Japan has 1st men’s world title while Olympic champs Virtue-Moir extend dance lead

By Colleen Barry, AP
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Takahashi gets gold, Virtue-Moir still lead dance

TURIN, Italy — Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi won the gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday, giving Japan its first men’s title.

Canada’s Patrick Chan won the silver while France’s Brian Joubert took the bronze, both vanquishing disappointing Olympic results.

Takahashi, skating last, held up under extreme pressure, executing an energetic program that included dazzling footwork. He two-footed a quadruple flip, but did a soaring triple axel. His score for the free skate, 168.40, was his best of the Olympic season, and gave him a total of 257.70 — more than 10 points ahead of Chan.

“I am so happy. And I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks so much,” Takahashi, who won the silver medal at the 2007 worlds, told the cheering crowd, dozens of Japanese flags waving. “I was able to perform my best here.”

Chan, who was also the silver medalist at last year’s worlds, didn’t have his strongest performance, falling late in the program on a triple loop and fighting to hold the landing of a triple salchow. But with Joubert struggling, it was good enough to hold onto second place.

The 2007 world champion had a dismal showing at the Vancouver Games, and was determined to avenge that here. He opened with a quad toe loop-double toe combination and then a quad toe, but he couldn’t keep up the momentum. He fell on a triple lutz and his footwork fizzled.

He was only fourth in the short, but that was enough to give him his fifth straight medal at the world championships.

U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott finished fifth and newcomer Adam Rippon, winner of the 2008 and ‘09 junior world titles, was sixth, ensuring the Americans will have three spots again at next year’s world championships.

Earlier Thursday, Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada extended their lead over Vancouver runner-ups Meryl Davis and Charlie White, winning the original dance with a sultry, saucy flamenco. Virtue and Moir earned a season-best 70.27 points — almost two points higher than their Vancouver score.

They have 114.40 points heading into Friday’s free dance. Davis and White, two-time U.S. champions who train with Virtue and Moir, have 112.54 points after scoring a season-best 69.29 for their colorful Bollywood-on-ice OD.

“We didn’t think we had quite the magic we had at the Olympic Games, but we were pleased with the performance,” Moir said.

Virtue said their Turin performance was stronger than the one in Vancouver, but there was no shortage of emotion as they performed fiery step sequences. The pair trained with flamenco dancers to infuse the piece with authenticity.

“A lot of that passion that they brought to us now comes from within,” Virtue said.

The Canadians and Americans are both hungry for a world title — something neither has achieved — after their Olympic success. Though Virtue and Moir lead Davis and White by almost two points, that can be made up in Friday’s free dance.

“We feel we used the Olympic Games to help us grow as skaters and performers, and I think it helped us out there,” White said.

In Turin, the job of hometown favorites falls to Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, who remained third in the overall standings by finishing third in the original dance. They have 100.01 total points.

The Italian crowd cheered wildly for Faiella and Scali’s original dance, which combined traditional dances from Naples and Calabria. Their only flaw was an error on their twizzles — spinning turns — that cost them in both difficulty and execution.

“It’s hard to dance with a crowd screaming like a soccer game, but we are very happy,” Scali said.

Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were in 11th place after skating their country-western dance, with a total of 85.40 points. The couple, who finished 11th in Vancouver, need to maintain or improve their placing in the final free dance to secure three U.S. spots at next year’s worlds.

“This is probably my favorite program to compete and the season, too, has been fantastic,” Samuelson said.

The top two American couples must finish with a combined placement of 13 — second and 11th, for example — and Samuelson and Bates are being counted on after reigning world silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto decided not to compete.

The third American dance couple, Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, was in 13th with a Brazilian folk dance.

“We were motivated, we trained hard and we skated well today,” Bommentre said. “Our only goal is to skate well and to enjoy. Well, maybe tomorrow we can do 300 points and win the gold medal!”

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