Miki Ando won one for Japan at the world figure skating championships on Saturday in Moscow, taking the women's gold medal with two elegant skates. Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim from Korea took second, competing in her first event of the season, followed by Italian Carolina Kostner at third. Americans missed the podium, with Alissa Czisny taking fifth and Rachael Flatt finishing 14th.
Ando skated first in the final group. Her free skate was not as flawless as her short program, stepping out on a double Axel-double toe jump combo, but she stayed upright and had the difficulty to win it all. Kim turned two planned triple jumps into singles, losing her a ton of points along the way. With clean triples, she would have won the championship. (Watch Ando's free skate here.)
This win is particularly sweet for Ando and Japan, who was slated to host the world championships before the earthquake and tsunami hit. It is her second world title, and the cap of a golden year that includes wins at the Four Continents championships, Japanese championships -- where she beat the previous world champion, Mao Asada -- the Cup of China and the Cup of Russia.
Kostner, who is known for falling at big, international competitions, stayed on her feet and finished an elegant skate in third place, less than a point in front of Russian jumping sensation Alena Leonova. Fellow Russian Ksenia Makarova had a shot to knock Kostner out, but mental errors cost her. One of her jumps was downgrade for not completing her rotation, while another didn't count at all because she had repeated the same element. Add to that a fall, and she landed in seventh place.
Czisny also skated in the final group with a chance to unseat the Ando/Kim juggernaut. A fall on her first jump prevented that, but in years past, Czisny would have fallen apart after a mistake like that. This year, she moved on and completed a beautiful skate with strong combinations and breathtaking spins. (Watch Czisny's skate here.)
"I'm so glad I was able to come back and fight and make a name for myself this season," Czisny said.
Flatt's free skate, on the other hand, was a disaster. She singled two jumps that were supposed to be triples, and looked shaky throughout. Afterwards, she revealed that she was skating with a stress fracture in her right leg.
"I was in a lot of pain. That was not too much fun," Flatt said.
Though it Flatt's decision to skate through the injury could be viewed as courageous, it may have hurt the U.S. Spots in the next world championship are dictated by the country's finish in this one. With Czisny earning fifth, Flatt would have needed an eighth or better to earn the U.S. three berths to worlds. She took fifth in 2009 and seventh in the Olympics, so a healthy Flatt could have done it.
Now, the U.S. has to sit and wonder what might have been if they had sent a healthy skater, like Mirai Nagasu or Agnes Zawadzki, to the world championships.