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Maggie Hendricks

Asada finally beats Kim in figure-skating worlds

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In the World Figure Skating Championships that immediately follow the Olympics, the winner is quite often not the world's best skater, but the one who handles Olympic fatigue and the stress of a lengthened season the best.

Today in Torino, that was Japanese Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada. She won gold, beating Kim Yu-Na by nearly seven points.

Asada, who has spent much of her career in Kim's shadow, skated an aggressive, graceful routine. She completed two triple Axels, an incredibly difficult jump to perform even once, and had flawless footwork and spirals. Unfortunately, her second triple Axel was downgraded to a double, but that didn't keep her from winning gold.

Olympic champion Kim falters, still wins silver

Kim, fresh off her gold medal at the Olympics, had a disastrous World Championships. She came into the free skate in seventh place after making small but costly errors in the short program. In Saturday's free skate, she fell on a triple salchow and singled a planned triple Axel. With the routine that broke records in Vancouver, she scored a mere 130.49, nearly 20 points lower than the Olympics.

Kim showed why many Olympic champions choose to forgo the world championships. Her fellow Vancouver champions, Evan Lysacek in men's and Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao in pair's, both skipped the worlds, though ice dancing gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir did compete and win gold. The last ladies' champion to compete in the worlds after winning Olympic gold was Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992; she won the championships.

What's so shocking about seeing Kim falter is that it just doesn't happen. During this competitive skating season, she won gold in every competition she entered. Since entering the senior circuit, she has never finished off the podium. Kim is lucky to escape with the silver.

Powered by a solid short program, Laura Lepisto, who took sixth in the Olympics, won bronze for Finland, edging out Japan's Miki Ando. Her triple-triple combo soared through the air, and she cleanly landed the triple lutz, a jump that has given her problems in the past.

Pressure gets to young American team

Mirai Nagasu was in first place coming into the free skate after performing a flawless short program. Nagasu stepped out of her first triple lutz, but rebounded with a strong triple-triple combination. The routine progressed along well, performing her trademark spins as well as she normally does, but the pressure seemed to take its toll on Nagasu. She stumbled out of a triple lutz and then fell on the double Axel. Her routine scored a 105.08, dropping her to seventh place.

American champion Rachael Flatt, normally a consistent and reliable competitor, had a lifeless routine that had uncharacteristic errors. She flubbed a triple-triple combination, and singled on a jumped that was supposed to be a triple. Flatt finished in ninth.

The poor showing by Nagasu and Flatt hurt the U.S. overall, because the amount of spots on a world team is decided by the country's finish in the worlds the year before. Because their combined places added up to more than 13, only two American women will be allowed to compete at next year's world championships.

The good news is that both of the American skaters are young, and this experience will strengthen them as they continue to work towards the next Olympics in 2014.

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