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Osmond wins over the crowd in London with joyful Mambo No. 8 short program

LONDON, Ont. - Now everybody will remember her name: Kaetlyn Osmond.

She’s the Newfoundland-born skater who woke up the world this year and defied convention, finishing fourth in the short program in her first appearance at the world figure skating championships.

Even she was shocked.

Osmond skated early, ninth of 35, and went back to the hotel to relax while the women’s event played itself out. She did not watch it on television. At one point, a friend messaged her, telling her at one point that she was still in second place. She stayed there until the final two group of women, the heavy hitters, but when all was finished, Osmond was still ahead of such luminaries as U.S. champion Ashley Wagner (fifth) , former world champion Mao Asada (sixth), world bronze medalist Akiko Suzuiki of Japan, (who Osmond had previously defeated at Skate Canada and who now is sitting in seventh), the U.S. shining star Gracie Gold (ninth, rather ruffled at her first world championship), and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the Russian who had won Skate Canada the year before Osmond did.

The large crowd was treated to a tumbling of results, unexpected finishes, good judging, lots of surprises, healthy for a sport that lost steam after the controversies of the Salt Lake City Olympics. And Osmond was one of the surprises.

In first place is Yu Na Kim, who has competed sporadically since her Olympic win in Vancouver, with only one previous small international event this year. In her practices, she’s been astonishing, landing triple Lutz- triple toe loop combinations with tremendous ease. She did so on Thursday here, but when she saw her mark – 69.97, her face seemed to fall. Her world record is 78.50 points , set at the Olympic Games.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” she said. “But I tried my best.” She got level threes on two of her spins, but reigning world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy seemed to get more pluses on grade of execution to finish second with 66.86 points, only three points behind the champ, despite falling on the back end of a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination.

Kim’s problem? Some said the routine was a tad lackluster, that the South Korean skater lacked the command of the rink that she had in Vancouver. Is it rust? Lack of drive? Kim says with the Olympic gold medal in her grasp, she’s achieved all of her skating goals. Now she’s out to please herself, and while she’s at it, try to get as many Olympic spots for Korean women as she can.

In third place is the delightful Kanako Murakami who outfinished her more seasoned teammates. Murakami came out decked in blush pink and skated to Prayer for Taylor. She wove a spell on the audience, who gave her a standing ovation. Even Kim didn’t get a standing ovation.

Murakami got 66.64, fractions behind Kostner, after landing a triple toe loop – triple toe loop and achieving level fours on all of her non-jump elements.

The other shockers? Asada, with her light and lively routine to I’ve Got Rhythm, landed a triple Axel, but underrotated a triple flip, which was the first part of a combination with a double loop. Later the crowd gasped when she singled a triple loop. Asada earned 62.10 for sixth place.

Wagner roared along nicely and finished with aplomb, although the plan was to forget a triple-triple if the first jump felt uncertain. It did. Wagner said she landed her triple flip with a bit of a wobble, so followed it only with a double. Her mark of 63.98 put her behind Osmond.

Afterwards, Wagner made it clear that she feels responsible for getting U.S. skaters their customary three women’s spots back. This year they have only two. The rookie, Gracie Gold is doing her best, but she underrotated the triple toe loop that was the second part of her triple Lutz combination and she was called for a wrong entrance into her triple flip. She finished with 58.85 points. “I feel I had a safe skate and a steady skate,” she said. “There was a problem with a spin switch.” She lost a few levels on a spin that went wrong.

Adelina Sotnikova, one of a handful of promising young Russian skaters, underroated the second part of her triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination and ended eighth with 59.62 points. She felt like a deer caught in headlights.
“It’s my first worlds and I felt really calm,” she said. “To be honest, I didn’t quite understand what was going on, and that I am at worlds,” she said.

Tuktamysheva slipped out of a spin and singled a double Axel – underrotated it too. She received no points on either element and look downcast when she left the ice.

But Osmond took the challenge without blinking and attacked her Mambo No. 8 routine with a joy and a smile that never left her. She filled the rink with her big moves. Coach Ravi Walia had warned her about the reaction of a Canadian crowd and prepared her for it, by taking her to see Andrei Rogozine compete in the men’s short program the previous day. And he told her to take some time after her name was announced: good advice, considering that when that happened, the Canadian crowd cheered noisily. Usually, Ravi said, Osmond would fly into her program elements within five seconds of getting onto the ice. This time she stayed calm with a 30-second wait. And when the time came, she delivered a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination, a fine triple flip – a jump she had missed at Four Continents – and a double Axel.

She gained confidence from watching other Canadians do well on Wednesday. "I just wanted to be a part of this and I wanted to do as well as they did," she said. It gave her more confidence for her own program.

“The crowd was unbelievable,” Osmond said later. “They are so into everything and they were cheering so loudly, it just helped me calm down and allow me to enjoy the experience. There were parts of my program that I could not actually hear because of the crowd. But I knew my program well enough to know that I was on time.”

For once, Osmond admitted she felt a little nervous waiting around to skate. But when she went out onto the ice and started the familiar routine, she relaxed.

Going into the competition, Osmond said she wondered how she would feel, being at her first world championship. She told Walia that it didn’t feel like a world championship. It made things easier for her, she said.

Only two years ago, Osmond had competed at the junior nationals and didn’t do as well as she hoped. That disappointment changed things. She regrouped, and refocused. “I had to take into consideration that I love this sport and I’ll do anything for it,” she said.

That season she finished third at the Canadian championships and then in th top 10 at the world juniors, allowing Canada to send two women to this year’s event. Walia hopes she’ll do the same at the senior level, although he hasn’t discussed it with her for a month.

Earlier in the season the focus of trying to win Canada two Olympic spots for women at Sochi was discussed often. Walia knew she had to finish in the top 10 to do it, so set out to get her to do everything she needs to do to get there. Finishing fourth is a bonus, a surprise. But Osmond still says her goal is to finish in the top 10. “There are a lot of good skaters in this event,” she said.

She still finds her quick success on the world stage “a little shocking.”

“I was just going into the season to see what happens,” she said. “To think last year, I was just trying to get some triples. I got my flip and my triple-triple last year and at the end of the year, I got my Lutz and two more triple-triples. It was just unbelievable.

The key tactic for the short program? Walia told her not to use her brain so much.

“She’s been a little inconsistent in the practices,” he said. “Everything is really easy for her. She can do everything in her program. I told her you don’t realy need to use your brain for some of these jumps. Just let it happen. She thought it was really funny.”

But it worked.

The last couple of months have been a roller coaster for Osmond, with her stunning successes. Walia says Osmond is not nervous at this event, only overwhelmed with the new position in which she finds herself, in a spotlight that she loves, but is just learning to deal with. “I think she’s going to get used to managing her feeling,” he said.