Lysacek wins first Skate America title

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- From Kim Yu-na's record-setting performance to Evan Lysacek's powerful free skate, it was a great Saturday night for world champions at Skate America.

A couple hours after South Korea's Kim did about everything but carve 007 into the ice with her world-record 76.28 points in the women's short program, Lysacek won his first crown at this event. He wasn't nearly as brilliant as in his short program the previous night, but he didn't need to be in besting Canada's Shawn Sawyer. Lysacek hit seven triple jumps and finished with some fancy footwork and an impressive combination spin that got the crowd onto its feet.

His 237.72 points were nearly 29 better than Sawyer.

"This was a very big step forward since Cup of China," Lysacek said, referring to finishing second to Japan's Nobunari Oda in Beijing two weeks ago. "I had no technical deductions. I'll work on my program at home and my concentration and strength for the Grand Prix final.

His victory qualified him for that competition next month in Tokyo -- and put Lysacek in a strong mindset for January's nationals and that little event in Vancouver in February.

"I almost never think about results," he said, "but I really wanted to win this competition. "

Kim will be a heavy favorite at the Olympics, particularly if she keeps outdoing herself. She is one straight-shooting Bond girl.

Kim capped a mesmerizing performance to a James Bond medley with a marksman's pose that would make Sean Connery or Daniel Craig proud.

"I'm trying to do a clean program every time," Kim said after blowing away the field, grabbing a 17.48-point lead over American Rachael Flatt heading into Sunday's free skate. "It's not about the score. I don't want to think about the score."

She even admitted breaking the world mark was a surprise -- to her, if not to the adoring fans who began buzzing when she came out for warmups, erupted in cheers when she finished to a standing ovation, then pressed their faces against windows overlooking the interview area.

There were banners proclaiming "Queen Yu-na" and even ones portraying the 19-year-old sensation as a Simpsons character and as the Pink Panther. No question who was the big star of this show.

"She wants to go out and skate well, show everybody what you are," said coach Brian Orser, a two-time Olympic silver medalist. "I think she's just excited about these new programs. They are such a good fit for her; she wears them well."

If she keeps skating this way, she'll be wearing gold in Vancouver. Asked if she can be beaten, she opened her mouth wide and shrugged.

Flatt had a rare fall in her program, but still beat Julia Sebestyen of Hungary by 0.26 points. Flatt, who was fifth at worlds in Los Angeles in March, was asked about the intimidation factor in facing Kim.

"She's pretty incredible," Flatt said. "For me, she's incredibly inspiring and someone I look up to. I'm just inspired when we get on the ice and I think: `Cool, Yu-na is out here."

And, for now, out of reach.

Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China were winners, another big step toward Vancouver in their comeback.

They were nowhere near as clean or impressive as in their sensational short program the previous day. Still, they added their first Skate America title to their victory at Cup of China two weeks ago. Not a bad way to start a comeback after retiring two years ago.

"When we didn't compete, the last two years," Shen said, "we skated in Stars on Ice and that really helped us with our presentation mark."

The free skate was marred by a nasty fall by Canadian Meagan Duhamel, forcing her and Craig Buntin to withdraw. Duhamel fell hard to the ice, landed on her shoulder, then banged her head on the surface. But the injury was to her right leg, in which Buntin said his partner has had several stress fractures.

"It's an old injury," he said, "and on the throw loop her foot stuck in the ice. She said she couldn't feel her leg at first.

"After the camel spin, she almost stopped, as well. But she said her head is OK. I've known Meagan for years and we all know she has a very thick head."

Earlier, 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto stretched their lead in ice dance.

The last time folk music was required for the original dance, Belbin and Agosto went the close-to-home route with an American theme. This time, they've gone Moldavian.

"Our coaches told us it is not a Russian dance, it is not a Ukrainian dance, it is Moldavian," Belbin said with a chuckle. "We love doing it."

They did it well enough Saturday to increase their lead after winning compulsories. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists and runners-up at last year's world championships head into Sunday's free dance with nearly a 14-point lead over Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, who struggled in the original dance.

Belbin and Agosto, seeking their fifth Skate America title, seemingly never had time to take a breath while they stepped and stomped all over the ice.

"This has been a challenging dance from the start because it's so fast throughout," Agosto said. "It's very fast and high-energy and difficult.

"We wanted to do something new. The last time we chose [American], and we felt lucky we had the rest of the world to choose from and this is a fun dance."

Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were second in the original dance with a playful routine to, naturally, Italian folk music. Israel's Alexandra and Roman Zaretski were third.