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Asada, Abbott win Grand Prix titles

GOYANG, South Korea -- Mao Asada of Japan showed off her triple axel skills and Jeremy Abbott of the United States hit every jump, earning victories Saturday at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating finals.

Asada showed her competitive mettle by kicking off her free skate with two triple axels. She's the only woman to perform such a feat, and it proved decisive in defeating longtime rival Kim Yu-na of South Korea.

"I am happy that I could land two triple axels in my program and that I was able to win here in Korea," Asada said. "It is really special."

With South Korea Prime Minister Han Seung-soo in attendance, Asada had 188.55 points to finish 2.2 points ahead of Kim at the Goyang Ice Arena north of Seoul.

Abbott breezed past Takahiko Kozuka of Japan for gold in his first Grand Prix final. Abbott earned 237.72 points, while Kozuka had 224.63 and American Johnny Weir finished third.

"I was so nervous," Abbott said. "So to be able to control my nerves and to focus through that and put out the performance that I did was definitely most satisfying."

Ice dancing world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder capped off a solid Grand Prix season with gold.

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia took the silver while Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States won the bronze in their first Grand Prix finals.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China rallied to win the pairs title.

But it was the showdown between Kim and Asada, rivals since their days as juniors, that took center stage at the sellout event.

Kim, the world bronze medalist, had won her last five consecutive Grand Prix series events. Asada, the reigning world champion, won the NHK Trophy, but the finals title had eluded her.

Kim admitted to nerves Friday but pulled off a narrow, half-point lead over Asada in the short program. Fans showed their love for "Queen Yu-na" by throwing more than 550 stuffed animals and 500 flowers onto the rink, organizers said.

Asada skated with assurance and elegance but later fell attempting another triple jump, leaving room for Kim to claim the title.

The crowd waited for Kim's opening jump and erupted with cheers when she landed the triple flip-triple loop combination. But without a triple axel in her repertoire, a fall on a triple salchow guaranteed a close finish.

In the end, Kim scored higher than Asada on artistic points but Asada was nearly four points ahead on technical elements. Asada avenged her second-place finishes to Kim at the last two Grand Prix finals.

Kim said she felt tired and was fighting a cold, along with the pressure of wanting to do well at home after wins at Skate America and the Cup of China.

"It was wonderful to skate at home," Kim said. "I am a little disappointed about my mistakes, but it's OK. I will do better next time."

Reigning European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy skated away with the bronze.

Smooth and relaxed, Cup of China winner Abbott performed with speed and artistry Saturday.

Abbott easily topped short program winner Kozuka, who held onto his opening quadruple loop but fell twice as his energy flagged. Still, it was enough for silver, giving the Japanese men a fourth straight medal finish at the Grand Prix finals.

Opening with a big combination jump, Johnny Weir came back from an inconsistent short program to place second in the free skate and third overall, putting two Americans on the podium. The 17-year-old Canadian phenom Patrick Chan, the series leader going into the finals, finished last.

Ice dancing world champions Delobel and Schoenfelder, winners at Skate America and Trophee Bompard, moved with speed and flow to moody Pink Floyd.

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia took the silver, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States won the bronze in their first Grand Prix finals.

Two ice dancing pairs withdrew from the competition: American pair Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto due to injury, and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia due to illness. Delobel also said she spent the afternoon fighting off a stomach ailment.

Chinese competitors topped the podium in the pairs competition, with Pang and Jian winning gold and Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao silver. World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany finished third.