SAITAMA, Japan, March 27 (R-Sport) - Mao Asada homed in on a third world figure skating championship title on Thursday with a record-breaking score in the short program in front of a partisan Japanese crowd in Saitama.
The 23-year-old skated a flawless routine, set to a dainty Chopin nocturne, for a personal best of 78.86, beating Kim Yuna's Vancouver mark by 0.16 points.
It marked a successful rebound from a poor Sochi Olympics, where Asada finished sixth overall despite entering as a leading medal contender last month.
South Korea's Kim, the reigning champion, retired after winning the silver behind Adelina Sotkinova in Sochi and was absent from the world championships.
Asada, who won world gold in 2008 and 2010 and, was pursued by last year's silver medalist Carolina Kostner, who also posted a personal best of 77.24 with her enchanting "Ave Maria" skate.
Also bouncing back from a relatively disappointing Olympics was Russia's 15-year-old star Julia Lipnitskaia, who won the team gold with her country but came fifth in the singles. A season's best of 74.54 puts her within striking distance of the top two for Saturday's free program.
Her compatriot Anna Pogorilaya performed worthily in place of Sotnikova, who skipped the event to recover from last month's achievement, scoring 64.26 for sixth place.
Earlier in the day, the pairs gold medal went to German duo Alena Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who edged Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov for a fifth world title.
Behind the Russian silver medalists were Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
The men's free program is Friday, when Japan's Tatsuki Machida looks to defend a two-point lead over Javier Fernandez of Spain.