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Russians waltz to dance title

RUSSIANS Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin delivered a timely free dance performance to outduel their American rivals and capture the gold at the world championships in Los Angeles on Friday.

Scoring an event-best 100.85, they edged the US duo Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto by a final count of 206.30 to 205.08.

Belbin and Agosto were bidding to become the first US team to take gold at the worlds, but had to settle for second place.

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took the bronze medal, edging Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White by just 0.04.

"It feels great," said Shabalin, who has been plagued by a knee injury for the past year. "(It hurt) a little bit; this city and arena are so amazing that I couldn't skate badly."

Domnina added: "Right now we don't have any emotions. We can't believe it yet."

One of the frontrunners heading into last year's world championships, the Russian tandem was unable to compete due to Shabalin's knee surgery.

They took the ice on Friday night having watched Belbin and Agosto put up a top score of 100.27, but Domnina and Shabalin calmly produced a counter display, topping off a strong program with an elegant lift.

It was not the first time Belbin and Agosto were getting a close look at their Russian counterparts as both teams train in the same facility and share coaches Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karpanossov.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Agosto said. "We're so happy to have put out three strong performances we felt so good about."

It was Russia's first gold medal at the world championships since 2005.

South Korean sensation Kim Yu-na produced a commanding performance in the women's short program.

The 18-year-old blew away the early competition with a score of 76.12, the best-ever for a woman. With Canada's Joannie Rochette her nearest competitor at 67.90, Kim has turned the free skate into a virtual coronation.

"The short program is just the short program, I will focus on the long program," Kim said. "I am very happy with how I did today. Now I just want to do well."

Japan's defending champion Mao Asada was running third after a unremarkable 66.06 left her disappointed.

Kim overwhelmed her opponents in a performance that seemed to shock her, and certainly delighted the crowd.

Smiling and theatrical the whole way, the Four Continents champion put herself in perfect position to take her first world title.

Japan's Miki Ando, the 2007 champion, was fourth with a 64.12, followed by Italy's Carolina Kostner and Finland's Laura Lepisto.


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