Gilles fourth after short in Grand Prix debut

Alexe GillesKorea’s Yu-Na Kim showed Friday at Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, France, that she may be in a class of her own with a program that left the closest competitor more than 16 points behind. But American Alexe Gilles (58.22) also made a statement, skating in her first senior international competition, with a personal best, fourth place short program that put her less than a point behind 2008 World Champion Mao Asada of Japan.

“I was a little nervous going in, but I’ve been training well, and I’m excited about how high I placed,” said Gilles, the 2008 U.S. Junior Ladies Champion. Skating to Cinderella by Johann Strauss, she nailed her triple lutz-double toe combination, triple flix and double Axel.

Kim scored 76.08 points in the debut of her new program to a medley of James Bond 007 music, only .04 less than the highest ever score recorded, which she set en route to winning the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles. Second place belongs to Japan’s Yukari Nakano, fourth at 2008 Worlds, who scored 59.64. Asada, who performed a single axel in her combination instead of a planned double, is third with 58.96.

Caroline Zhang (57.26) is in fifth place after a shaky double axel in an otherwise clean performance to “La Bayadere” by Leon Minkus that included a triple flip-double toe and a triple loop. The top ranked skater in the world, Italy’s 2008 World silver medalist Carolina Kostner, managed only a seventh place finish after several mistakes, including no combination.

Kim, the obvious front runner for gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, was near flawless with her program. After opening with a triple lutz-triple toe, the 19-year-old went on to land a triple flip and directly out of her spiral combination, she nailed a double axel.

“This is my first competition of the season and I was able to show the audience what I have been doing in practice over the summer. This was great,”  said Kim, who finished second at last year’s Grand Prix Final but won everything else. “Now I’m looking forward to the free skating, but I’m also a little bit nervous.”

Trophee Eric Bompard is the first event of the 2009 International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit. The series, now in its 15th season, consists of six international events in a cumulative, point-scoring format. The top six scoring athletes in each discipline move onto the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 3-6, in Tokyo, Japan, which will be combined with the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final for the second consecutive season.

The six Grand Prix events are Trophee Eric Bompard, Oct. 15-18, in Paris, France; Rostelecom Cup, Oct. 22-25, in Moscow Russia; Cup of China, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, in Beijing, China; NHK Trophy, Nov. 5-8, in Nagano, Japan; Skate America, Nov. 12-15, in Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Skate Canada, Nov. 19-22, in Kitchener, Canada.

The points toward the Grand Prix Final that are awarded for each place are 15 points for first; 13 points for second; 11 points for third; nine points for fourth; seven points for fifth; five points for sixth place; four points for seventh place; and three points for eighth. In pair skating, only the top six receive points.

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