Figure Skating Worlds wrap up

30 March 2014

FIGURE SKATING: Just weeks after their Sochi Olympic campaigns, Danielle O'Brien,  Greg Merriman and Brooklee Han have taken to the ice again at last week's Figure Skating World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

The pair from Sydney, who have been skating together since 1998, will now consider whether the World Champs will be their last international competition, after finishing 24th out of 32 couples with a short program score of 51.06 points.

The competition was their sixth World Championships, competing for the first time back in 2008. O'Brien and Merriman also have the proud distinction of being the first pair to win seven consecutive Australian National Championships, taking the title every year from 2008 to 2014.

Their dreams came true when they qualified for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, equalling the country's best Ice Dancing result of 20th in Russia earlier this year. The pair won hearts all over the world with their engaging personalities and great performance that saw them achieve their goal of reaching the finals. 

Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte toook out the Ice Dancing World Title on 175.43 ahead of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN) and Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzai (FRA).

Eighteen-year-old Brooklee Han delivered a strong performance in the ladies' individual to finish 19th.

Han, who was 21st at her first World Championships last year, scored 144.28 at this year's tournament.

"I was very happy to put out a solid short program," Han said. "It was an incredible night for ladies short, so many great skaters did not qualify through. I was honored to be grouped with such exceptional skaters that performed so well and went on to the free program."

Han and her fellow skaters struggled in the free with slippery ice. Only a handful of athletes produced a clean skate.

"I was disappointed I did not put out the performance I had been hoping to, but there were also things I was quite happy with in my program such as my spins, which all gained level 4s, unlike in Sochi. 

"Performing in front of a Japanese audience again was an incredible experience. They are so supportive of all of the skaters and it is truly an honour to get to perform in front of such a wonderful crowd."

Thrilling her home crowd was Japanese skater Mao Asada, who put the demons of her failed Olympic campaign behind her to lodge an emphatic win with 216.69 points.

In achieveing this score, the 23-year-old broke the World short program record previously held by South Korea's Kim Yu-Na, Asada's biggest rival.
She also became only the third woman in history, after Michelle Kwan and Katerina Witt, to win three World titles.

Asada, who has brought the sport to a new level by landing triple axels, made a few mistakes in her free skate but excelled in her technical elements, achieving a personal best score in what may be her last competition before retiring.

One of the darlings of the Sochi Games, Russian teenager Julia Lipnitskaia, was second on 207.50. Olympic bronze medallist Carolina Kostner of Italy was third on 203.83.

Alice Wheeler

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