Kim confident heading into GP finals
TOKYO (AP)South Korea's Kim Yu-na has every reason to feel confident heading into this weekend's Grand Prix figure skating final.
Kim advanced to the GP finals after two golds this season at the Trophee Bompard and Skate America to finish first overall in the women's standings.
Japan's Mao Asada, who beat Kim at last year's GP final in South Korea, didn't even qualify for this year's event after a second-place finish in France and a disappointing fifth in Russia.
"I try not think about what happened at the last Grand Prix final," Kim said after Wednesday's practice. "A lot has changed since then and I feel confident about winning here."
With the Vancouver Olympics just around the corner, the reigning world champion looks to be peaking at just the right time. Asada, who many consider Kim's main rival, has struggled under Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova.
"This is the last major competition before the Olympics," Kim said. "I want to get a good result here to have a good feeling for the Olympics."
Kim will be bidding for her third GP final title in four years when the women's short program begins Friday at Yoyogi Arena.
Joining Kim will be Japan's Miki Ando, who had wins at the NHK Trophy last month and the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow and will be carrying the hopes of the host nation along with Akiko Suzuki, who qualified after winning the Cup of China and finishing fifth at Skate Canada.
Joannie Rochette booked her ticket with a win in her native Canada and a bronze medal in China. Russia's Alena Leonova and American Ashley Wagner complete the women's field.
In the men's event, reigning world champion Evan Lysacek claimed victory at Skate America and finished second at the Cup of China to qualify for Tokyo.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Lysacek said. "I've trained really hard for this and with the Olympics coming up this is very important."
Lysacek's main rival here will be Japan's Nobunari Oda, the only competitor in the men's event with two gold medals this season having won in France and China.
Lysacek and Oda have competed in the GP final before but missed the event last season.
Defending GP champion Jeremy Abbott of the United States returns after winning in Canada last week and placing fifth in Nagano.
Japan's Daisuke Takahashi is back at the GP final after missing the previous season due to injury. Takahashi qualified with a silver medal from Skate Canada and a fourth-place finish from the NHK Trophy.
American Johnny Weir, who was third at last year's GP final, will also compete here along with Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, who replaced Brian Joubert after the Frenchman withdrew with a cut foot from practice last week. Verner was the first substitute after taking the silver in Paris and ranking fifth in Lake Placid.
China will be looking to dominate the pairs event with the teams of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao and Qing Pang and Jian Tong. Both couples won two golds in the Grand Prix series this season.
In the ice dance, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the Rostelecom Cup and the NHK Trophy and have a season's best of 201.97 points. Their main rivals look to be Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who claimed gold at the Trophee Bompard and Skate Canada.