,” Kim opened the short 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. She had a slightly higher TES than Kim with 39.09 points.
|Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaya (top) and Japan’s Mao Asada fall during their short programs. (Yonhap)|
Julia 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)