by Ralph Routon
Rachael Flatt skated off the Pacific Coliseum ice, hands to her head, exhilarated at having delivered yet another clean and strong program to end the ladies figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Or so she thought.
Then came Flatt's scores, and they were far lower than she and her coach Tom Zakrajsek were expecting. So instead of the Colorado Springs skater challenging for a medal, she wound up slipping from fifth to seventh after being inexplicably marked down for two of her seven triple jumps, all of which had appeared to be done perfectly.
So while South Korea's Kim Yu-Na, Japan's Mao Asada and Canada's Joannie Rochette took the medals, and American Mirai Nagasu moved up to fourth, Flatt was left disappointed and wondering.
"Honestly, I thought all the jumps were fine," Flatt said. "I thought I had given it all I had, and it was a great feeling at the end knowing I had done two incredibly solid performances at the Olympics. At that point I was excited.
"So, yeah, the marks were a little surprising. I've never been downgraded on those jumps before. I wish I could have had a better score."
Flatt said she felt she skated "better than at Nationals" last month in Spokane, Wash., when she won the U.S. ladies title.
Zakrajsek said he expected Flatt's score to be somewhere around 125 points or higher for the long program, not the 117.85 she received. But he said the technical panel of judges would not be providing any explanation beyond the marks. In the end, he felt Flatt had lost 10-12 points without really knowing why.
That would have moved her up to fourth, but not third. Rochette secured the bronze medal despite some errors, but the judges might have given her some credit for the mental strength to skate through the competition after her mother died here Sunday of a massive heart attack.
Fourth with higher marks would have been easier for Flatt to take, her coach admitted.
"Rachael's not mad, but she's upset obviously," Zakrajsek said. "She was shocked. One thing I can say is that her speed was a little slower, and that might have affected her rotation. But I didn't think anything was wrong. She got full credit for a triple jump in the short program that wasn't so sure, and I thought the two (in question) tonight were done much better."
Flatt says she'll go back, analyze the video and correct the issues before the world championships next month in Torino, Italy.
She also says she wants to continue skating while in college and push toward the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.