Asada sees off Kim comeback to seal world title

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - Japan’s Mao Asada finally outdid South Korean rival Kim Yuna Saturday, snatching the women’s title at the world figure skating championships to gain some consolation for missing gold at the Winter Olympics.

Tessa Virtue (R) and Scott Moir of Canada perform during the ice dance free dance event at the World Figure Skating Championships in Turin March 26, 2010. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Asada finished second in the final free program behind Kim, who had beaten her to the Olympic gold with a record-breaking performance.

Kim’s performance Saturday was enough to take her up from seventh to second overall, after a disappointing display in the short program wrecked her gold hopes.

Finland’s Laura Lepisto took bronze in the final competitive event of the centenary championships, which were dogged by top withdrawals coming so soon after Vancouver.

American 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who led after Friday’s program in her first world championships, tumbled in her free routine to the haunting melodies of “Carmen” to drop down to seventh overall.

The result meant Europe failed to win at least one gold in the four events for the first time and gave Japan both the individual titles after Daisuke Takahashi became the first Asian to win the men’s crown Thursday.

“Takahashi’s gold encouraged me to win today,” Vancouver silver medalist Asada told the crowd after sealing her second world title.

“I heard all the cheers from the Japanese fans. Everyone here today really pushed me.”

As the temperatures hit 16 degrees outside in the Turin spring sunshine, Asada stayed ice cool in the packed Palavela Arena which hosted the 2006 Olympic skating.


The 2008 world champion, sitting second after Friday’s short program, was a little loose on two jumps but otherwise showed supreme grace and control as the “Bells of Moscow” rang out from the loudspeakers.

The myriad of Japanese fans waving national flags made even more noise once Asada had finished with a flourish.

Kim blamed a foot problem after being placed seventh on Friday following an error-strewn display in the short section.

The 2009 champion, hailed as Queen Yuna in her homeland, again started her free program well to rapturous applause but fell on a jump midway through and was then out of sync on another one as her title hopes disappeared.

European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy received a rousing reception from her home crowd but could only finish sixth despite an elegant display -- prompting boos toward the judges.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China sealed pairs gold on Wednesday and Canada’s Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir glided to their first world ice dance title Friday.

Europe, without injured Russian Yevgeny Plushenko in Turin, had a similarly sorry Vancouver with the rest of the world taking all four Olympic golds for the first time since 1960.

Next year’s worlds are in Tokyo in March.

Editing by Kevin Fylan