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Asada wins ladies crown at worlds

Number one woman in the world takes home gold

Carolina Kostner (left), Mao Asada (center) and Yu-Na Kim on the podium at worlds.
Carolina Kostner (left), Mao Asada (center) and Yu-Na Kim on the podium at worlds. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(03/20/2008) - In an evening full of falls, even the winner wasn't spared.

Japanese phenom Mao Asada, took gold Thursday night but she'll wake up very bruised Friday.

The 17-year-old went for her opening move, a triple Axel, putting an incredible amount of muscle power into the takeoff. But she skidded off the takeoff edge and slammed heavily onto the ice, sliding a fair distance and nearly crashing into the barrier.

That would have stopped anyone less determined in their tracks, but Asada got up, shook off the ice chips, and almost immediately sailed through a +1.43 triple flip to triple toe.

"I don't know what happened," said Asada. "I was surprised myself. My heart stopped. I couldn't think of anything."

You've got to be tough to bounce back like that.

The rest of the routine, set to Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu," went well except for a wrong edge takeoff on her triple Lutz, and a downgraded triple loop on the tail end of her second triple flip combination.

During her question-and-answer session, Asada was asked when she first dreamed of being world champion. The interviewer expected her to say when she was a little girl.

Wrong.

"Last year, when I was second, then I decided I wanted the gold next time," said the ever-smiling Asada.

The leader after the short program, Carolina Kostner, presented a delightfully choreographed routine to Anton Dvorak's "Dumsky Trio," which began with a combination of three jumps; triple flip to triple toe to double toe, which earned 12 full points.

However, the Italian touched her hand on the ice in her triple Lutz, and on the second jump in her double Axel to triple toe.

She also jackknifed the landing of her triple Salchow, which was combined with a double loop, and had a small trip over her toe pick.

Kostner, 21, who successfully defended her European title in January, was only third in the free skate but finished second overall; 0.88 points behind Asada.

She admitted, "I was a bit uncertain on some landings." She put the reason down to pressure. "It was my first time in the lead at such a major event."

Kostner is very friendly and trains with the European men's champion, Tomas Verner, of the Czech Republic. She revealed they have a standing bet.

Whoever gets the least marks has to clean the other's skates. "I hope he does well," Kostner said, "But I'm really tired of cleaning his boots."

Asada and the bronze medalist Yu-Na Kim of South Korea, who is 20 days older than Asada, sat out the 2006 Olympic Games because they were both three months too young.

Kim, who won bronze in last year's world championship, lost four points on Wednesday in the short program by falling on her triple Lutz, and was only fifth going into the free skate.

"I felt pain from my injury after I did the triple-triple combination and that is why I fell," Kim said on Wednesday. Without that error, she would have won overall.

Kim lost two weeks training because of a hip and back injury. She did not resume training until Feb. 19.

However, she won the free skate by 1.92, presenting a superb program to music from the soundtrack of Miss Saigon. She had only two errors, a singled Lutz, and she had to fight to hold the landing of her triple Salchow.

Coincidentally, all three medalists were attired in shades of pink.

Yukari Nakano of Japan, who had been third after the short program, finished fourth, one place up from the last two years. "I don't care about the placement. I'm just very pleased that I was able to do everything I wanted to do tonight."

In 2002, the ISU recognized Nakano, now 22, as the third ever woman to accomplish a triple Axel in international competition. She has landed it several times since then, but not on Thursday. Canadian champion, Joannie Rochette, who had been sixth moved up to fifth. The 22-year-old singled her third element, the loop. She said, "The first half of the program was a little cautious. The loop -- I think I rushed it."

The reigning champion, Miki Ando, who was in eighth, withdrew after completing only two moves.

The U.S. ladies performance was forgettable at best.

Kimberly Meissner and Bebe Liang both fell twice, and Ashley Wagner, once.

Wagner, who like Liang, was making her debut in this event, summed it up: "It's a lot harder than it looks!"

Meissner was ninth after the short program. Skating to Puccini's lovely aria, "Nessun Dorma", in a sleeveless deep blue outfit, she got an "e" for a wrong edge take-off for her triple flip, and the second jump of the combination, a triple toe, was downgraded.

The triple Lutz to double toe, which followed, was fine, and the spirals were one of two elements which received the maximum Level 4.

However, she fell on her second triple Lutz, which was downgraded, and fell again on a triple Salchow, which was also downgraded.

She said, "I started better than I have done all year so I'm kind of happy with that but it wasn't perfect. I still fell and I can do it better."P She was asked about her shrug at the end of the routine. "It was because I missed silly jumps, that were stupid mistakes. Some I could understand but some were, like, 'Okay. What's happening here?'"

Liang was 13th in the free skate, just 0.01 behind Meissner, but maintained her 10th place overall.

Although her first triple Lutz, combined with a double toe, was given a wrong edge call, the first half of Liang's program went well.

However, the 19-year-old fell on her second triple Lutz, which was downgraded and given an "e", and on her triple flip which was also downgraded.

"The whole thing was an amazing experience, and I really enjoyed myself here," said Liang. "I guess the thing is in competitions like this is to take my time, and just enjoy every step of the program. I think I can definitely take that to the next level. I don't really think about what is expected of me. I just try to do my best."

Ashley Wagner, 16, made several errors.

"I think that is a mixture of me being overly excited, and let myself breath. I'm not going to blame my skate on anything but me. I learned some good lessons here."

Her coach, Shirley Hughes, who is also making her world championship debut, thought her pupil had skated a little tight in the short program. "I think she was a little cautious out there but it was a great. She did everything. I felt she held herself together exceptionally well."