By Jim Armstrong Associated Press
SAITAMA, Japan — Mao Asada of Japan set a world record on Thursday to finish first in the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.
Skating to Chopin’s Nocturne, Asada hit her trademark triple axel at the start of her routine and completed all her remaining jumps to finish with 78.66 points, surpassing the previous record of 78.50 set by Yuna Kim at the Vancouver Olympics.
“As the last competition of this season, I am happy to skate the best short program,” said Asada, a two-time world champion. “My mission here is to perform both programs perfect so already half is done and tomorrow I want to focus on showing everything I have practiced.”
Carolina Kostner of Italy was second with 77.24 points followed by Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia, who had 74.54 points. Kim, the defending champion, has retired and Olympic gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of Russia isn’t competing at the worlds.
“I was very nervous,” Kostner said. “But this is my 13th world championship so I just kept telling myself not to be nervous.”
Akiko Suzuki, who is retiring after this event, was fourth with 71.02 points. Gracie Gold of the United States was fifth followed by compatriot Ashley Wagner.
Earlier, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the pairs event, claiming their fifth title in the event they have dominated since 2008.
Skating to music from “The Nutcracker,” the defending champions were solid on all their elements and earned 224.88 points to beat Russia’s Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who had 215.92 points.
“A fifth title is quite amazing,” Szolkowy said. “We did a very good performance yesterday and were very good today.”
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were third with 210.84 points, edging fellow Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch into fourth.
Savchenko and Szolkowy, who won the Olympic bronze in 2010 and 2014, have been together since August of 2003 and will split up after the world championships.
“I can hardly believe it is over now. It feels very strange,” Savchenko said. “To be honest, it felt like I was skating in an exhibition gala.”