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Ando spoils Kim's return with second world title

Missed triple flip costs Olympic champion; Kostner takes bronze

Yu-Na Kim's return got the headlines, but Miki Ando walked away with the world title.
Yu-Na Kim's return got the headlines, but Miki Ando walked away with the world title. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/30/2011) - On a night when other favorites made big mistakes, Miki Ando skated a mature, controlled program to win her second world title, edging Yu-Na Kim by 1.29 points.

"When I won worlds four years ago it was a surprise," Ando, 23, said. "This time, I really worked hard, and I wanted a medal."

Carolina Kostner skated a speedy and elegant free to take bronze, her third world medal. Alissa Czisny recovered from a fall on her first jump to place fourth in the free skate and fifth overall.

Hampered by a stress fracture, Rachael Flatt placed 14th in the free and 12th overall.

Ando opened her program with an easy triple Lutz-double loop combination, followed by a solid triple loop and two Level 4 spins. She stepped out of the landing of a double Axel-double toe combination, but after that it was clear sailing for the Japanese champion.

While the routine may have lacked drama and pizazz, it was effective, racking up points with five jump elements in the second half. Ando earned 130.21, well under her season best, and ended with 195.79 points overall.

"I wasn't performing perfect today; I had some small mistakes, and I didn't probably have speed," Ando said. "I was just happy [to be] skating for Japan, and I am really happy to have the gold medal."

Ando drew inspiration from events in her homeland, struggling with the after effects of last month's earthquake and tsunami.

"Skating is really popular, and so many people watch this competition. I hope it gave them some power to go forward," she said.

After Kim opened her "Homage to Korea" free skate with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination that floated high over the ice, it looked as if she might be able to recapture the world gold she lost to Japan's Mao Asada last season.

But the Korean Olympic champion's second jump, a triple Salchow, was not well landed, and she was unable to complete a planned combination. She went on to pop an intended triple flip into a single.

"I think, after I missed the Salchow [combination], I did not focus enough to do the flip," Kim said.

"I'm so happy that I worked so hard for this competition, and now I'm just so glad I finished this big event. I just want to relax and go back home and do my show."

Many questioned Kim and coach Peter Oppegard's strategy of skipping the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships to compete here for the first time in more than a year, but Kim defended her decision.

"I don't think that was the reason for my mistake," Kim said.

"I didn't have enough time to prepare for the Four Continents or Grand Prix Series because I needed to take a break after Olympics."

Kostner opened her "Claire de Lune" free with a solid triple flip, a jump she has just recently put back into her arsenal, and then hit an impressive double Axel-triple toe. Although the Italian popped a triple loop into a single, high program components scores helped her win bronze over Russia's Alena Leonova, who skated a clean program including a triple toe-triple toe combination.

"I am very, very happy with the result," Kostner said. "When I was skating my biggest thing was to be thankful for the season and just try to enjoy it.

"I'm so happy I found joy in skating again, and to be able to get a medal. I honestly didn't think I could really [medal] but that makes it even more special."

Skating to George Winston's lyrical "Selections from Winter into Spring," Czisny fell on her opening triple Lutz, but the rest of her program -- especially her three stunning Level 4 spins -- was solid.

She earned 120.78 points for the free and placed fifth overall with 182.92, her best finish in three trips to the world championships.

"I think at the start of the program I was a little nervous and the first jump didn't go so well, but I was really happy I was able to come back," Czisny said.

"I think I really had to fight through the program today just to stay on my feet."

The 23-year-old, who rebounded from a tenth-place finish at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships to win the Grand Prix Final and her second U.S. title this season, reflected on her comeback.

"It's a long way," Czisny said. "I feel like a completely different skater, and I've sort of been able to renew my skating and fight back and make a name for myself."

It was a difficult week for Flatt, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right tibia last Friday.

The U.S. silver medalist was not at her best in the free, falling on her opening double Axel-triple toe loop combination and popping two intended triple flips into singles.

"I'm in a lot of pain," Flatt said. "I tried to do the best I could but unfortunately it wasn't very good.

"Now I'm going to take a family vacation before I head to college [Stanford University]. I will take about a month off to let my injury heal."

Czisny and Flatt's combined placements retain two U.S. ladies' spots for the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships.