(February 24, 2006)
Both Joannie Rochette and Mira Leung made lasting impressions in the ladies free skate in Torino last night.
Rochette, the two-time Canadian Champion, skated a beautiful program to Hymne à L’amour that featured six triple jumps, including a solid triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple toeloop-double toeloop-double loop combination and a triple flip. Rochette’s only mistake came on her second planned triple Lutz, which she doubled.
Rochette, who was competing in her first Olympic Games, scored 111.42 points for her free skate, bringing her combined total to 167.27, just slightly more than one point under her personal best score of 168.72. She moved up from ninth after the short program to place fifth in the free skate and fifth overall.
“I’m happy with my overall performance,” said Rochette. “It wasn’t 100 per cent my best, but I’m really happy I could enjoy this and skate with my heart. I had an amazing two weeks and I’m going to remember this forever.”
Rochette’s fifth-place finish was the highest placement by a Canadian female skater at the Olympics since Elizabeth Manley’s silver medal at the 1988 Games in Calgary.
Leung was also very pleased with her performance at her first Olympic Games.
Standing 14th after the short program, Leung delivered another strong performance in the free skate. She opened her program to the music titled Terracotta Warriors with a triple flip and followed it with a good triple Lutz. Despite doubling a scheduled triple Salchow and singling a planned double Axel, Leung recovered to complete a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a solid triple Lutz-double loop combination and a triple flip-double loop-double loop combination, the latter right at the end of her program.
Leung’s combined total of 145.16 was a new personal best mark. She moved up two places after the short program to finish 12th overall.
“I’m happy with what I did. I’m not over the top, but I’m happy,” said Leung. “I’m going to do better (at the world figure skating championships) in Calgary. I’m not going to have any regrets when I leave Torino.”
Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa, who won the world championship title in 2004, delivered a spectacular performance. Arakawa’s combined score of 191.34, a new personal best, vaulted her from third after the short program to first overall. She became the first-ever Olympic Champion in figure skating from Japan.
“I’m so surprised and I can’t find any words for it,” said Arakawa. “I cannot believe it. I think I will realize that I won a gold in the next two or three days.”
Capturing the silver medal was two-time world silver medallist, Sasha Cohen, of the United States. Cohen, who was leading after the short program, scored a total of 183.36 points, enough to place her second in front of bronze medallist and reigning world champion, Irina Slutskaya, of Russia, who earned a total score of 181.44.
“I love the music and performing this program. I kept believing and seeing the rest of the program; it became an emotional experience,” said Cohen. “I was able to attack the rest of the program. I definitely didn’t think I’d get a medal when I finished. It was a nice surprise.”
“I’m happy I got one more Olympic medal,” said Slutskaya. “It’s another small piece of history for me. I’m a little disappointed with how I skated. But that is competition, that’s life and it’s happening.”