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Asada wrests world title away from Kim

Olympic champion climbs back to earn silver

Japan's Mao Asada skated her way to her second world championship gold.
Japan's Mao Asada skated her way to her second world championship gold. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/27/2010) - After losing her last three face-offs with Yu-Na Kim, Mao Asada is back on top.

The Japanese champion, who took Olympic silver behind the South Korean in Vancouver last month, took advantage of her longtime rival's poor short program to win her second world title by 6.79 points.

In a close contest, Laura Lepistö won bronze, Finland's first-ever ladies world medal, despite landing just three triple jumps.

It was disappointing competition for the U.S. team.

Mirai Nagasu, who led after the short, fell on a double Axel and had three other jumps downgraded, ending up 11th in the free skate and seventh overall. Rachael Flatt placed ninth after uncharacteristic trouble with her triple Lutz.

The two skaters' total placement of 16 means the U.S. will again send two ladies to worlds next season.

Performing to the darkly dramatic "Bells of Moscow," Asada hit her first triple Axel but had her second attempt downgraded by the technical panel. She went on to land four more triples, including two triple flip combinations, and took second place in the free. Added to her short program total, she ended with 197.58 points, winning back the world title she first claimed in 2008.

Kim's free, to Gershwin's "Concerto in F," was far from her best; the South Korean opened with her spectacular triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but later in her program fell on a triple Salchow and popped a double Axel.

High program component score marks (65.04) gave her the free program win, although her total, 130.49 points, was 20 points lower than her Olympic score. She ended with 190.79 points.

"I was still scared because of the short program and this morning my practice wasn't good, so I felt a little nervous," Kim told the Universal Sports interviewer. "But in the warm-up, my jumps were very good, and I felt very good. I missed a few jumps in the program, but overall, I'm happy I completed the program."

The 19-year-old said she was undecided about her future competitive plans.

"I just finished this season, so I just want to relax and go to Korea, my hometown, and have a great time with my family and friends," she said.

Just 3.14 points separated the next five skaters, creating a tight contest for the bronze medal.

Lepisto opened her free skate with a strong triple toe-triple toe combination, followed by a triple Lutz, but doubled two attempted triple loops and a triple Salchow. Still, in what is sure to be a controversial decision, she beat out Japan's Miki Ando by 0.80 for third place.

In a surprise, Canada's Cynthia Phaneuf hit six triples in her free skate to place fifth. Italy's Carolina Kostner was sixth.

As usual, Nagasu's spins and spirals shone, but the 16-year-old stepped out of her first triple Lutz (intended to be in combination with two double toes); had her second Lutz downgraded; fell on a (downgraded) double Axel and under rotated her final triple toe. The U.S. silver medalist earned 105.08 in the free for 175.48 overall, far off her personal best.

"I'm just really disappointed in myself for not stepping up to the plate today," Nagasu said.

"I'm sorry I didn't do the best that I could have done. Coming out of the Olympics, where I was in fourth place, finishing in seventh place here is a really big blow. I feel really bad."

The usually consistent Flatt faltered on two triple Lutzes, two footing her first attempt and popping her second, and had a triple flip downgraded. She placed ninth in the free and earned 167.44 overall.

"It was certainly sub-par," Flatt, 17, said. "It was not ideal at all. I think I gave some very good performances this year, but it really is hard to go out on such a mediocre program."

The U.S. champion, who graduates from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs this spring, is still undecided about her college plans.

"I may defer for a year from college (she has been accepted to Stanford, UCLA and University of Denver at this point) so I can continue to skate competitively," she said. "I hope to make that decision in the coming weeks."