In her first trip to the World Figure Skating Championships, 16-year-old Del Mar native Rachael Flatt amazed the crowd with her gutsy performance and fifth-place finish at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Flatt ended the evening as the highest-placing U.S. woman at the event. South Korea's Kim Yu-Na took the gold medal.
The crowd responded with a standing ovation, many rising before the last notes of her music faded out. Among those cheering her on was 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, who recently became Flatt's mentor. She's working with her in Colorado Springs, Colo., giving the young skater advice and support during her journey toward the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Hamill, who won Olympic gold while still a teenager, said she sees Flatt as a major U.S. contender at the Vancouver Games, less than one year away.
Of her performance, Rachael said: "I'm absolutely thrilled. Skating two pretty solid programs was very exciting for my first Worlds. This experience was irreplaceable. I couldn't ask for anything more."