March 23, 2007 / 8:56 AM / 13 years ago

Bulgarians exit with gold as Kim shines

TOKYO (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s golden pair Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski went out on a high with a second successive ice dancing world title on Friday.

Bulgaria's Albena Denkova (L) and Maxim Staviski show their gold medals for the Ice Dancing Free Dance event at the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo March 23, 2007. REUTERS/Issei Kato

But their emotional win was overshadowed by South Korea’s Kim Yu-na, who produced a short program of exquisite grace to seize the initiative in the women’s competition.

Denkova and Staviski skated a highly passionate free dance routine to the haunting theme of “The Seven Deadly Sins” to score a total of 201.61 points in their last official competition.

The Bulgarians had led last year’s silver medallists Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon by the slenderest of margins after the original dance routine.

The Canadians were forced to settle for silver again with a total of 200.46, with Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto taking a second consecutive world bronze on 195.43.

“This is a brilliant end for us,” a tearful Staviski told reporters. “It’s wonderful to go out with a second world title.”

Denkova echoed her partner’s sentiments.

“This is the most precious moment for any skater,” she said. “Last year I didn’t understand what was going on but this year I know well what it means to win gold.”

France’s European champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were fourth on 195.19 and Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin fifth 193.44.

BREATHTAKING DISPLAY

Kim, the 2007 Grand Prix Final winner, recorded a personal best of 71.95 points with a quite breathtaking display despite being on painkillers for a persistent back injury.

“My back’s still not 100 percent,” said the 16-year-old, whose participation in Tokyo had been in serious doubt because of a herniated disc.

“The pain’s slowly going away though. My score amazed me. It was much higher than I expected. I just want to make sure I don’t leave anything behind in tomorrow’s free skate.”

Kim outshone defending world champion Kimmie Meissner, who was fourth after the short program even though her score of 64.67 was a personal best.

“I was pretty nervous out there today,” said American Meissner. “But I like to come from behind and I’ll feel a lot better tomorrow.”

Japan’s Miki Ando was second behind Kim on 67.98 with European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy third on 67.15.

The much-touted challenge from Japan’s new skating queen Mao Asada failed to materialize after the 16-year-old missed a triple combination to lie fifth more than 10 points behind Kim.

“I’m not worrying about Asada,” shrugged Kim. “There are a lot of great skaters here. I just need to focus on doing my job and try to stay in the position I’m in now.”

The women’s free program on Saturday brings the five-day world figure skating championships to a close.

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