WRAPUP 1-Figure skating-Japan's Ando wins emotional gold

Reuters

Sat, 30 Apr 23:29:00 2011

* Ando upsets favourites to capture women's gold

* Kim overcomes personal problems to take silver

* American duo win gold in ice dancing

Japan's Miki Ando upstaged Olympic champion Kim Yuna to strike gold at the world figure skating championships on Saturday and hoped she had lifted the spirits of her devastated nation.

Just seven weeks after the March 11 earthquake and tsumani killed at least 13,000 people in Japan, an event which forced the world championships to be moved from the Asian nation, Ando showed her nerves of steel to clinch her second world title with a combined total of 195.79 points. Kim finished with 194.50.

"Maybe I was able to bring back a little smile to the people of Japan," Ando, who had won her last world title on home ice in Tokyo in 2007, told reporters.

I'm so happy to win this gold medal. I did it for myself and for Japan."

While Ando won an emotional gold, Meryl Davis and Charlie White produced a mesmerising performance to waltz past Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Davis and White became the first American couple to capture the ice dancing crown.

Ando trailed Kim by less than half a point after Friday's short programme but was able to snatch gold after earning 130.21 points for her free skate.

Asked to compare her two titles, Ando said: "Four years ago I didn't have any idea of any medal. I had a serious injury then and I didn't skate for two weeks. I just did my job and won."

The modest 23-year-old was also critical of her own performance.

"I wasn't perfect today, I had some small mistakes," she said.

South Korea's Kim had to settle for silver for the second year running following a shaky performance. Her combined total was almost 35 points adrift of the record score she posted during her gold-medal performance at last year's Vancouver Games.

Kim, known as "Queen Yuna" to her legion of fans, tried to put a positive spin on her silver medal.

"I'm very happy with this medal because I've had the hardest time in my life after the Olympics," said the 20-year-old, who briefly considered retirement after being upstaged by Asada in Turin before changing her mind, and also fired her Canadian coach Brian Orser last August.

"I was thinking what to do next. Then I started skating again but mentally it was very difficult.

"Now, I can go home, relax and do my shows," she added.

Italy's 2010 European champion Carolina Kostner was rewarded for a difficult programme, moving up from sixth to take bronze.

Japan's Mao Asada, who beat Kim to win gold at last year's worlds, had a day to forget, finishing a disappoiting sixth.

FIRST GOLD

There was also changing of the guard in ice dancing, where Davis and White shocked Canada's world and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to claim their first global title.

They also became the first American duo to win the ice dancing gold at a world championships since the competition began in 1952.

"It's been a long 15 years we've been together building for this moment, so we kind of knew it could happen eventually and we're very proud to be the first American ice dancers to have won the gold medal," White told a news conference.

Davis and White, who finished second behind the Canadians in the world championships and the Olympics last year, came from behind to clinch the gold with a breathtaking free programme.

The Canadians, who have missed most of the season after Virtue underwent surgery on a leg injury last October, had to settle for silver.

"We're not disappointed, in fact we're very pround what we've done here," said Moir.

American siblings, Maia and Alex Shibutani, who were fourth after Friday's short programme, leapfrogged Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France to snatch bronze by 0.25 of a point on their world championship debut.

European champions Pechalat and Bourzat lost their chance for a medal when Bourzat slipped and fell during the diagonal step sequence midway through their routine.

"Our goal was just to be here, to make the team and winning a bronze is just unbelievable," said 16-year-old Maia Shibutani, coached by U.S.-based Russians Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband, who also train the first two couples.

 

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