Ice Skating

Olympic champ Kim leads worlds after short program

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MOSCOW (AP)

Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea made a dramatic return to competition on Friday, taking the lead after the short program at the figure skating world championships.

In her first competition since last year's worlds, Kim scored 65.91 points despite stepping out of her opening triple lutz. She made a quick recovery, tacking a double toe loop onto her triple flip to complete the required combination, and rounded off her ''Giselle'' routine with clinical precision.

''I've been doing clean short programs at home, so I was disappointed I didn't do a clean short program in the competition ... but I'm in first and I'm satisfied,'' Kim said.

In the ice dance, reigning Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won the short dance to take a slight lead over main rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States. The championships end Saturday with the free dance and the women's free program. Kim didn't have the polish or overwhelming presence as she did last year or in 2009, when she won her world title. Still, her performance was impressive considering she hadn't competed in more than a year.

''It didn't take too much time to build my stamina physically,'' she said, ''but mentally it was so hard.''

Japan's Miki Ando closely trails with 65.58 points. The 2007 world champion had an elegant if less adventurous performance. Ando was asked why she opted for a triple-double when she can do a triple-triple combination.

''My triple-triple wasn't good when I got here,' she said, ''and in the short program it's really important not to miss any jump.''

Russia's Ksenia Makarova was third, landing her opening triple-triple and subsequent triple toe cleanly during a big-attitude flamenco routine.

''I was able to put out a really strong short program and I got a season's best. So I'm very happy with that,'' Makarova said.

U.S. champion Alissa Czisny was fourth after a flowing and assured performance, a slight wobble on a triple flip her only concern.

''I was nervous going into the short program today. My last two world championships short programs weren't so great and I wanted to go out and skate my best,'' said Czisny, who has resurrected her career since switching to Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen after last season. ''I fought for everything in my program so I was satisfied.''

Russia's Alena Leonova dazzled with a sassy polka to end up fifth, while Carolina Kostner of Italy, who crashed to the ice after catching a heel landing a triple flip, completes the top six. It sets up an intriguing free program for Saturday's free skate, with just six points separating the top six skaters.

Mao Asada, the defending champion and Kim's longtime rival, was seventh after a disappointing performance. She two-footed her triple axel and underrotated a triple flip. Rachael Flatt of the United States could only manage eighth after downgrading her opening combination to a triple-double and doubling a lutz.

''My (right) leg has been bothering me a little bit and it was kind of thinking at the last second whether I should do a lutz or a loop,'' Flatt said. ''That kind of distracted me.''

In ice dance, defending champions Virtue and Moir triumphed with a sweet routine set to an evocative, crackly vinyl soundtrack.

The Olympic champions scored 74.29, the highest short dance score since the component replaced the compulsory and original dances this season. The couple showed no signs of rustiness despite missing most of the year while Virtue recovered from October surgery on her legs and having worlds pushed back five weeks.

Worlds were scheduled to be held last month in Tokyo, but were moved to Moscow after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

''We felt helpless as athletes, but we just needed to go with the flow and be ready for whatever decision was made,'' Virtue said. ''I think at that time thinking about figure skating and worrying about a competition seemed silly and extremely trite.''

Davis and White, who were runners-up to Virtue and Moir at the Olympics and world championships last year, are trying to become the first Americans to win the world dance title. They're just a half-point behind after a flamboyant program to the boisterous oom-pahs of ''La Traviata'' despite getting out of sync on a twizzle sequence.

''We were very pleased with that performance,'' Davis said. ''It was exactly what we wanted to come in here and do. We were really confident going on and have already moved on to tomorrow. We are really comfortable at this point in the season and we are just happy to be here competing.''

European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France were third with an elegant classical waltz.

U.S. brother and sister team Maia and Alex Shibutani were a surprising fourth at their debut worlds thanks to their fairytale routine set to ''The Carousel Waltz.'' Two Russian teams, Ekaterina Bobrova-Dmitri Soloviev and Elena Ilinykh-Nikita Katsalapov, rounded out the top six.

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AP writer Jim Heintz contributed to this report.


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