Asada wins world crown after Olympics misery
Japan's Mao Asada performs during the ladies free skating competition at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, on March 29, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi
Russia's 15-year-old European champion Julia Lipnitskaia finished second and Italian veteran and Olympic bronze medallist Carolina Kostner took third at the world championships in Saitama, near Tokyo.
Asada, the 2008 and 2010 world champion, finished sixth in Sochi landing her trademark triple axel, fighting back from a disastrous 16th spot in the short programme.
The 23-year-old, who broke her South Korean rival Kim Yu-Na's world short programme record on Thursday, made a few minor jumping mistakes in the free skate of what could be the last competition of her career.
But she excelled in other elements, hitting a maximum level-four in three spins and a step sequence to collect a table-topping 138.03 points.
Her total of 216.69 points was her personal best, breaking the previous mark of 207.59 she set last November for Japan's NHK Trophy.
"I have regrets on the one mistake I made today but I think I could control myself and I have done what I have to do," she said. "But overall I am very satisfied with my performance."
Asada, the only skater who regularly attempts the technically demanding but high-scoring triple axel in top competitions, under-rotated the 3.5-rotation jump in her opening element, skating to the music of "Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor" by Sergei Rachmaninov.
She also under-rotated her next jump, a triple flip, in a combination with a triple loop, and took a triple lutz off the wrong edge.
But her graceful spins, steps and spirals were enough to send a sell-out crowd of 18,200 to their feet at the Super Arena which also saw men's Olympic champion and compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu win his first world title overnight.
- A roller-coaster season -
Taking a one-year leave from university in her hometown of Nagoya, Asada has experienced a roller-coaster Olympic season.
She won the US and Japanese Grand Prix events and the GP final. But she slipped to third spot at the nationals in December before the disaster in Sochi.
Her resilience since Sochi has touched many skating stars including Russian legend Yevgeny Plushenko who called her a "real fighter" on Twitter.
On Thursday, Asada scored 78.66 points to top the previous short programme world mark of 78.50 points scored by Kim when she beat the Japanese into second spot at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Kim and Russia's Adelina Sotnikova, who stopped the Korean's bid for back-to-back Olympic golds in Sochi amid controversy over the judging, both skipped the worlds.
"The Olympics and worlds brought me happiness and also made me regret," Asada said. "I went through so many emotions but after all it made me realise again how wonderful skating is."
Asada has said her chances of competing in the next season are "50-50."
Lipnitskaia, third in the short, scored 132.96 points, despite falling in a triple salchow attempt, to finish on 207.50 overall.
Kostner, 27, the 2012 world champion, also fell on a triple flip and under-rotated a few jumps to 126.59 points, the sixth best free-skate score. She finished third on 203.83, slipping one spot from the short programme.
"Overall I am pleased with my performance," said Lipnitskaia who helped Russia to gold in the inaugural team event at the Sochi Games but finished fifth in the individual event.
"I am happy now the season is over, even though I did not end it the best way."
Kostner said, "It was really hard. The jumps did not work how I wished but this is the sport, right?"
"I wish I could skate again and do better."
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