Italy's Carolina Kostner acknowledges the applause at the end of her performance during women's short program at the Figure Skating World Championships in Assago, near Milan, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Italy's Kostner leads Olympic champ Zagitova at worlds

March 21, 2018 - 12:48 pm

ASSAGO, Italy (AP) — Italy's home favorite Carolina Kostner skated a clean and evocative program to take a surprise lead over Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova of Russia in the short program Wednesday at the World Figure Skating Championships.

A former world champion coming off a fifth-place finish at the Pyeongchang Olympics just a month ago, the 31-year-old Kostner's performance demonstrated both technical prowess and maturity in balletic moves that held the crowd. She was rewarded bonus points for her jumps, pushing her technical score uncharacteristically above her presentation marks for a personal best of 80.27. She skated fittingly to "Ne me quitte pas,"or "I never quit."

At 15, Zagitova was shaky from the start of her elements. Holding the jumps for the end of the program, the Russian bobbled slightly on the triple lutz, triple loop combination for a slight penalty. She hit the triple flip with both arms up in the air, a trademark move, and a double axel with her arms tight for a total score of 79.51, well below her Olympic world record of 82.92.

Japan's Satoko Miyahara finished third in a mostly clean program to "Memoirs of a Geisha," while Olympic bronze medalist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada finished fourth with negative marks on two jumps, putting her hands down on the double axel. Miyahara, who was fourth at the Olympics, had 74.36 points, and Osmond scored 72.73.

Kostner, who has been working with Russian coach Alexei Mishin since her comeback from a suspension for lying to doping officials on behalf of an ex-boyfriend, was playing to an adoring home crowd.

"I feel the affection and the passion from those who share my passion for this sport. It's an enormous honor and it gives you a huge encouragement," Kostner said. "The aim today was to remain technically clean and then everything else was up to the decisions of the judges."

Zagitova gave her coaches a so-so sign with her hands as she waited for the marks to come up.

The championships continue Wednesday evening with the pairs short program, with Olympic gold medal winners Alijona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany the only Olympic medalists in the discipline to compete at worlds.


Associated Press writer Daniella Matar contributed to this report.

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