Flatt makes statement with fifth place finish

Rachael Flatt Rachael Flatt served notice Saturday that she can compete with the best in the world. In her debut at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, she placed fifth with a personal best 172.41 points.

“I think there were a few things I could’ve changed, but I think it was a great performance,” said Flatt, who was seventh in the short program and fifth in the free skate. “This experience was irreplaceable. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Korea’s Yu-Na Kim lived up to her nickname “Queen Yu-Na” by becoming the first lady to surpass the 200 point margin. She won the gold medal with a record score of 207.71, despite a flawed triple Salchow that scored only .24 and a spin that received no points.

“I didn’t really think about getting the 200 score,” said Kim, who finish third at the two previous World Championships. “Now that it is over, I’m very excited but also a little worried about how I can keep the scores. Trying to keep it as close to it [as possible] is my goal now.”

Joannie Rochette (191.29) of Canada narrowly escaped with the silver medal over Japan’s Miki Ando (190.38), the 2007 World Champion. Last year’s titlist Mao Asada of Japan fell on one of her two triple axels, dropping her to fourth with 188.09.

U.S. champion Alissa Czisny, who fell twice in her 14th place short program, turned in the eighth best free skate of the competition, complete with three triple jumps. She improved to 11th overall with 159.78.

“It was better than yesterday,” Czisny said. “I went out there and focused on each element. I was a little bit disappointed in my short program, obviously, but I think I can take what I’ve learned here and improve from it.”

For the Worlds, Flatt returned to “Romantic Rhapsody” by Mathieu, the program that helped her win the 2008 World Junior Championship. Flatt was not perfect but completed six triple jumps including two in combination, the triple lutz-double toe and triple flip-double toe-double loop.

“It puts my name in the judges’ minds,” said Flatt, who finished second at the 2009 U.S. Championships but finished as the highest ranked American lady in Los Angeles. “It says that I am a contender for Vancouver.”

Flatt’s fifth place standing and Czisny’s 11th place showing helped the country earn two spots for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The combined placements had to equal 13 or less in order to send three representatives to the Games.

“It always has been a dream of mine,” Flatt said about possibly making the Olympic team. “It really was starting to become a reality since nationals this year. It’s not set in stone or anything, but this is making it a realistic goal. It’s exciting to think I could actually be competing at the Olympics.”

She finished ahead of Japan’s two-time World bronze medalist Fumie Suguri and Italian Carolina Koster, World silver and bronze medalist, in Los Angeles, making the Games a realistic possibility for the two-time U.S. silver medalist.

Flatt’s free skate capped off an impressive run for the Americans at Worlds. The United States won two medals and had six other skaters finish in the top 10 at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles.

At the competition, Team USA also qualified 15 skaters for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games including three men, two pair teams and three ice dance teams. The skaters advancing to the Games will be decided in January at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash.

In the men’s event at Worlds, two-time U.S. Champion and reigning national bronze medalist Evan Lysacek, who trains in the Los Angeles area, won the gold medal with a near flawless performance. Lysacek, who skated with a stress fracture in his foot, is the first American man to win the World title since Todd Eldredge in 1996.

Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto made a successful return from Agosto’s back injury by capturing their fourth World medal, a silver, in ice dance. U.S. Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White placed fourth. Although they brought the crowd to its feet with a powerful free dance that ranked third in the field, the couple still missed the podium by four one-hundredths of a point.

It also was an impressive showing for national silver medalist Brandon Mroz, who landed a quadruple jump and was ninth in men’s. Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, skating together less than a year, also took ninth in pairs. All three were making their World debut.

Newly crowned U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott had trouble in the short program and finished 11th overall in the men’s event. Two-time U.S. Champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker were 11th in pairs. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, second ranked at the national championships in ice dance, were also 11th.

Worlds marked the end of the season for most skaters. However, the United States qualified for the first International Skating Union Team Trophy competition based on the cumulative international results of Team USA skaters this season from events including the Grand Prix and Junior Grand Prix series.

Also qualified to compete are Canada, Japan, Russia, France and China. Although competitors have not been announced, each country participating at the event April 16-19 in Tokyo, Japan, will field a team of two men, two ladies, one pair and one ice dance team.

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