Resurgent Asada breaks world record
Japan's Mao Asada reacts after her performance in the ladies' short program at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, on March 27, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi
Skating to Frederic Chopin's "Nocturne in E Flat major" in what could be the last competition of her career, the 23-year-old nailed her trademark triple axel in her opening element, followed by a clean triple flip and a triple-double loop combination.
She also hit a maximum level-four in all three spins and a step sequence to pick up 78.66 points in front of a roaring capacity home crowd at the 18,400-seat Saitama Super Arena.
Her result topped the previous world mark of 78.50 points scored by her longtime rival Kim Yu-Na of South Korea when she beat Asada into second spot at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It also beat her five-year-old personal best of 75.84.
Italy's Carolina Kostner, the 2012 world champion who grabbed the bronze behind Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and Kim at last month's Sochi Games, trailed in second spot at 77.24 points going into the final free skate on Saturday.
Russia's 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia came in third on 74.54 points. Both Kostner and Lipnitskaia improved their personal best scores.
"While I skated I kept remembering how disappointed I was in Sochi," said Asada, the 2008 and 2010 world champion, rating her result at "100 out of a possible 100".
In Sochi, she botched a triple axel and other jumps to be 16th after the short programme but sprang back in free skating to finish sixth overall.
-'Olympic disappointment pushed me'-
"I usually don't care about my score but I feel great for scoring the world's best," said Asada, who has said her chance of continuing to compete after this Olympic season was "50-50".
"I think this disappointment may have pushed me so much," she said. "Of course, it would have been very great if I could do this at the Olympics. You never know what is awaiting you in life."
About her free skating, Asada, the only woman who regularly attempts the difficult 3.5-revolution triple axel, said: "My mission here is to perform both programmes perfectly."
Sotnikova, 17, has skipped the worlds and Kim has retired from competition after Sochi, amid controversy in which the free-skate judging was accused of favouring the hometown girl.
"It all happens so fast," said Kostner, 27. "This is my 13th championship in a row and I kept on saying to myself 'You have so much experience. You don't have to be so nervous.' But it's each time the same."
About her free skate, she said she would try to "enjoy the movement, have fun and put all the heart I have into it".
Lipnitskaia, the European champion, said: "I was able to show my level after the disappointing performance in Sochi."
She contributed to Russia's gold medal in the inaugural Olympic team competition in Sochi by topping both programmes. But she cracked under pressure to finish fifth in the individual competition.
"Obviously I hope to have a medal after the free skating."
In the pairs, double Olympic figure skating bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy bowed out on a high with a fifth world title in their final competition before retirement.
In the absence of Olympic champions and main rivals, Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, the German pair topped the table for a second straight day with 145.86 points in the free skate.
Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, second at last month's Sochi Game, moved up from overnight third spot to grab more silver medals. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada slipped to third spot.
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